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INTRO: Hello deep thinkers, this is your host Agrita, and welcome to Mind Full of Everything, the podcast that questions the deeper and bigger things in life, from intersectional environmentalism to self-development and everything else in between. Today’s episode is in support of the Black Lives Matter protest, which aims to deconstruct systemic racism within American institutions and beyond. As a woman of colour myself, racism is unfortunately not something I’m unaware of, but the level of injustice and brutality the black community has faced and continues to face across the world, is one that is incomparable and needs to be stopped altogether. This episode is entirely factual, relevant resources can be found on my website, mindfullofeverything.home.blog.
Say their names. The names of those innocent people that became victim of police brutality, yet again, just because of the colour of their skin. Say the names of: Eric Garner who just broke up a fight, Ezell Ford who is walking in his own neighbourhood, Michelle Cusseaux, who is changing the lock on the door of her own home, Tanisha Anderson who having a serious mental health episode so her brother called 911, Tamir Rice who was playing in the park and Natasha McKenna who was having a schizophrenia episode, all before they were brutally killed by the police.
Say the names of: Walter Scott who is on his way to an auto-parts store, Bettie Jones who called the police to resolve a domestic dispute for her neighbour, Philando Castille who was driving home from a dinner with his girlfriend, Botham Jean who was eating ice cream in his own living room, Atatiana Jefferson who was babysitting her nephew, Eric Reason who is parking at a local fish and chip shop, Dominique Clayton who was sleeping in her own home, Breonna Taylor who is sleeping in our own home, Ahmaud Arbery who was jogging in his own neighbourhood and George Floyd, who is shopping at a grocery store, all before they were killed by those that were supposed to protect them. Killed by the lethal disease of systemic racism, that is not just a threat to the livelihood of black Americans, but the wellbeing of the whole of humanity.
Between 2013 to 2019, the U.S. police is responsible for killing 7,666 people. According to Mapping Police Violence and a total of 1,004 people were killed in 2019 alone. Every single year, police officers kill around 1,100 people through shooting or uses of other lethal force, with numbers of people shot being as high as 3000 per year, as stated by The Guardian. In total, if you look at the statistics, more white people are killed and shot compared to black people and ethnic minorities (in total), but if you look at the rates per population, there is a clear disparity.
Black men are more than two times more likely to be killed and white men throughout their entire lifetime. This is particularly shocking because black Americans only make up 13% of the U.S. population. Yet black Americans are three times more likely to face police brutality than white Americans, and twice as likely to be unarmed when they are killed by the police compared to white people. This violence by the police disproportionately affects black Americans throughout American states of California, Texas and Florida, having the highest number of killings of black people by the police. Often, people think that these killings are a result of violent crimes, but Mapping Police Violence has shown that there is absolutely no link between violent crimes occurring and the use of police violence. There is no link whatsoever. Please do check out their website, you can find the link on my website, that shows a graph between violent crimes occurring and police brutality.
There is absolutely no link. No correlation is found. So, if [majority of] people that the police are killing are posing no threats in the first place, why are the police killing?
If you look at the issue in America, in 2017 a national survey found that 76% of officers reported to have used violence more when “required”. We also have to accept that officers do face a risk. Every single year, 50 officers are shot and killed by the public, which is much, much higher than any other wealthy country. So, officers do have a risk to them, especially in America, where everyone is allowed to have firearms. So, the killing of police officers and the use of violence by police, it can largely be blamed on the gun laws in the U.S. For example, if a police officer in the UK asks someone to pull over, they wouldn’t be expecting them to have a gun on them. But compare that to America, if a police officer asks you to pull over, they need to remember that this person can also be armed and that there is a possibility that this person can shoot them, and potentially kill them. I want to keep this episode as relevant to the Black Lives Matter protest as I can, so I’m not going to go into the issue of guns and gun control that should exist in America, just like any other country. I, like everyone else, despises it; if the rest of the world is not allowed to have guns, why is America different?
But, the key thing to understand here is that if every single person is allowed to have a gun in America, why is it that black Americans are still three times more likely to be killed by the police than white Americans? Why is there a gap that exists? If every single person is allowed to have a gun, why is it that black Americans are still being killed by the police more than white Americans? Why is it that if every single person is allowed to have a gun, that police are using these guns or using lethal force against black people, more than white people, when there is no correlation between violent crimes occurring and the use of police force? Most importantly, most of the black people that are killed, the reason why the Black Lives Matter protest is occurring right now and is occurring throughout the world, is that most of these people that the police have killed, they are unarmed in the first place. So, the question of gun control doesn’t even come into this. First of all, why are black Americans being killed more? And second of all, when they’re unarmed, when there’s no evidence that they have a gun on them, that they will even use it, why are they still being killed more than white Americans? Why is that?
The answer is, the possession of guns doesn’t cause hate crime, racism-driven crimes…it’s the person behind the gun, or in cases like George Floyd, it’s a person that is using the lethal force that’s the issue. It’s the systemic racism that gives these people, these officers, the courage to use force more on black Americans compared to white Americans. It’s the racist ideologies, bedded within generations, within institutions, that trigger these acts of deadly violence. Not the fact that America has a gun law.
It’s the white supremacy, the white privilege, that is a cause for systemic racism within America, that is encouraging police brutality even till today. And that police brutality is specifically aimed at black people, regardless of the fact that they are committing a crime or not. It’s the white supremacy that is encouraging police brutality against black people, and the public have a major role to play in this.
For instance, white Americans that make unnecessary 911 calls, and by unnecessary, I mean making calls on people that pose no harm, but since they are black, they think they have the full right to call the police on them. So, white Americans are making those calls; these calls further trigger police brutality. In fact, most of the police-citizen interactions that happen in the U.S. is actually due to people calling 911 on black people and not police making stops themselves. Most of the police violence occurs is a result of these 911 calls and not the fact that police initiate stops. So, when a white person calls 911 saying that they feel threatened by a black person, police officers get ready to use force, get ready to use force that can be lethal, and many of the times that has been the case. The problem is, as the white population increases, especially in areas that are dominated by black people, that are full of black communities, the calls will increase. And then, that will increase the amount of police brutality done against black people, all because of the fact that white supremacy is essentially the foundation for not just the criminal justice system in America, but for all institutions in America, it’s a root cause of systemic racism in America, and even the rest of the world. The fact that white supremacy is so embedded within institutions in America, that gives not only police officers the encouragement to carry out violence against black people, but also white citizens to make whenever and wherever, 911 calls against black people, just for their own comfort.
