In this unprecedented times, blogging through my eyes of this pivotal moment in history. A professional, fitness enthusiast, humanist, father and writer.
“Why are you eating chocolate ice cream? You will become blacker by eating that.”
Sounds absurd right? That comment. Hardly a joke? It will probably have you spitting the tea out from your mouth or falling off your chair from reading it. Now, imagine that was shouted at you by your mum, when you were 13, in a crisp hot summer day in August, in the middle of a busy park with you surrounded by people enjoying the blazing heat. It would probably be a defining moment for most people. But for me, it was another bygone comment, that was retorted back with another delicious lick of the gooey chocolate syrup covering my ice cream. I wasn’t even embarrassed, mad or angry. It’s the small things you get used to when you are born with dark skin and growing up in a Bangladeshi family and community.
Did my Mum say it out of hate, resentment or her own embarrassment that she was being seen with me? Did she do it out of spite or neglect? No, it was humour after all, it didn’t mean anything to her. She doesn’t even recall the day or the comment when I mention it to her sometimes, all these years later. Probably because she had said so many similar things, it had slipped her mind. Comments like that didn’t question her unbridle love for me or the high pedestal she has for me in her world. To her it’s an embedded teaching and attitude she was forced to grow up with and did not know any better. After all, being dark skinned meant that I should be used to being a target of humour and ridicule and regardless of age, I shouldn’t take it too much to heart, as it was my misfortune to be born with it, so therefore live with it.
Growing up, questions, jokes and taunts around my dark skin never evaded me. More so from my family and relatives than outsiders. My mum having to explain to everyone, why she as a beautiful fair woman, can have some multi shades of children rather than embrace the beauty of having such a diverse portfolio. The fair ones being the good-looking ones and me and my younger brother, of course not so much.
“Their uncles are dark, that’s where they got it from.” She would explain to everyone who asked. So, I would find myself searching my own roots and blaming family members who I have never met in my life, for inheriting their misfortune and gene. That’s the Asian way, none of this is breaking news. Another forced baggage to carry, growing up in an Asian family, an experience only another dark-skinned person will relate to and understand.
No regard to how the stigma of being dark skin, shapes a person and teaches them to see a part of their body as a curse rather than something to be proud off. You end up wishing, one day you will wake up and shed your skin into a fairer one. All the while knowing deep down that all this trauma you feel is being orchestrated by your own community.
Dark skinned women being judged as not being marriage material, not worthy enough, their accomplishments geared down to nothing, their features never beautiful, only because none of what they are, is coated with white fair skin. “She is amazing, but a bit dark though.” The common sentences we have come to associate with many descriptions around potential Asian brides.
Our first family trip to Bangladesh in the 90s, I remember my parents forced to explain to everyone, how we can be born in England and still be so dark. Being from colonial London should have meant, we should have been fair (imagine that mindset). My younger brother getting the most brunt of the jokes, he was only 7 then, too young to have grown the thick cloak of armour needed to defend his dark skin in our community. He would get extra sensitive. As an act of love and seeing his negative reaction to it all, everyone started calling him ‘the beautiful brother’ a tongue and cheek title, to imply that he wasn’t.
You can imagine the fun they all had when we came across a song called ‘Kala Maya’ – translated ‘Dark Skin Girl’. A song that plighted the struggle of a beautiful dark skin girl and how nobody saw her true worth.
So, this week, whilst the British public have had their jaws dropped down to the ground when Meghan Markle revealed how a member of the Royal, questioned how dark the skin tone of Archie might be. You could hear the pin drop of silence from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian community. A rude awakening for many 2nd/ 3rd generation Asians to contemplate some of the ideas and thoughts they still live with. Forcing them to look at their own thought process of the age old colonial idea that white represented beauty and power and how that it is still very much embedded in today’s Asian society.
Spoken words and dialogues may indicate one thing, but actions and attitudes tells us a different story. We see it in the way beauty products are promoted, sold and bought by social media influencers. Light skinned models being used in Asian bridal magazines, filters in social media that lighten your skin shade and euro centrify your features. The fetishizing of mixed raced children or the pride of being mistaken for a middle eastern or anything other than Bengali, cos after all being Bengali means you are dark and therefore not beautiful.
So as people drop their two pennies worth in the Harry and Meghan debacle, I wonder if Asians see their own hypocrisy staring back at their face in this saga? Are they able see the roots of colonialism that continues to shape their own narrative around the different shades and tones of skin in their own people? Will they learn to finally embrace the beauty of their ethnicity rather than uphold old ideas that has for centuries white-washed the roots of their pigmentation?
Lyrics from Kala Maya (translated)
‘The dark face has wisdom which the white face doesn’t have. Nobody wants to understand the pain of a dark-skinned girl.
