So, today’s post is…different. I’m very nervous to post it, but I feel as though it’s been a long time coming. This is a post about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and white privilege.
Let me just put a little disclaimer at the beginning of this post to say that the reason I don’t speak (in-depth) about these types of things is because I don’t feel like I’m currently educated enough to do them justice, basically. I really like to make sure I’m educated enough in order to feel comfortable talking about a subject before I decide to speak on it – there’s no point me just basing everything off of what I ‘think’ I know and then having people read it and think….what?
I am passionate about a lot of things as you guys have probably already noticed and I continue to educate myself on them more and more everyday however, I’m still not quite at a point yet where I feel as though I’m educated enough to speak out on them properly by myself (I’m that girl in the background cheering everyone else on and supporting them, but I’m not quite ready to take the stand yet).
However, I have been reading a book lately which I mentioned in my book haul the other week, and that’s the Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I’ve also been having discussions about racism with my friends recently, and (this is kind of off topic but stay with me) my brother said that animals were put here on Earth for us to eat them…and I just thought, how can humans be so big headed that we think these beautiful creatures were put on Earth solely for our benefit? We are no better than them, how dare we think that they were put here on Earth just to serve us. Because of these things I just thought you know what? Maybe I’m not fully comfortable to talk about it yet, but I’m going to try anyway – there’s no harm in me speaking out about it.
I was going to include this book in my monthly book review post, but it was way, way too important for that. I needed to make this book a topic for discussion all on its own.
This is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and the boost it gave me to write about something I’ve been wanting to say for a long time.
So let’s get the obvious out of the way – I’m white. I am a straight, white female. My whole family is white and the area I live in doesn’t contain many people of colour (for example, the school I went to was 99% white with the exception of about 3 people). My current workplace as well – I can count on one hand the amount of people working here who are not white (for reference, my workplace has around 350 employees).
Ever since I was born I have never judged somebody on the colour of their skin, in my eyes, everybody is equal. We are all the same, regardless of where we come from. I am not better than someone because I am white and it shakes me to the core the fact that some people in twenty fucking eighteen still believe that that is the case. In terms of people, I don’t see colour, whether you’re black, white, blue, orange, pink, – whatever. It doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t even for a second ever cross my mind, because why would it? Who decided one was better than the other? It’s a sick and disgusting world we live in and like I said, I cannot believe it’s now 2018 and this is still happening, it absolutely blows my mind.
In terms of society and politics, I see colour. I see colour very clearly. I see the difference (obviously not through first hand experience) but I see the way people are treated based on the colour of their skin, I read about it, I see it all over the internet and it sickens me. It makes me feel helpless because I want to do something…but what? I support the movement and I join the movement of course – for example, #blacklivesmatter. But what can I do? I’m going to say this, but it makes me feel ashamed to be white. It makes me sick to see what the people before me have done, it makes me absolutely sick and infuriated because it’s disgusting. Who gave them the right? Who the fuck is still giving them the right in 2018 to treat people this way? It blows my mind. It absolutely blows my mind. I literally log onto the internet and sit there with my head in my hands because my brain cannot comprehend how sick you must be to believe that others are any less of a person because they’re not white or that they deserve to be treated differently, treated like animals. What the actual fuck must be wrong with you. Like I said, it blows my mind and I really don’t have the words to express it, words honestly fail me.
Let’s talk about police brutality. What the fuck is going on there America. What the fuck. This is the world we live in and nothing seems to be being done about it. I feel like grabbing everybody and shaking them and saying WAKE UP. EDUCATE YOURSELVES. DO MORE. WE MUST DO BETTER.
JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE WHITE AND IT DOESN’T AFFECT YOU DOESN’T MEAN YOU GET TO IGNORE IT.
Just because I live in England doesn’t mean I get to ignore the horrors going on in America. (I’m aware this is not the only country at fault, hell, my own is, but predominantly what I’m talking about is based in America so for now, I’m talking about that).
It’s the same with feminism and as Audre Lord once said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” It’s the exact same thing. Just because you’re white and therefore unaffected, doesn’t mean you get to ignore it. Just because you don’t live in America and are not seeing first hand the things going on, doesn’t mean you get to pretend it’s not there.
It makes me sick that I am by default, automatically a part of it because I’m white. I get that privilege because of the colour of my skin and I don’t want it, but there’s nothing I can do about it and I have to remember that it’s not about trying to change things about myself (because this is absolutely not about me) but the key is we must continue to fight. We have to overwrite everything that has gone before and change it, and I will do that for as long as I possibly can.