Before I continue. I really want to point out what I mean by white supremacy. White supremacy does not mean that all white people are racist. We have seen people of all different backgrounds, including white people, in the Black Lives Matter protest. I understand how hard it would be for those white people that have always supported black rights, who’ve always supported black people. And to now see how angry everybody is at the current situation in America, and also pulling out many situations in the world, I understand how hard it would be for white allies.
What I mean by white supremacy, that was very nicely summarized by Baratunde Thurston, is a system of structural advantage that favors white people in social political and economic arenas. White supremacy is a foundation of systemic racism; guns, and certain police officers are only mediums for inflicting pain to black people and other ethnic minorities. It’s the racist mindset of the fact that people of colour specifically black people, are the subordinate group and you can do whatever you want to them, or they deserve to be oppressed, and that violence can be used against black people. White supremacy is a system that favors the rights of white people against black people and people of colour in general, not the fact that all white people are racist. It was a system that was set during heightened periods of racism and it still exists, and that is what the Black Lives Matter protest is about: deconstructing that system that allows for nationwide and worldwide discrimination against black people. The questions then arises, why are we racist? Why are our systems racist and why does racism even occur?
First of all, we’ve got the concept of race wrong. The concept of race in itself is racist. Race is more of a political categorization, than scientific. Something that most of us don’t know. When I was doing this research, I found out that the actual concept of race is just political, there is no scientific basis to it. In 2002, a study showed that 93-95% of our genetic variation is actually within races and not across races. Wouldn’t exactly make sense because of the way we’ve categorized race and the way we’ve categorized people from different countries, the difference between us in terms of facial features etc. So, you would expect the variation to be much greater between these categories of race rather than within, when 95%, up to 95% of the variation, genetic variation, is actually within races, the other 5% is across races. So, the ideology and the concept that certain races have certain traits or abilities is completely racist. There is no science to back it up.
So, you can actually make two conclusions from genetic research of humans. The first being that all humans are very closely related. The fact that there is more variation, 95% more variation, within our races compared to across, that shows how closely related we all are. We are much, much more related than chimps are amongst themselves. And the second conclusion, is that all people that are alive today are African. We are all from African origin because Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, that makes each and every one of us African/of African origin.
I think this is an extremely powerful conclusion, that our genes, our genetic makeup, has shown the fact that we’re so closely related and the fact that we are all African. There is no other scientific research, scientific evidence, that can show that we are genuinely all the same. There is very, very little difference between each and every one of us. You don’t need philosophy, psychology, religion to teach you that, you can look at the science to say that all humans are equal.
If you look at the African continent altogether, there is more diversity in Africa than on all other continents combined, just because Homo sapiens evolved there. The amount of variation is amazing in Africa. There are many, many different ways Africa is diverse. One example is language; there are over 2000 African languages. The fact that there’s so much diversity in Africa, scientists now confirm that there’s actually no homogenous African race. So if we’re all African, why is it that many of us have different shades of skin tone? Well, if you look at the colour of your skin, it’s actually a result of two things. One is genetic mutation; a key genetic mutation occurred in Asia 29,000 years ago before spreading to Europe. The fact that we went from darker skin tones to lighter is a result of genetic mutation and also adaptation to the levels of sun exposure. I’m pretty sure everybody knows that darker skin is selected for areas of high sun exposure and lighter skin was selected for areas of low sun exposure, because the darker the skin is the more protected you are to UV radiation. What does it show? We are all genetically similar and the colour of our skin is just a result of mutation. So essentially a genetic accident, really showing that the concept of race, it doesn’t exist in science. We are all extremely similar. We are all of African origin. We only have different shades of skin colour because of a mutation and because of adapting to how much sun we were exposed to, sunlight we were exposed to, that is it.
There is no evidence to show that race even exists. I don’t think you can contradict that in any way, your genes show that we are all similar and that you are probably lighter than somebody else because of a mutation that occurred. That is it, and you can’t argue that. There was a really interesting project in 2006 called the DNA Discussion Project, you can find the link to the project on my website or you can search it up yourself, that emphasized the overlap between what we call races and the idea that race is basically just a made up concept. For example, an Indian woman that took part in the project found that some of the ancestry was Irish, even though she knew all of the ancestors are Indian and they lived in India, a man who believed he was biracial found that his ancestry was nearly fully European, some Christian students found that some of their ancestors were Jewish, and Anita Foeman who is a cofounder of the project who herself identifies as African-American, found that she ot only had Ghanaian ancestors, but also Scandinavian ancestors. So, this project really showed that what we identify as race and what we define as race doesn’t even exist in science. Our genes show that race, that’s not even a thing, is what we as humans have made up.
Even though there’s groundbreaking evidence is now available to scientists and the public, a lot of “race research” continues to make racist conclusions. This kind of links to systemic racism where science can be funded by the government. If you look at census forms or any other formal documents that ask for your race, just the nature of those categories of those tick boxes really highlights the racism in population research or just race research in general. I have always been very confused why people would want to know my race or what I identify as my race when I apply to a university or to a job or any other opportunity. It feels like they want to know where you’re from so they can make a decision based off that. There are many instances where you do need to kind of give you race, for example a census, they [government] do need to know that so they know exactly how many people from a particular country are living here and that can really help them if the research is guided in the right way, for example disparities in health or in education or any other access to services. They can see those disparities between for example white people and people of colour.
So that is helpful in its own way but applying to university or to a job or places where you don’t really need to know somebody’s race, even somebody’s gender. I just think it’s pretty much racist because it’s like they’re saying that if you do not tell us this, you can’t complete the process of applying, when there is no reason as to why you need to know where I’m from and what race I identify as.
