So this blog is a little more serious than usual, but I just NEED to say my piece, especially now I can feel the BLM movement being slowly less spoken about on social media. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve felt overwhelmed, I’ve felt shocked, I’ve felt an incredibly deep sadness and frustration, and all of these feelings have shown me the depth of my white privilege. I have only been able to have these feelings due to the fact my skin colour has never played a part in my hardship and I have never experienced my life chances being obstructed because of my race. Black people are not suddenly feeling shocked and saddened!
I’ve only just learnt (from the documentary 13th on Netflix, I urge you to watch as it was pivotal in my education of Black history) that America attempts to call their legalised slavery system a criminal justice system, and it was only last week I heard about the Windrush scandal for the first time in my life. My white privilege has allowed me to believe these systems have been dying out and we’ve been making progress, when in fact we are surrounded by police brutality, movements trying and failing to be heard, and unarmed black people murdered every single day, whilst racism sits embedded in the structure.
I want to change this narrative. With structural racism resulting in an overall lack of diversity within the arts, it is essential to support underrepresented artists. The art world has a significant social and cultural impact on our attitudes and understandings towards other people. Despite this, I worry that it predominantly supports a system which favours a whitewashed narrative of history. We’ve all heard of Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Tracey Emin, Picasso, etc, because they have impacted and changed our history. During the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights and the Black is Beautiful movements, many African-American painters rejected and redefined traditional standards of beauty and vitalised the black consciousness, speaking of issues of racism, feminism, violence, slavery, and exploitation. They have impacted and changed our history, yet, there is a lacking of black artists as household names.
I’ve always felt confident that the art industry is a place of expression, championing the different, but we cannot advocate systematic change and allyship until we actively promote long-term inclusivity and diversity. Our history has been rooted in white supremacy, and it is hugely important to encourage and assist unheard voices, since it is the key to improving our future. Here is a very small list of some incredibly talented and powerful Black artists that I believe should be household names;
Barkley L. Hendricks
Laura Wheeler Waring
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
All I hope is that someone reading this learns a little bit more than what they already know, or it acts as a reading that empowers someone to feel able to unapologetically and vocally help change the narrative too. After admitting accountability, I struggled to have the difficult discussions I knew were vital for change, because I felt uneducated. I have often struggled to articulate myself properly in debates (to be honest I don’t see how this topic is even up for a debate but let’s move on), and would introvert at the most necessary times I should have been shouting from the rooftops. Whilst I understand you if this is also happening to you, we must realise that we have to keep trying, since we cannot continue like this.
White supremacy will not die until White people see this is a White issue we need to solve rather than a Black issue we need to empathise with. I wonder how often history will have to repeat itself before we choose to tackle the underlying problem! And please let’s not stop wanting to improve ourselves now, I’ve learnt so much from friends Instagram posts of documentary suggestions, black writers and book suggestions, MP emails, petitions, suggested phrasings of how to have difficult discussions with family members and friends, etc. It was from social media that I learnt how to tell someone the vital difference between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, so please do not let anyone make you feel like you’re jumping on the band wagon this time, we’re educating ourselves and each other on this uprising of justice and we must continue.