If a police officer pulls you over and you’re white, you may as well jump around for joy right? It seems as though us white people can get away with anything – if I was to get pulled over by a police officer I wouldn’t have to fear for my life. Black people however, move a muscle and are murdered in cold blood because “the officer felt threatened”. Bullshit. Fuck off. I am disgusted that these ‘officers’ (though I would love to give them a different title) are then not reprimanded because apparently their actions were completely justified. Black people are getting killed left right and centre for doing nothing wrong yet white people literally get away with murder with no consequences. How the hell does that work? These people of power are dangerous, so fucking dangerous. It terrifies me that these are the people in charge, these are the people we choose to put our trust into – Donald Trump is the president of America for fuck sake. How the fuck did that happen?
White girls and their cultural appropriation – excuse me? White girls who are completely ignorant to the struggles black women have had to go through and the hate they’ve been given for wearing their hair in braids, yet when a white girl does it it’s “super cool” and she’s praised for it?? Black girls are called ghetto for it and white girls are called creative and quirky?? Hello?? Am I missing something? It’s ignorance, pure ignorance and I’m sorry to those who are subject to that, because it’s inexcusable. Zac Efron recently posted a photo on Instagram showcasing his new dreadlocks, with the caption #justforfun – ……just for fun? Cultural appropriation, just for fun? Think of the platform he has, the audience he has. Now, I know he may have yolo tattooed on his hand, but surely he cannot be that stupid to be unaware of the stigma surrounding these hairstyles, so he would know the controversy and backlash he would receive over it, let alone the fact he made the caption as hashtag #justforfun. How about we become more like Chris Hemsworth and admit our cultural appropriation, and then do something about it?
When I watch TV shows nowadays, I notice the amount of people that are predominantly white. Before, it wouldn’t raise a red flag for me because obviously, I’m surrounded by white people, I am a white person, I’m not part of the minority and I’ve never had to feel that way, so switching on the TV and seeing a bunch of white people never even made me bat an eyelid. Now, I’m completely aware of it – where is the representation?? Friends is one of my favourite TV shows yet when I watch it now I can’t help but wonder why there’s hardly any people of colour in it and if they are, they’re minor characters in the background. It became very obvious to me very fast that nowadays, media (TV / magazines / advertisements) will include people of colour for the sake of including them – because that way they know they can’t be branded as discriminatory. WHERE IS THE REAL REPRESENTATION?? Why are these people not being represented the way they deserve to be?? The way they should be?? I asked my friend – a black female, how she felt about this, and she said – “Basically, sometimes I feel like I’m hired because I’m black, not because of my work ethic or my qualifications. It’s like, hire me because I’m good at my job, not to fit your stats.”
There’s a show on TV at the moment called Love Island, which I’m sure a lot of you will have heard of. It’s one of my favourite shows don’t get me wrong, I’m obsessed with it however, we need to discuss the lack of representation. To put it very bluntly, there’s only one black girl on the show and none of the guys seem to be interested in her because surprise surprise, she’s not a white girl. There are no black men on the show either, just two mixed race, and the white girls are squealing and saying that their type of guy is “mixed race” like it’s a fashion accessory. One of the white girls actually said to one of the mixed race guys that she’d marry him because “he’d give her cute babies” – hello ?????????? You only care because of the aesthetics. Ok. Cool.
You don’t have to be outright racist, in order to be racist.
Reading The Hate U Give scared the crap out of me (in a good way, as in, it’s a massive wake up call) because even though I was already aware of the things happening, it makes it so much more real when you’re reading it in the form of a book from a character’s point of view, like you’re living it with them. It really engrained it into me and it made me understand the fact that me walking round as a white person gives me privilege whether I want it or not and as I already said, I don’t want it. It’s disgusting. The book is being turned into a film that comes out in October 2018 and the trailer made me cry because I sat there like wow, fucking yes. Fucking go for it. I cannot wait to see this movie, I am so excited.