Specifically looking at health research, many researchers have, for example linking back to black Americans, looked at higher rates of hypertension within African Americans. If you have a higher rate of hypertension, you will most likely have higher rates of heart disease, stroke, and even death. Many health researchers have tried to look into why that is the case, why is it that African Americans have higher rates of hypertension compared to white Americans or even ethnic, other ethnic minorities? You would expect these studies to provide insight and guidance for the medical community, for black Americans, to address the disparities in health. But instead of doing that, they just give essentially a very racist conclusion of “black people have a greater chance of suffering hypertension because of their genetic makeup”. because they’re black. That is the conclusion that many health studies give. And it’s not just limited to black people, ethnic minorities all together, when we all know that the real reasons are environmental factors that results in higher hypertension in African Americans compared to white Americans. For example, stress and poverty, and these are products of discrimination and racism, in particular systemic racism.
It’s like all these researchers are blaming health disparities of black people and ethnic minorities on their genes. Really just concluding that it’s no one’s fault if a black American has poorer health than a white American, it’s just because they’re black. That is the conclusion that they’re giving.
If you link this back to the current pandemic, in the UK we’re all constantly hearing that the BAME community are 2x more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. If you look at the U.S., black Americans are 3x more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans overall. Looking at the state level, Kansas is the worst hit, where black Americans are 7x more likely to die from coronavirus than white Americans; Washington has a rate of 6x. Yet these disparities, this gap, is just literally just blamed on the genes of black people and the BAME community altogether. Whenever these statements are given, it’s also always said that there’s not enough research gone into this health disparity and you know, you can’t really make conclusions, but we all know that it is not a genetic issue. The virus is not just specifically attacking the BAME community and our genes aren’t poor! There are environmental factors that play into which community is most affected by a pandemic or by any other health issue, and not because they’re from a particular place. That in itself is very, very racist.
Nobody really wants to talk about that many ethnic minorities, many black people, Asian people, are actually frontline workers, and that is a really, really big risk to them. What about the differences in cultural practices for many ethnic minorities, where people of colour decide to live in bigger family groups compared to white people that can increase the spread of the virus? What about the gap in socioeconomic status of the BAME community in America, in the UK, throughout the world, where a poor access to health can also be another factor that can result in more deaths by COVID-19 than white people. All of these factors, you would expect health researchers to be putting out to the world. But what do they keep saying? We don’t know what the “real factor” or we don’t know what the “real cause” is for this disparity.
And this has really led to the argument that race research should just be banned all together, because if the concept of race in itself is so racist, the fact that science shows that race doesn’t even exist, why are we investing our time and our resources into race research? When the conclusions will always be racist? Because somewhere along the lines, someone will say perhaps being black, perhaps being Asian, perhaps being part of the BAME community is a reason why we are more susceptible to getting health issues compared to white people. Researching into disparities between communities as a result of internalized and institutional racism is the alternative. It’s the right way to carry about this research for health and any other disparities that occur between communities.
The Black Lives Matter protest is no longer about police brutality, it’s about all types of systemic racism that exist not only in America, but beyond, throughout the world against black people. The Black Lives Matter protest is arguing that the normalization of systemic racism is feeding into white supremacy. That it’s resulting in deaths of innocent people at the hands of these racist institutions.
We’ve already looked at the police brutality issue in the U.S. as a form of systemic racism that is directly affecting black Americans and threatening their lives. When I was doing my research, I was really shocked to find that voter suppression is still a thing in America. It’s a widespread issue in the U.S. which is really facilitated by the removal of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by the Supreme Court. Back in 2013, this removal of Section Five is really problematic because it previously prevented discriminatory voting practices, it was a really important section in the Voting Rights Act. As a result of this removal, just like how the conditions were before the Voting Rights Act, voting restrictions have now been put in place that really disenfranchise minority groups, and this is powered by Republicans of course. 21 states have now strict voter ID laws, and these are disproportionately affecting people of colour/ethnic minorities, and those that have low incomes; Texas is the strictest state. 8/12 states with the largest Hispanic population and 7/11 states with the largest black population have made the voting process extremely difficult. Essentially, it’s just ensuring that as few of those people that support Democrats can vote as possible, and this has just become easier under the Trump administration.
If you look at the education sector, modern day segregation still exists. The Brown versus Topeka case outlawed segregation in schools, but schools are still able to segregate based on districts. Schools are able to reject applicants if they don’t live within the district of the school, or if parents aren’t able to provide for transportation and accommodation costs. So, essentially it’s like creating invisible barriers around these schools that are providing high quality education but at a really high price. Districts, as you can imagine, are already so segregated, with black people still mostly living within black communities compared to the communities being mixed and the districts being mixed. So if districts are already segregated, schools will naturally be segregated as well, so you’ll be having rich white people going to one school and financially unstable black and ethnic minorities going to a few other schools. If you can afford to not only pay for this fees of your child’s education, but also pay for transportation, accommodation, uniform, stationery supplies etc.
If you can pay for all of that, then yes you’re allowed to go into a school that is what you call “prestigious”. But if you can’t, your child is not going to get the quality education they deserve. Schools no longer have the right to specifically say the black children can’t study at their school, but they have the right to draw boundaries around their schools and ensure that those schools are only populated by rich, white children that live in the vicinity of the school. It’s literally just forming the basis of modern-day segregation, and this is mostly occurring in southern states and along the U.S. border, concluding that the quality of your education is based on where you live and the colour of your skin, essentially.
Environmental racism is another section of systemic racism that occurs in America. I’ve already sort of touched on it for the BAME community with reference to the pandemic and also health research where ethnic minorities have significantly worse health condition than white populations on average and that there are many environmental factors that play a role in that. For example, the wealth gap, the fact that many BAME communities live within range of power plants and landfills.
So the exposure to higher levels of pollution is much worse for BAME communities. For example, 80% of black students from public schools in Detroit attend schools that are in the most polluted part of cities compared to white students who were attending polluted regions of cities for their schools, it was only 44%. Studies have shown that this exposure to pollution really affects the scores on standardized tests of the students. And the fact that double the amount of students that go to public schools that are very polluted areas are black, you can imagine how harder it would be for black people to get into higher education and to progress really.
