A note on the last week or so, ish (ft. BLM in case you were expecting, I dunno, a chat about the changeable weather)

I almost didn’t finish this post, although I started it days ago, as I’ve been mulling over both what to say and how to say it. The last thing the world needs is another white person saying, ‘I’ve been educating myself this week,’ or ‘I have signed X petition,’ or ‘I have quite a few BAME characters in my last book,’ as that implies I’m off the hook. I’m not. I also don’t want to tell readers which funds to support – we don’t know each other’s financial situations.

That said, I started Indifferent Ignorance to discuss just that. Little Me saw a lot of ambivalence in society and couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t understand why no one was throwing tables and screaming their lungs out about topics and issues that were so obviously dodgy or horrible and relevant to the lives of millions of people, if not all of us. How did anyone manage to learn about these things and just shrug? So I like to think I’m mindful of the notion that if I don’t speak up about something I perceive as wrong, I’m complicit in allowing it.

So, for the record, although I suspect I will have to say this a great number more times: to my BAME readers and customers, I am so sorry that our realities are so different in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I hope to spend several more decades on this planet, and I’ll do my best to spend them learning how to be a better person than the individuals previously and currently in charge of so many of our governmental and societal systems. I’ll do my best to understand the privilege I was born into. I don’t expect your patience (I’m from a country that’s spent 400 years pretending the slave trade didn’t have any impact on modern-day America; I wouldn’t tend toward patience in your shoes, either) but I hope you’ll let me listen and ask questions where I can, and allow me to learn from any fuck ups as opposed to announcing my ‘cancellation’ on Twitter.

I was going to list some of the ways I’ve been trying to actively help out and educate myself this week, but I sort of feel that implies, once again, that once the protests have ended and the news cycle has moved on, that I will be off the hook because I made a bit of effort for a few days. Anyway, you can all find the relevant petitions and media in about five minutes.

That said, as a novelist I’m never going to stop shouting about how important ‘fictional’ stories are for education-disguised-as-entertainment. So if you’re looking to expand your horizons but also have a break from straight-up news, please consider looking up the following. They are all fantastically interesting, thought provoking insights into someone else’s life even before you consider the race-related commentary:

  • Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo
  • Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series (the TV show is also *chef’s kiss*)
  • Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

I very much plan to decolonise my bookshelf and expand that list. There’s another book I can’t remember the name of that I read in primary school and stuck with me. It may have been by Malorie Blackman but I’m not sure. I’ll have to do some serious Googling because I think I read it circa 2004.

Another note on reading: I looked up a lot of non-fiction books I’m planning to read in my local library catalogue, but they aren’t stocked. It took about 15 minutes to look up half a dozen ISBNs and request them, because they should be available to all of us (I’m fully planning to buy my own copies anyway, but I am limited on money and space, as I suspect we all are). Even if you own a copy of a book you think is really important – and you can do this with any old book, really – it’s worth searching it up on your local library site or shop wish lists, and requesting it if it’s not there. The powers-that-be might then stock it, and will at least know which topics their customers care for, thus helping them improve their displays, marketing, etc.

Finally, a photo of an electricity box (is that what they’re called?). I live in a mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly well-it’s-not-in-our-bubble neighbourhood. I hadn’t seen most of my neighbours before the Thursday night NHS clapping, and I’ve lived here on and off since 2005. But someone thought it worth pasting these posters over every available bollard and box at the local row of shops/cultural-epicentre-even-if-it’s-mostly-coffee-shops-and-estate-agents:

Black Lives Matter posters on electricity box in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, June 2020

I never thought I’d see a civil rights poster in my neighbourhood. I didn’t notice last time I was there if they’d been taken down. I suspect someone will have considered them out of place. But I looked up those books, you might look up those books and my neighbours might have too. That someone took the time to put them up, knowing that they might be completely dismissed as unnecessary or inappropriate, deserves immortalising. I also love that they used FRAGILE tape.

I am off to bed… I can’t believe I thought it’d take me half an hour to finish this. When will I learn that posts always take double the time I expected? Blogs are like building work.

Look after yourselves and see you soon!

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