Not much happens nowadays. Nothing exciting, no exciting trips to talk about, no funny stories that happened at work. No talk of meeting new people or things we have done. Everything is mundane really. So much so, you end up searching for things that don’t exist, in places where it shouldn’t.
Last Saturday night, I saw a bright orange orb firing up across the sky of East London. Levitating, glowing and then disappearing. It was silent as the night, not emitting a single sound. Seamlessly flying across the night skies. A beacon I had been waiting for my whole life, to be closer to the mysterious UFOs that have been reported throughout history. Answers to what really lies beyond this planet and being one step closer to find answers to why we are here and why we exist.
I never thought I would see one from my back garden, but yet here it was. Maybe this mundane life has me searching for things in places it shouldn’t exist? Why of all the places in this world, should an intergalactic orb be flying in front of my house and in front of me? I am not looking for an explanation, I much rather entertain the possibilities of what it could have been. Rather than to investigate and find out it was some sophisticated drone that belonged to some tech geek.
People around the UK linger on an olive branch of June 21st – a date handed to them by the government. The day all the madness of the past year will come to end. A full year into lockdown, no one knew it wasn’t going to take this long to be where we are. Will this be our modern VE day? For me, that remains to be seen, for others there is no caution to the wind. The young ones, ready to embrace the youth that had been taken from them without permission, they are already getting ready for the night clubs and bars. Travel agents reporting heavy traffic on their websites, people booking holidays, even though international restrictions lifting has not been announced. Talks of BBQ and parties being spread on social media and messages. The light can finally be seen in this one-year long tunnel.
But the global picture is different. Getting the UK through this is not going to be enough when the world around us is behind in terms of vaccination. Is June really the end? False dates and empty promises have been given to us before. If June is the end? why has Furlough been extended until September. As reports of new variants start emerging, what’s to say we are not going to experience a new pandemic lurking around the corner. A stronger strain that will leave us locked behind our doors for longer. It’s always best to observe what the government is doing, then what they are saying.
So, we remain mundane, making and creating narratives in our heads to keep control of the things we can. Maybe the orb I saw was an extra-terrestrial object or maybe it was pre- fragments of the meteor shower that took place the next night. It could have even been a military aircraft. The truth is what we make it nowadays.
But what if it all works out and June 21st is when we let the guard doors down? We are let out to wander the roads and streets with no restrictions and no barriers? Will we be able to run free or will we be too afraid and re-treat back to the only cocoon we know and have been building for the past year. Sometimes a cage is where we are the most free.
She called my bluff and she won the fight
I ran outside in the hot twilight
I had a lighter that didn’t light
Well I know I shouldn’t smoke
I was gone, I was free to leave
Walking fast down the Bowery
Tears in my eyes so I couldn’t see
But I made my way back home
It’s easy to lose touch with the World from within a city. The sun, sea, sand, hills and stars. The scaffolds that hold the Earth, they all fade in the background, when you’re wandering endlessly in middle of long traffic, surrounded by lights, noise and empty shells of people. Here in the city, we compress the world, put it through the compactor and produce a concrete, compact version of what we want, a cosmopolitan structure of our desire and lust with no regard for what we need. We filter the rest and scatter them around like crumbs, to give us a trickle of what is outside. A small garden in the backdrop of an office block to make us feel one with nature. Tiny water fountains to give us the sense of waterfalls. A rustic café to make us feel the village but not want to live in it.
This city hasn’t been the same for a while, it’s in a state of forced hibernation. I can hear its angry calling, wanting to be awoken from this deep sleep that it has been induced into. Like a caged bear, it’s fighting to get out. I cycled through Aldgate this week, in the dark hours of the early evening. I passed the haunting tall empty office blocks gaining dust, ghost of their former selves, lights still on, burning in rage to remind us of their might, but nobody is home.
I miss the city, I miss getting lost in the crowd, to be alone and immerse in a world within a world, but still have the luxury of people around you. Where you can wander for hours and not have anyone question why? Sitting down with a coffee and observing everyone. The old, the young, the couples, the tourists, the happy and the sad. Drifting in and out of through vehicles that never stop giving, onto the streets that never stop taking.
The world at my fingertips, with a simple row of street providing more food from around the globe then one would ever visit in their lifetime. A world where you can come out of your house with just a phone and buy everything you need. A world, not so long ago, where I was able to run in the streets, grab food and drink and sit through a whole new simulation everyday, not a single day the same.
I miss being lost. It’s in the middle of this sense of loss you find out who you are and your place in this paradox. I looked at the tall structures, if the walls could talk? I know what it would have said. It yearns for people, just like we do. It rages to engulf us all again, rip our souls and tear us to shreds. A sleeping giant- all rage, now on the verge re-awakening.