Going beyond the U.S. and and looking at the UK, everyone can agree that the level of brutality and torture that black Americans have faced and continue to face, it can’t be compared to any other wealthy country. It’s monstrous and inhumane on a whole different level, but that doesn’t rule out the racism within British institutions. We can’t keep using police brutality as a measure of how racist a country, how racist a nation is, because racism is more than police brutality as I’ve demonstrated previously. Life as an ethnic minority is perhaps relatively better in the UK than the U.S., but not by much.
Black men in the UK are stopped for search by police 9x more than white men. Black people only make up 3% of the England and Wales population yet make up 12% of the inmate population. From 2018 to 2019, there has been an 11% increase in hate crime alone, especially after Brexit, and this is across England and Wales. Additionally, black people are 2x more likely to die in police custody than white people in the UK, very similar numbers to that of America.
The outcome of racism is not as bad here as America, we all get that, but the patterns of racism, the disparities, the ways in which people black people are treated by institutions is literally the same as America, in the UK. I think what really confuses me about the UK is that we keep awfully quiet about our racist past, the monstrosities of the British empire, the slave trade. The fact that the basis of racism that occurs in the U.S., the basis of police brutality and other forms of systemic racism is because of the racist past of the UK, of Britain. Yet British people really do keep quiet about that, and we are very quick to say that the outcomes of racism aren’t as bad here as the U.S., forgetting the fact that our history has laid those racist foundations that we can see in America today.
What I find even more painful as a woman of colour myself, is the fact that people like Pritti Patel who has immigrant parents herself, are condemning the pulling down of a slave trader’s statue that shouldn’t ever have existed in the first place, it should have been taken down ages ago. I think is really stupid really to be saying that the UK isn’t racist, I mean our own Prime Minister’s really infamous for making highly racist remarks. Again, showing how racism really drives Parliament and really the country, the basis, the foundations of systems are still racist. A study published in 2019 suggested that Britain was one of the least racist countries in Europe, but we need to actually look into that statement. By being the “least” racist, you’re still classified as a racist. You’re still classified as being amongst those countries are racist, you’re just not as racist as places like America. There are many examples of racism that Brits have portrayed, Brexit being a strong example of that, where most of those are voted for it done so out of racism and not for the overall wellbeing of the UK. The strong racism that has been made against Meghan Markle, for example when Danny Baker called her child a monkey. Footballers are constantly victims of racial abuse; black footballers have continued to be victimized just because of the colour of their skin. Really, they haven’t been valued for what they bring to football teams, just because they’re black.
In terms of the local level, I’ve seen a lot of hatred, a lot of racism within schools, especially because I went to a nearly all-white primary school. And I did myself experience racism, but it was nothing as bad as the racism against my black classmates. Most of the racism that I experienced was kind of on the sidelines, for example, not being invited to birthday parties because I wasn’t white or having the Indian culture made fun of. But if you compare that to my black classmates, people will be making fun of their darker skin behind their back, and they’ll be saying it to me acting as if I should feel “relieved” that I’m not black, and I’m not part of them and I’m not dark. Now looking back at that, it’s mad how students can even feel comfortable and strong enough to be openly racist, even if it’s behind somebody’s back. The fact that this is happening in a school setting where children should be taught about racism clearly and how everybody is equal.
Essentially racism is just more subtle in the UK than the US, but I think that just makes it even more difficult, and even more dangerous. More difficult because it’s harder to address because you can’t really pick out the signs of racism as much as America. And it’s dangerous because if racism isn’t really taken seriously as an issue in the UK, then people, black people, ethnic minorities continued to be affected in their daily lives. Sure, police brutality is nothing like that to America, but racism here exists on all different scales, local, regional national, and that makes it much harder to live a normal, essentially healthy life, especially for black people. Because the more subtle racism is, the more a person has to fight it alone, and that is difficult in itself.
If you try to search up racism in the UK, try to find articles on it, papers on it etc. it is so much more difficult compared to finding out articles and resources for American racism. It’s really, really difficult to pin down statistics and to find reliable sources for the UK. I really struggled to do that, and that’s why, unfortunately, I can’t really talk much about it compared to America, because for America, it’s much more in the open. People understand that racism is a widespread thing because it openly happens and of course I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but because of that, people have done more research into it compared to that in the UK. We’re pretty much really quiet about it and that is a problem. Being secretive about a horrific racial past, being secretive about racism right now does not make you anti-racist or racist at all.
When we British people make claims that the UK is much better than America in terms of racism and we should be grateful that we’re not in America, that we don’t experience everything that ethnic minorities in America face, we are essentially exploiting our privilege and throwing away the pain and experiences and the trauma of black people and ethnic minorities that have experienced the discrimination that occurs in the UK. We are literally telling them that their experiences mean nothing when you compare that to black Americans and ethnic minorities in America, the experiences, the trauma that they have experienced. Which is completely wrong because racism is racism regardless of how subtle it is.
The racism in America against black people is really strong, and this is why I’ve created this episode, but we can’t just say to somebody that just because you don’t live in America and just because you aren’t black American, that your experience of racism is insignificant. Racism is racism. Discrimination is discrimination. Hating on somebody because of where they’re from and color of their skin, what race they identify as, that is completely wrong. Not addressing all forms of racism is just supporting white supremacy, supporting the oppressors, supporting those racist foundations of institutions. It pretends as if those racist foundations, that white supremacy doesn’t exist. And that just makes the problem even worse.
Going beyond the UK, since I am Indian, I really wanted to touch upon India and the racism and the issue of colorism there. Again, I really want to make this episode very relevant to the racism against black people, against black Americans, because that is the issue right now, but we can’t ignore the racism that occurs in Asia, south and east Asia. And since I’m from India, I think I have a responsibility to talk about India specifically.
Colourism continues to be and has always been a really, really massive issue in India. It’s definitely improving in terms of how people are now standing up or are not scared to stand up against toxic traditions. But it still exists. And it’s really just the idea that lighter skin tones equate to beauty standards and dark skin tones equate to financial instability and “undesirable” looks. Why colourism is important for racism is because it’s just another product of white supremacy, and it was really consolidated during the British Empire where British officials really favored lighter skinned Indians over darker ones, for example employment. What makes colourism really toxic is that if you are against darker skin tones within your own community, within your own people, then you will definitely be against anyone with darker skin tones, because in the end, it’s the skin of black people or skin of dark people that invokes racism and not really the country that they’re from, the culture that they have.
