During Black History Month in 2019, I wrote this email to my team at work.

Hi Team,

As Black History Month comes to a close, I wanted to share something.

I was asked; “Steph, what would be a dream that could be realised this month?” My answer; “To have more and more allies.”

Although sad to admit, discrimination is still alive and kicking, and is very present outside of our lovely Dev studio apartment.  It shows up as macro aggressions; when you and your brother are forced to prove that he lives in his swanky apartment block, “because there have been robberies”, although they see him every morning in the gym on the 3rd floor but still assume that we don’t belong. Or as micro aggressions; when you’re standing in a queue for the toilet at Tina Turner The Musical, and you feel a woman run their fingers through your braids. (Someone obviously doesn’t listen to Solange! I actually don’t mind, just ask.)

I dream for more allies! Why? Because continuously having to call out these micro and macro acts is draining; because not only do you have to call it out, you have to defend yourself by explaining why you have called it out, then you may have to have a heated debate about it, then you question yourself, “was it offensive?” Then you wish you didn’t say or do anything because now there’s a whole drama and you look like the aggressor because the other person is playing the victim, although they offended you, you are the victim, but now is not the time to play victim, you have to be strong and articulate, but people mistake your strength and confidence for aggression and so unfortunately, after all that, you end up being the bad person. “You should have just left it Steph.” I sometimes tell myself. “But if I don’t speak up, who will?”

And the cycle begins…you hate the world for a bit. Then you get upset because all you did was be from a country closer to the sun and didn’t ask to carry this additional backpack of rocks through life. Then you realise you can’t hate the world. You may have a glass of wine trying to figure out how to not hate the world. You may call a friend or just go to bed, but most importantly you have to shed, for your own sanity. You have to shed the anger, the emotion, the weight; take off your rock filled backpack, dash it on the floor, and return back to yourself. Free. Whole. Happy. Unphased. (Kinda). Until the next time…

It’s draining, exhausting and honestly does take it toil emotionally over the years.

It would be great to have more and more allies in the world! What are allies? Allies are people that are in your corner. There are commonly two types: passive and active. Passive Allies may witness an incident, say nothing in the moment, but check that you are okay afterwards. Good…kinda…better than nothing I guess! Active Allies are people that speak up, a Robin to your Batman, they witness an incident and actively say something or do something to mitigate the situation in that moment, to show a level of support to the victim, without putting themselves at risk. By doing this, the weight is shared/lifted as sometimes an ally’s voice and presence can carry more weight and diffuse a situation more democratically. I love an active ally; it would be great to have more.

That’s my dream.

Race can be a tricky subject to discuss but things can only progress if there is dialogue about it outside of protective spaces with people who can advocate and actively encourage change.

Steph x

P.S – If you would like to read up on Black History I would recommend Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo. This book looks at the history of the black experience in the UK, and how it created the social and economic landscape we currently live in. We are often fed narratives from African American History, but this book focuses on the Black British experience that doesn’t really get explored.

©Written by Stephanie Yamson

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