By Feven Iyassu, Director
Since March something has shifted in all of us, across all races but in particular Black people. George Floyd’s death was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but Breonna Taylor’s case is one that hit me hard. A Black woman, a key worker who was at home and the loss of her life is something I think about every day. It haunts me that she had no justice and seeing her become a meme and a punchline showed the low regard for black women, even in death.
The resurgence of Black Lives Matter over the past nine months makes me feel both sad and hopeful, it really does feel bittersweet. However, this time it does feel different. This year, being in lockdown meant we had little else to do but sit and consume news and social media, then the Black community went through a period of collective trauma.
To see men and women that look like you, your family and friends killed by those in authority and the inability to switch off because there is nothing else to do was hard. It was hard enough seeing news but there was this added layer of reliving racial trauma that we thought we had buried away.
For me personally, in some ways the release of being able to openly speak on issues Black people face was therapeutic. As you go through life knowing you are an ‘other’ in the room you build a thicker skin – resilience can be a blessing and a curse. You never quite sit and think about situations where due to the colour of your skin you have been made to feel less than or have had less opportunities, but having the ability to finally stand in my truth unapologetically is the one good thing that has come out of this for me. I am reminded every day that this cannot be the end and the energy must continue.
Now is the time for continued action and people must challenge the notions taught or learnt throughout the course of their life. There has been a lot of focus around people feeling uncomfortable talking about racism, but it is only through getting uncomfortable that you then really get under the skin and understand.
Ask yourself, ten years from now do you really want to look back and regret that you didn’t do anything just because you felt uncomfortable?
As Black people we have spent our lives being uncomfortable and part of the anti-racism journey does mean you will feel discomfort. People say they don’t see race, but on this journey you need to see race, we need you to see our skin colour – we’ve been made to feel aware of our colour from birth, life is not colour blind for us and by not acknowledging our race you are ignoring racism.
By actually taking the time to do a deep dive, experience that uncomfortable feeling from the realisation and revelation that everything you thought was right and ‘normal’ is actually not. It’s only once you’ve done this that you’re then better equipped to then be a better advocate and ally.
WHAT ALLIES CAN DO
Firstly educate yourself, then make the lifelong commitment to using your privilege for good – become devoted to challenging policies and ideas that are not anti-racist. Day to day, look at your circle of friends – do they look like you? Is your social media reflective of society and is it actually feeding your mind? Look around the room at work, do all your colleagues look like you? Do any of your friends or family have problematic or racist views and if so what have you done about it?
Feven Iyassu is a director on Golin’s consumer team and co-chair of Golin and Virgo Health’s Diversity Council.