Like real life, in many parts of the book (I’m going to include non-spoiler examples, don’t worry) a white police officer will start causing trouble with a black person for absolutely no reason at all. For example, in one chapter, there’s a police car patrolling a black neighbourhood, there are two black men on the sidewalk having a ‘debate’ shall we say, though it’s not heated nor aggressive. Suddenly, the patrol car pulls over (one officer is white and the other is black) and they begin to interrogate one of men, asking what he thinks he’s doing, why he’s causing trouble etc. Before you know it this man is being held down on the floor for absolutely no reason at all because he was never doing anything wrong, the man he was originally having the discussion with also stated he wasn’t causing trouble yet these officers went out of their way to reprimand this man. As you read the scene it’s goes from 0-100 really fast and it all happens so quickly you think to yourself, how the hell did this just go from two men having a debate to one of them being held down on the floor by an officer, essentially pleading for his life?
And then you think about the fact that even though this book is fiction because these people aren’t real. It isn’t fiction. This is real life, this is the world we live in. This happens every single day and there’s no signs of it stopping anytime soon and I think, how did mankind create a world that is so, so ugly? How did mankind create a world full of so much hate? Discrimination? Are you proud of yourselves? Does it make you feel better believing that you have all of this power over others?
During the book, the author mentions the name Emmett Till which, I’m hoping a lot of you will have already heard of. I for one, had never heard of this name, and I want to understand why. When the name was brought up, I instantly put the book down and took to Google, and I was horrified by what I read. By what I saw.
Usually I would put a trigger warning here to say that I’m about to briefly tell you the story of Emmett Till and therefore if you don’t want to read distressing content, please skip down a few paragraphs. However, I’m not going to do that this time, because this story needs to be heard, if you aren’t already aware of it. We need to keep talking about it and we must never, ever forget it, we cannot simply allow ourselves to ignore it because it’s “too awful to think about” – this was real life. This is real life because it’s still happening today. Think about the people that had to go through this, this poor, innocent young boy. I cannot even imagine. I cannot. even. imagine.
If you don’t know about Emmett Till, he was a 14 year old black boy living in the 50s in Chiacago, Illinois, he was at a grocery store one day and was accused by a white woman – Carolyn Bryant, of wolf whistling at her and making her feel uncomfortable.
Carolyn Bryant was the owner of the grocery store along with her husband, Roy Bryant – they were a white couple. Carolyn was in the front of the store by herself one day when Emmett and his friends (who were all black) went in to buy sweets – the events of what happened inside are still disputed however, this is the general consensus of what was said by both parties.
Before the encounter it was reported that Emmett had a photograph with him of a class he attended at school, mixed with both black and white kids. He apparently bragged to his friends whom he was with at the time that the white people in the photograph were his friends. There was a photograph of a white girl that had came with his new wallet and he pointed to her and told his friends that this was his girlfriend. The friends then reportedly told Emmett to go and speak to Carolyn Bryant.
However, one of the friends that was with Emmett during this time – Emmett’s cousin, Simeon Wright, said that none of this was true. As quoted – “We didn’t dare him to go to the store — the white folk said that. They said that he had pictures of his white girlfriend. There were no pictures. They never talked to me. They never interviewed me.”
It was also reported that kids standing outside the store said Emmett may have wolf whistled at Carolyn Bryant – this was later commented on by his mother, who said that her son sometimes whistled in order to alleviate his stuttering as his speech was sometimes unclear and he had difficulty pronouncing “B” sounds. She had taught him to whistle softly to himself before pronouncing his words, and he may have done this to overcome problems asking for bubble gum.
Carolyn Bryant said that Emmett and his friends began flirting with her. Till apparently assaulted her by grabbing her hand and kept asking her out on a date, he followed her to the cash register telling her she needn’t be afraid of him and that he’d “been with white women before”.
In 2008, 53 years after the murder, Carolyn Bryant admitted that the allegations and testimonies that she made against Emmett Till physically and verbally assaulting her, were FALSE.
Decades after the murder – Simeon Wright also challenged the allegations made by Carolyn Bryant, as he had entered the store less than a minute after Emmett and saw no inappropriate behaviour or sexual conversation. Another anonymous source who was confirmed to have been in the store at the same time as the two boys, supported Simeon Wright’s account that Emmett had simply paid for his items and left the store with Wright – there was no encounter.
After Emmett and Simeon left the store, Carolyn Bryant went outside to retrieve a pistol from her car. When the two boys saw her doing this, they left immediately. It was acknowledged that Till whistled while Carolyn Bryant was retrieving the pistol from her car, though it is disputed and has never been confirmed whether Till was whistling at Bryant, or at a checkers game across the street.