It’s just this weird obsession about lighter skin tones that invokes racism, and that is the issue in Indian. I think for me personally, I’ve been affected by colourism and racism equally; fortunately, I haven’t really experienced as much, even though I am a woman of colour. I think in terms of being most affected, colourism has definitely affected me more. I’ve only had one instance where a relative thought it was perfectly okay to make fun of the fact that I had tanned, and I was looking “quite dark”. But the fact that your own community is attacking each other, I think that hurts more than somebody outside my community making fun of my skin. I think it hurts much more when the people that should definitely be with you think it’s okay to break up the community by making such remarks.
I’m fortunate that I haven’t experienced it as much, but seeing other Indians being affected by this is extremely painful for me. I’ve seen so many Indians who have darker skin saying that they’ve been rejected time and time again when they apply to jobs because their dark skin, I’ve heard derogatory remarks being made about dark Indian women that are told that they have a less chance of getting married compared to lighter Indian women. I’ve seen people saying that attractiveness, like the basis of attractiveness, is lighter skin tones. All of those remarks and hearing other people’s stories, that is painful enough for me, I don’t have to necessarily experience anything to be understanding and be able to feel the pain of others. And that is the basis of this protest.
You don’t need to be a black person to understand and feel pain and to realize that this is wrong. I’m pretty sure everybody is aware of the usage of skin whitening creams throughout Asia. The support for these brands has definitely plummeted in India; a lot of people have stood up against these creams that are not only toxic for the skin, but also toxic for mentalities that think that the lighter your skin is the more attractive, the more successful, the more happy you will be. Many Bollywood celebrities have endorsed these products and literally just contribute to the problem, many people have attacked them. A lot of these celebrities have spoken up about the Black Lives Matter protest, but people ended up attacking them because of course they are contradicting the whole purpose of this protest. If you’re endorsing such products, you are a part of the problem. Because in the end, white supremacy has played a major role in the colorism that exists in India today, at least it consolidated it.
But colourism is not just a product of white supremacy and the British Empire. This issue of dark skin has stretched way beyond the time of colonisation. It’s really just enforced by the caste system, which still operates in India. A lot of people claim that it is part of the Hindu religion, but many people have opposed that, including myself. Because I really don’t want to deviate from the Black Lives Matter protest, I don’t really want to go into too much detail about the caste system, colourism. I definitely am considering making an episode or a series of episodes to talk about these sorts of issues that occur in India, in Asia perhaps. But it was definitely important for this episode, to touch on it because white supremacy does and has played a major role in the colourism that exists in India today.
Coming back to the black community. The issue of colorism has made many Indians and many Asians as well, because this is a massive problem in east Asia as well and in south Asia, essentially the whole Asian continent, I don’t even think it’s just an Asian issue. I think it’s just an issue throughout the world, that lighter skin is favoured. If you just talk about India, colourism has made many Indians think that they are on the same page as the black community, in terms of the level of disregard, the level of discrimination that they faced. And they think that, you know, if black lives matter, why can’t we trend “brown lives matter”, why can’t we trend “Asian lives matter” or things like that? We can either relate to black Americans or to black people, or our experiences are as bad, and we shouldn’t be paying as much attention. But in fact, we only just contribute to the issue.
Approximately, 60,000 African nationals live in India today and around about 25,000 Africans actually study in Indian universities, just because of the higher academic standards that you can get within the Indian education system. Nigerians make up the highest number of students in India, followed by Sudan and Kenya. But as the African population begins to increase, the African migrant population that begins to increase in India, this has really just victimized them to racial abuse and hate crime. Again, colourism is largely to blame for this because if you have a problem against dark skin, you’re not going to be seeing where a person is from their culture, who they are, you are just going to be seeing the dark skin. So, if people have an issue against darker skinned Indians, black people won’t really be any different.
In fact, it’s even worse. Black people are constantly type-casted as drug dealers, theives, even the term “Nigerian” is used in a racist way to associate [it to] all African people and to associate them as a threat essentially. The worst labeling of Africans in India has been cannibals. I’ve heard this before, but again after researching, it felt very painful to hear that many Indians living in India view Africans as cannibals. I’m not sure where that started from, I don’t know who started the rumour, where it began from, but it does exist. In 2017, five Nigerian students were assaulted for being wrongly accused of killing and then “eating” an Indian boy that went missing. He later came back home but died a few days later because of drug abuse. Initially when that boy was missing, everyone blamed those students but then when the boy came back and they found out that he died of drug overdose, then they blamed those Nigerian students for giving him those drugs, and that resulted them in being beaten. People started protesting outside their house for them to get deported back to Nigeria, and these accusations were just made because they’re from Nigeria, from Africa.
In 2016, a Tanzanian student was stripped as she and her friends stopped by a car accident to ask what had happened. What the case was, was that a Sudanese student had run over a homeless Indian woman that was sleeping on the streets and because of that, local Indians decided to burn his car. And then when the Tanzanian student with her other student friends had stopped by to ask what had happened, they got angry when they saw that she was African and they literally took off her top and were running after her to beat her, just because she was African. She had no connection to the man whatsoever, but her race was the reason why these Indians attacked her. Three months later after this case, a Congolese man was beaten to death in New Delhi, over an argument for an auto-rickshaw. In 2013, a Nigerian man was stabbed to death and others were seriously injured because of a row over drugs with local Indians.
What’s really sad about the racism in India against black people is that just like the UK, India is pretty much silent when it comes to crimes done against non-Indians. We are very quick to hear about the crime done against Indians by Indians, but when it comes to people that are not Indian, that have come from another country for a job, or for any sorts of opportunity, even tourism, it’s like no Indian wants to hear about that. Sometimes on the Indian news channels, you’ll see black people complaining about their experiences, you sometimes see some news saying that a tourist was injured or killed, or a student from another country was killed, but a lot of coverage isn’t really given to them. It’s really sad that I just found out about these attacks on black people whilst doing the research for this episode, I literally did not hear about these cases from family, on the news. So again, showing that just like the UK, India is very much quiet about racism against non-Indians, especially black people.
