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If You're Feeling Mad or Blessed, Get it Off Your Chest!

Updated: Oct 18, 2018

In tribute to The Breakfast Club’s Power 105.1’s segment of the same name, I thought I’d get something off my chest. Due to the whole white fragility thing, it’s near impossible to talk about the obstacles we face in life as blacks with white people WITHOUT hitting a wall of denial or defensiveness. So a blog will have to do (although you can comment).

For a long time, I was feeling a mixture of mad and blessed (mostly insane) because of my place in society (check-out God, Give Me a Break from This Long Run of Bad Luck for more on that). I believed I had, as Carter G Woodson (author of The Mis-Education of the Negro) said about the negro, found my “proper place,” which was below the bottom rung (not even on the ladder), as a result of white systemic privilege and racial discrimination.

I'm increasingly woke about the social issue minorities face, and so it’s clear I had a valid reason believe this because disadvantage is entrenched and bias remains rife here in the UK.

If you care to, walk with me through at a few hurdles I (and many other black British people) face and the statistics that seem to explain.

I became unemployed at an age (24) when coincidentally they’d been a 49 per cent increase in the number of ethnic-minority sixteen to twenty-four-year-olds who were long-term unemployed. Compare this to a fall of 2 per cent in long-term unemployment among white people in the same category (Equality and Humans Rights Commission, 2016).

In my last job, I was somewhat underemployed on a zero contract at a time when coincidentally black workers are more than twice as likely to be in insecure forms of employment such as temporary contracts (Equality and Humans Rights Commission, 2016). While I was at work, my employer had on more than one occasion sent me home halfway through my shift and had also closed three weeks in a row without notice. Consequently, I didn't work at all and I didn't have any contact for 6weeks, at all, from the owner to explain why the shop had closed.

I’ve also got a university degree with honours (amongst many other qualifications), and I’m on the national living wage when coincidentally, university education black graduates see a gap of, on average, 23.1 per cent less than their white peers (TUC, 2016). Moreover, we’re more likely to be overqualified in our work roles. To put it plainly, the more educated we are, the more economic discrimination we face.

“Would you rather be a [white] person who has all the opportunities but can’t see them? Or a [black] person who can see all the opportunities but can’t have them?”

Not to mention the other ethnic penalties faced by blacks in the labour market. I will say them, higher unemployment and underemployment rates, fewer promotions, higher over-representation in lower paying jobs and higher under-representation in more top paid occupations (McGregor-Smith, Race in the Workplace Review, 2017).

Concerning mental well being, which you need to get to work (never mind work), we’re far worse off. I became mentally unwell at a time when coincidentally black people were 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness (Keith Dube, BBC, 2017). Moreover, being mentally unwell in turn affects one’s ability to work, which in my case lead to consequent unemployment.

Why is it stacked against us more than whites? Well, either we’re inferior to white people, i.e. there’s a problem with black people, or discrimination is the cause, such as opportunity gaps. There can’t be any other explanation. Anti-racist and African America historian Ibram Kendi X eloquently argues the latter viewing the situation as anything other than discrimination is a racist view.

Donald Glover, the creator of multi-award, winning TV show Atlanta, during an interview with the New Yorker (2014) touched on the black experience, saying it’s more interesting albeit more painful than the white experience. During the meeting, he asked the (white) interviewer a pertinent question (more a statement) that pretty much sums up the opportunity gap: “Would you rather be a [white] person who has all the opportunities but can’t see them? Or a [black] person who can see all the opportunities but can’t have them?”

We know all the stats; as Frederick Douglas said of his increasing awareness of the condition of a slave, "it gave me the view of my wretched condition without a remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit but to no ladder upon which to get out."

We want solutions so we can do something right?

Well, I can’t give you a bullet point list of resolutions (other than policy changes, which can be out of our influence). However, Charlamagne Tha God has some advice in his auto-biographical come self-help book entitled “Black Privilege, Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It.” What’s the lesson then? The clue’s in the title.

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