Carolyn’s husband, Roy Bryant, was out of town during the time of this encounter, upon his return home and learning about what had happened, he aggressively questioned several young black men who entered the store. To cut a long story short, Roy Bryant joined forces with a black man named J.W. Washington, they kidnapped a black teenager who they thought was Emmett and took him to a witness to confirm whether or not they had the right person, the witness stated that the boy was not Emmett and therefore they had kidnapped the wrong person.
Roy Bryant later learned where Emmett was staying in Chicago and was overheard by several witnesses discussing with his half brother J.W. Millam how they were going to “take him from his house”.
Between 2-3am on August 28th, 1955, Roy Bryant, Carolyn Bryant and J.W. Milam drove to the house where Emmett was staying. Milam was armed with a pistol and demanded the owner of the house to take them to Emmet, they then marched him out to their truck and Carolyn Bryant confirmed that this was the boy who she’d had the encounter with.
Emmett Till was pistol whipped, knocked unconscious, beaten, shot and brutally murdered. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam said they only intended to kidnap and beat Till at first, but whilst doing so Till was throwing abuse at them, calling them bastards and saying that they were no better than he was. Due to this, they took him to a bridge and shot him, then tossed his body over into the river. He was found three days later by two boys who were fishing.
To quote – “His head was very badly mutilated, he had been shot above the right ear, an eye was dislodged from the socket, there was evidence that he had been beaten on the back and the hips, and his body was weighted by a fan blade, which was fastened around his neck with barbed wire. He was nude, his face was unrecognizable due to trauma and having been submerged in water.”
No justice was ever brought forward for this case and no one was ever charged. Despite the whole thing being fabricated and made up by Carolyn Bryant, despite witnesses, scientific evidence and the fact that this murder blatantly happened – nothing. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam by their own admission even stated that they’d kidnapped Till, yet they were still not charged.
Because they were white, and Emmett Till was black.
It has been reported that since the incident, Carolyn Bryant has lived a long and private life.
Why was this woman allowed that privilege? That white privilege? Excuse me? Why was this woman not killed, given the death penalty or put in prison for what she did to this poor child, this poor innocent child. I’m not even going to begin to get started on the other two men. Don’t you think humanity is disgusting. This was in 1955, 63 years ago, and you know what? It doesn’t feel like society has moved on very much because these things are still happening.A black person commits a minor crime, if even a crime at all, gets sentenced to life in prison and is addressed in news articles as a thug, a gangster, a drug dealer – anything that will paint them in a bad light. A white person however commits murder and gets off scott free – is addressed in news articles as “a family man”, “a loving mother” and so fourth. A black person is showcased in news articles by their mugshot, but a white person is showcased with pictures of their family, enjoying holidays, looking innocent.
I am blown away by the fact that I have never been made aware of names such as Emmett Till – why? Why are we not teaching this in schools? Why are we not teaching this to young adults and children in history class? I don’t remember being taught black history during my time at school, in fact, I don’t even think I was taught about the bare minimum – of people such as Rosa Parks, I knew who she was through word of mouth, not through being taught about her in a classroom. Why is this? I was discussing this with my friend, who is black and went to a school in London that was racially diverse, and she told me they’d only ever spent 3 days on black history. 3 days. All of this history, all of these incredibly important things that have taken place and need to be spoken about, and all they were given was 3 days to be heard. All of these lives, this history, crammed into 3 days. That is not enough. It is not enough and it never has been, and that is what we need to change.
This post is me, as a white person, telling other white people that we need to do better. This is for you. Say their fucking names, join the movement, realise your privilege, use your position of power to make a difference. Educate yourselves. Remember who these people are and let the world know you will fight for them. Just because it doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean you get to ignore it. We are all equal here, this world is just as much yours as it is theirs, so you better start paying attention.
Say their names. Say their names. Say their names.
If there is anything in this post you are offended by / confused by / think could have been worded better / differently please tell me. I make this post out of love and acceptance and I was very nervous to post it because like I said at the beginning, I don’t feel like I’m ready to take the stand yet, I don’t feel like I’m in a position to do so and I’m still learning how to advocate for this in the best, most helpful way that I can. I am absolutely in no way trying to speak on behalf of people of colour, I have absolutely no right to do so and never would, I will never understand what it’s like and would never try to undermine someone by doing so, so please know this was out of love, light and acceptance. Please feel free to give me feedback on how this was received and also let me know your own opinions – this is a really important topic to discuss and I’d love to know what you think.
All my love,
A hairbrush is not a gun.
To purchase The Hate U Give – click here.