And again, you’ll find a plethora of resources for colourism in India and how dark skin Indians are constantly being targeted for their skin color, but you won’t find much on racism itself. It just shows the level of disregard of the rights of non-Indian rights and how people want to just focus on India, on Indian rights, and not on the rights of others that have come to your country, are contributing to the education system. the job sector, the wealth of the country essentially. Yet, you don’t want to be talking about the rights of those people.
As I mentioned before, this is not just an Indian problem. This is an Asian problem. More so in east Asia where skin lightening and [cosmetic] surgery is widely promoted. They are not quiet about their use of skin lightening and white washing practices. But since I’m an Indian, I have full responsibility to deconstruct the racism within my own culture, within my own country, my own community, within my own people. I have full responsibility to tackle those issues and to constantly challenge these toxic traditions that are still exist. Because if I stay quiet, then I’m just supporting white supremacy, I’m just supporting oppressors, I am supporting racism.
There’ll be many Indians that would attack me for outing specific parts of the Indian culture, but as much as I love being an Indian and as much as I love the culture, there are certain elements that are really, really toxic, and we need to pull those out and discard of them.
At the end of each episode, I give solutions to problems. I am a very strong believer of understanding an issue and quickly getting to the solutions, once I fully understood what the problem is. For things like racism however, racism in itself is a very difficult and sensitive issue, and finding long-term solutions for systemic racism, eradicating systemic racism, is going to be even harder because it’s not just about systems anymore. It’s also about the people that are driving their systems, allowing for those systems to exist till this day.
It’s not just institutional racism, it’s also internalised racism. So, you have to tackle two things at once, which is really difficult, but we can’t give up. I mean, you can’t think it’s impossible. In this episode, I have primarily focused on systemic racism because if the various systems that we rely on to be impartial and not driven by biases, if those systems are racist, if they have racist ideologies that are running them, we don’t really have much hope we can all be anti-racist. We can all be accepting and inclusive, but if our systems aren’t reflecting our views on race and inclusivity, not much will change. The Black Lives Matter protest has shown just how much everyone hates racism and how much people want things to change. So internalized racism at this point in time is not as important as the systemic racism that everybody is fighting against.
So how do we exactly go about solving systemic racism? If we come back to police brutality, because it’s a form of systemic racism that threatens, directly threatens, the life of many black Americans, many black citizens. There is actual evidence to show that reducing police violence can result in a significant reduction of killings carried out by the police. For example, you can have 25% reduction in deaths when an officer decides to use other means of force instead of shooting. You can have a 25% reduction in deaths when all uses of force is documented. You can have a 22% reduction in deaths when chokeholds and strangleholds are banned (these stats are all given by Mapping Police Violence) but unfortunately, very few departments actually take on these alternatives. They feel that shooting, using lethal force is easier when you can have a significant reduction in deaths by using other means of control.
As the public, we usually feel very hopeless and helpless when it comes to fighting systemic racism, because we feel that we can’t really make many of the changes. It’s the lawmakers that can challenge these systems and impose new legislations and laws. We tend to feel helpless with systemic racism because we blame individual officers for being racist and for carrying out these killings. But this hopelessness, this helplessness can be resolved if we just reevaluate our definition of racism.
Dr Phillip Atiba Goff in his Ted Talk said that helplessness is just a product of our misunderstanding of systemic racism altogether. We have actually defined racism in the wrong way. We have labeled racism as a feelings problem over an actions problem. We’ve labeled it as a poison of the mind of individuals that we can’t fully change instead of action-based violence that we can eradicate through a just criminal justice system. Dr. Goff deems this very definition of racism as racist, because we are giving more attention to the intentions of the abuser instead of the victims of racism. We are trying to focus on how we can change the minds of the oppressors instead of focusing on the victims and how we can alleviate them from this pain.
So, if we change this definition of racism based on feelings to a definition that is based on actions, we make the task of dissolving systemic racism much easier to carry out. You can track and measure behaviors, you can track and measure actions. You can’t track and measure feelings. Humans are very good at measuring and tracking stuff, so instead of focusing on the feelings and focusing on the actions of the police and hate crimes altogether, much of the problem is already solved.
Dr Goff works directly with police departments in America, and really helps them identify public concerns over constant usage of police violence against black people especially and helps them revise situations and identify how they could have solved an issue in a better way, and without using violence. So essentially, he helps them find non-violent ways of sorting out and controlling a situation, especially when a person doesn’t seem to be posing any threat is, is unarmed.
Revisions of police encounters also includes looking at the victim themselves or the person that is being suspected of posing a threat to other people. For example, Dr. Goff was working with the Minneapolis police department in 2015, and they found that a disproportionate amount of people that were a victim to police brutality were actually homeless, had mental health issues and also abusing drugs. So essentially, they were all people that required help or required governmental services, not violence. These people needed help. They need resources and services instead of facing police brutality. Most of the situations that they were revising, violence was not necessary at all, just an honest conversation was required.
So in this instance in Minneapolis, the main problem was not really training the officers to not use violence and to not use lethal force, but it was rather providing support to those that needed help, that needed services and support, and that were also getting into trouble or we’re getting into situations that required people to call the police on them. So, in 2015 when the issue was identified, the right social services and resources were provided for these people, for the homeless community.
This is all great, but in 2020 the murder of George Floyd still occurred in Minneapolis. So, it’s clear that not much has changed and police departments revising situations has not really been successful. Which must mean that these revisions and reassessments of situations are not occurring constantly. They’re not occurring every single time a police officer reports that they have used violence on somebody because these reports aren’t even happening, or they’re not happening frequently. You can’t just be providing services and then not looking at ways in which you can control a situation without using violence, because violence was the key issue in the first place.
The police know exactly how to solve these violent interactions with the public. They know exactly how to solve them. They know exactly how to reduce the number of killings, but they’re choosing not to do so. And that is where the public comes into it. We now need to force these police departments to measure their use of violence done by officers against civilians. We need to force these police departments to evaluate how their violence is used, especially against unarmed black people, ethnic minorities. And we need to force the police departments to see how a situation could be dealt with without the use of violence. It’s what the Centre for Policing Equity, what Dr. Goff is part of, and what supporters of the Black Lives Matter protest are fighting for, and that’s what people are doing across the world. The police know exactly what to do now. They need to be forced to actually implement those changes. And that’s what the public is and will continue to do.
As for internalized racism, I myself have not studied racism. I’m not a psychology expert that can deconstruct racism at all levels, even at the individual level. But what I do know is that at some point or another, every single person would have had some form of racism within themselves, no matter how subtle it must be. Whether it’s within your friends or with your family or vocally, there would have been a point in your life where you would have preferred your community over another, or you might’ve made a statement that you didn’t mean much harm, but now looking back at it, it was racist.
Being closer to your community and understanding the pain of a community more than another community that is natural. It’s seen within animals; it will be within us too. But linking back to what Dr. Goff mentioned in his Ted Talk, if we just see racism as an action-based issue, instead of a feeling and emotion-based issue, we can easily solve it, whether it’s within us, whether it’s within systems.
Solving racism within you, not being able to support another community, not feeling as much pain towards the community that has been oppressed that is not your community, those are feelings that you personally can change, and you have full responsibility to change. Those making racist remarks, carrying out racist actions, those are what we class as racist. That are what we class as racism, and that is what we are against. To overcome your differences is something that you need to do yourself, but you shouldn’t feel too beaten down on. Differences do occur between individuals, we’re unique, even though we are extremely similar, don’t make yourself feel bad about that. But any actions that you’ve committed, whether it’s a joke, a statement or seriously saying to somebody you don’t like them because of whoever they are, where they’re from, their culture, their skin color, that is what is called racism. Because it’s the actions that threaten, that jeopardize the wellbeing of individuals; internal thoughts and emotions, that’s really just going to affect you. But when you unleash those into actions, that is what needs to be changed because your beliefs and your actions should never affect somebody else’s life, their happiness, their wellbeing, their security.
If I talk about myself during the beginning of the protest occurring in America, some of them were being violent, the first thing that came into my mind when all this was really new and I hadn’t educated myself again and researched into what was happening and I hadn’t told myself again, why black Americans are so angry and why America is so angry about another killing of a black man. When I saw the violent protest, the first thing I thought was…why are they protesting violently? I fully supported the peaceful protests, but I didn’t understand why violent protests were occurring. Once I stepped back and told myself to just understand for a split second, how it must feel like to be a black American who has full rights to be living a fearless and happy life, how it must feel like to be constantly threatened by the institutions that are supposed to protect and support them, how it must feel like to see another one of their community being killed, another person in their community being killed, just because of the colour of their skin and not the fact that they were posing any threat or they’d committed any crimes.
That’s when I realized that this violence is justified because this violence is nothing compared to the torture and pain the black community has faced in America and throughout the world, it’s nothing. Burning a few buildings is nothing. When we talk about the experiences of black Americans and how not much has changed since the Civil Rights Movement, and that’s when I realized that I have a lot of privilege, despite the fact that I’m an ethnic minority. The fact that I could even think about why these violent protests, some of the violent protests are happening, that just shows my privilege of not having experienced this level of trauma because of the colour of my skin.
There were so many times when I thought to myself that I wouldn’t make this episode because doing the research, picking out the flaws within myself and writing up the notes for this episode, it really was eating away at my mental health because it’s painful to know that, you can’t even put yourself into the shoes of those, of those that have been brutally killed and those that continue to be threatened just because they’re black. It’s painful to know that no non-black person can really understand the pain of the black community.
But I forced myself to continue my research and to continue preparing for this episode because Mind Full of Everything is a podcast that really challenges the difficult parts of society, difficult parts of living. I’ve never been shy to talk about the difficult parts of life. In fact, I enjoy talking about them because they make me feel more human. Pretending that something isn’t happening is not going to stop it from happening. I’ve always believed in that, and so making this episode is really important. I did want to create this episode much earlier, but I didn’t get around to doing it. When I saw this current situation, I felt the urge to voice my thoughts, to voice my pain and to understand that if I couldn’t even come about to research all of this as quickly as I wanted to, I can’t even imagine how it’s like experiencing these stories, I’m hearing about, the stats I’m looking at.
I’m only researching these, these events. This is really happening to people. And that’s what kept me going and ultimately making this episode from my podcast. Even if I try really hard, I can never imagine how it’s like to constantly live in fear, just because you’re a part of the black community, and that automatically puts you into a “threat” category. Whether you’re a child, whether you’re an adult, whether you’re an elderly.
Systemic racism in America, systemic racism throughout the world is terrorism. Especially in the US it’s terrorism. The very forces that pledge to protect each and every citizen disproportionately, it targets a single community because of the colour of their skin. And makes sure that they are constantly living in fear, that they could be killed or abused or that their children could be killed or abused, just because they’re black. These systems are supposed to be impartial, yet they continue to villainize black people just because of the colour of their skin, not because they’ve committed a crime or not.
These institutions continue to be racist. They continue to support white supremacy and see black people, ethnic minorities as insignificant, not knowing that first of all, races don’t even exist, it’s a political concept. Not knowing that science, that has no biases whatsoever, disregards the concept of race and shows just how equal each and every one of us are. You don’t even need philosophy, religion, humanitarianism, spiritualism, to tell you that we are all equal. You just need the unbiased language of science.
The very genes inside those racists show that all humans are not only similar but are all African. The very people they brutalize, they’ve always been a part of them, whether they want to agree with that or not. You can disagree with philosophy. You can disagree with religion. You can disagree with individual beliefs. You can’t disagree with our genetic makeup. You can’t disagree with science. You can’t disagree with the very units that make you, YOU.
All lives matter. All lives matter, and that should be obvious, but it isn’t.
I ask you if all lives mattered, why would we need to be trending black lives matter? If all lives mattered, why would we need to be protesting that black lives matter? If all lives mattered, why would black people still be treading on eggshells to ensure that no one calls the police on them in case they get killed?
If all lives mattered, why would black people need to be pulling out documents as soon as a police officer tells them to pull over, choosing the brightest part of the street so that if they get killed, people can witness it? If all lives mattered, why would black people be making jokes that they will 100% be pulled out to be checked in airport security?
If all lives genuinely mattered, why is voter suppression still existing, modern day segregation still existing? If all lives mattered, why does colourism exist? Why are we constantly told that the lighter you are, the more attractive you are?
All lives have mattered from day one, from the day every single person is born, but for some communities, those rights are suppressed just because other lives are preferred, respected.
If all lives genuinely mattered, we wouldn’t even be talking about deconstructing racism, because racism wouldn’t exist! Or at least wouldn’t exist in 2020? Innocent black people wouldn’t be getting killed still, in 2020. If equality really existed, a lot would have changed since the Civil Rights Movement. People back then would have thought or would have hoped that by 2020 at the least, everything would be fine.
Yet, we are still having to protest because nothing has really changed. Black people are still living in constant fear, being terrorized every single day, still just because nothing has really changed. Until now.
Until now, where the entire world is saying, we are fed up. Until now where the whole world is standing up and saying that we’re going to protest until real change is made. The fear of getting infected by COVID-19 is long gone, because we all know that after some time, this pandemic will be controlled and will no longer be a threat to us. But if we all stay quiet over yet another innocent person’s death, an innocent black person’s death, we will never be able to eradicate the pandemic of racism.
The whole world is protesting because everybody knows that the black lives matter protest/movement, racism against black people, was never just a “black people problem”. Racism is an attack on the whole of humanity. It’s an insult, it’s a mockery of human rights, because if one community is constantly brutalized, terrorized, made felt highly insignificant, that should be seen as an attack for the whole of humanity. Every single person is equal, and if one person is affected, every other person is affected.
The power has always been in the hands of the public. I’ve said this throughout my podcast, and I’ll continue to say this. The public has always had the ultimate power, and this protest has demonstrated that. Within a week, the Minneapolis City Council has pledged to dismantle the police department, something that was seeming impossible a few weeks back. Derek Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder, which is a quickest conviction for a police officer in history, and the three other officers that were involved have also been charged.
Breonna’s law has been passed to regulate a “no-knock” warrant. Colorado law makers have introduced a bill to reform police usage of lethal force, for example, requirements are now made over having body cameras installed and releasing the footage within 14 days. Lawmakers in New York and the mayor of LA have called out for defunding of the police departments in America.
Something that we’ve all been fighting for years is happened within weeks, because everybody is now together to fight for the rights of black people. The black lives matter protest is not just a trend that will blow over within a few weeks or within a few months. This needs to continue going on. We need to constantly be challenging the systemic racism in America, regardless of where you are in the world, because if we can do all of this within a few weeks, imagine the changes that can happen if we continue to fight for equality for the black community.
My fellow people of colour, black people have always stood up for ethnic minority rights. It started with the Civil Rights Movement, where so many risked their lives to fight for the rights they always had, but were suppressed by systemic racism. They’ve always fought for everyone, not just for themselves. The Civil Rights Movement revolutionized POC rights back in the 1960s. If we think that nothing much has changed now, just imagine how difficult it would have been if the Civil Rights Movement never occurred.
Black people have done so much for POC rights, so the least we can do is support them, understand them, take time to listen to them, their experiences, what they want out of this and what they want out of everyone. They started the fight towards equality, so we have full responsibility to stand with them. We as POC are familiar with how racism feels, not to the extent to which black people have experienced it, but we know how it feels like to be disliked, to be deemed as unworthy because of the colour of our skin.
We know the pain, so we need to stick by our fellow black people, because if we as ethnic minorities, don’t stand by them, we have failed collectively. All lives matter, so we need to act like they do, and we need to show those that oppress the rights of the black community, that you don’t need to be black to understand someone’s pain and you don’t need to be black to understand that black rights matter. Black lives matter.
OUTRO: Thank you for joining me on Mind Full of Everything! Remember to subscribe on your podcast app of choice for instant updates of episode releases and follow my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages for extra content. Visit my website mindfullofeverything.home.blog for episode resources, show notes and full transcriptions. Until the next episode, happy listening!
- Police killings: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2020/05/mapping-police-killings-black-americans-200531105741757.html
- Disproportionate impact of police brutality against black Americans: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02601-9
- Mapping Police Violence: https://mappingpoliceviolence.org
- “Race is racist”: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/how-can-we-curb-the-spread-of-scientific-racism/
- Little variation across “races”: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/298/5602/2381
- “We are all African”: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-genetics-science-africa/
- DNA Discussion Project: https://humanitiesforall.org/projects/dna-discussion-project
- Failure to explain BAME deaths by COVID-19 (UK): https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jun/03/censorship-row-over-report-on-uk-bame-covid-19-deaths
- Disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on black Americans: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/20/black-americans-death-rate-covid-19-coronavirus
- Calling for race research to be banned: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/should-research-on-race-and-iq-be-banned/
- Removal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/06/opinions/voting-rights-act-anniversary-long-way-to-go-clarke-rosenberg-opinion/index.html
- Importance of Section 5: https://campaignlegal.org/update/five-decades-section-5-how-key-provision-voting-rights-act-protected-our-democracy
- Modern-day segregation through “zoning” system: https://medium.com/tmi-consulting-inc/modern-day-segregation-4a716d37512
- Environmental Racism in America: https://theecologist.org/2020/may/29/covid-19-and-environmental-racism
- POCs living in highly polluted areas (US): https://qz.com/939612/race-is-the-biggest-indicator-in-the-us-of-whether-you-live-near-toxic-waste/
- Racism in the UK: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/07/britain-is-not-america-but-we-too-are-disfigured-by-deep-and-pervasive-racism
- UK racism against minority groups: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/why-systemic-racism-is-not-just-an-american-problem
- Accounts of Africans in India facing racism: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/04/african-victims-racism-india-share-stories-170423093250637.html
- Tanzanian student attack: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-35483893
- Attacks on Africans in India: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-39482239
- Baratunde Thurston Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/baratunde_thurston_how_to_deconstruct_racism_one_headline_at_a_time/transcript?language=en
- Dr Phillip Atiba Goff: https://www.ted.com/talks/dr_phillip_atiba_goff_how_we_can_make_racism_a_solvable_problem_and_improve_policing