I feel its pain and get ready to be eaten. I just want to get lost again, jump into the abyss. Sit down on the curb and have my coffee. In this wilderness of the city is where I am the most free.
My neighbour’s new dog- Ruby, has started barking all hours throughout the night. The yelp of a puppy beginning to find her voice, drifts into my ear past midnight and through the early hours of darkness. Some nights she does not stop and continues throughout the day. They say pets have a sixth sense, that they smell things, see things and predict things that await us. I pause and divert my eyes away from my phone screen at 1am, listening to her bark blending in with the sound of the night. The nights are quiet now, apart from the odd Deliveroo cyclists you can hear peddling away in the cold, hurrying to feed the unquenchable midnight hunger of a mid- 20s renter, who had given up on their life and started gorging Uber Eats and Deliveroo for the past year. A £10 meal marinated with high fat content, salt and oil- their salvation through this year of living with a broken promise of a 2021 that hasn’t quite sufficed the way it should have.
Maybe Ruby, senses the aura of the people, the energy of the distraught, the boredom that inhabits us all. The loneliness, the uncertainty, broken hopes and plan. The poverty of our minds and the state that has engulfed us. Maybe she feels, sees or hears the spirit of the tragic souls that have all perished from Covid 19 – less than 500 metres away from me, down at the morgue of The Royal London. Maybe she sees a future less optimistic than the one we envision. What if it is a sign of warning to our overcompensating faith? Over 100’000 dead in the UK and over a million deaths globally, yet we rest our faith on the vaccine, even as new mutated strains are being reported.
I shudder to think, if the howls of animals are predicting of a worse yet to come or if it brings glad tidings. But the Cows prolong their Moos before a plague, the Crows circle the dead before they die. The Rooster sings at the sign of sunrise. Maybe its my imagination but the yelps of this dog, is not one that sounds like the beckoning of a new dawn. I look back at my screen, mindless hours of videos that do not make sense anymore. Short clips feeding into my nostalgia, that provide a sense of ease and comfort. Not wanting to sleep and questioning why I wake up? Only to turn around in my bed to switch on my computer 10 minutes before my time to sign in for work. Staring at the abyss of MS Teams and Zoom, talking to colleagues with their filtered profile pictures from their heyday, that doesn’t resemble anything of what they are or have been for a long time. Talking to them, as if to say life is ok. As if I don’t yearn to go out and see, feel and touch people.
The black coffee sitting on my desk next to my screen, only reminds me of the small things. How much I miss walking up and buying that coffee with a ‘Hello’ to the Barista from Costa. The walk, the pavements, the chatter, the traffic, the noise, pollution and the people. Somehow sitting at the desk of your home, behind the screen, with the noise of your children shouting in the back as they remote learn their way through education. You try to convince yourself first and then your invisible work colleagues, that you are fine, that you are ok and better days will return. I convince myself I will be back to feeling and look fit when the gyms re-open, that a couple of measly pulls up and a 2k run every other day is enough to keep me going.
The public are more cautious now, even the Government is, there is no urgency to open everything again. The dire talks of how a second lockdown would have destroyed the economy, doesn’t seem to have surfaced- we are in a third lockdown. We have been in lockdown for nearly a year, slowly killing our souls to protect our physical self and of others. The worst that had been predicted hadn’t come to materialise or maybe they have, we are yet to see it.
I wonder what the barking of a dog at 3am means? I swipe to the next video, the sounds of footsteps of my neighbours’ creep into my room like they are right next to me- ghosts walking inside my house. Lockdown has ruined time, walking around at 3am is not any more unusual than walking around at 3pm. Old pipes of our heating system creak loud, the type of sounds you get used to along the frost and rain tapping against the window.
My eyes get tired watching films and series, where people lead normal mask free lives with closeness and affection, whilst our lives are so different. The barking still haunts me and yet it soothes me too. Even if it is a warning of a danger yet to come- the fear and uncertainty of what it might bring, makes you feel alive at a time when we are anything, but.
This week has been highly charged, like none other time during this Pandemic. Even though we have seen the death count for Covid-19 gone down below a 100 today, the biggest news is the ongoing protests taking place in the USA, which has now found its way here in the cities of UK.
Thousands of people gathered around landmarks, majority peacefully protesting but also many destroying and vandalising statues of old controversial figures and throwing them deep into the cold dark waters. It’s as if those acts will rectify all the issues and erase the most hardest part of our history. None of these protests had any social distancing as if Covid 19 had disappeared, or that it will somehow exempt them because they are fighting for a social justice cause. What’s amusing out of all of this, is the amount of support being shown to protesters and excuses by the main left wing and unions.
Nobody is disagreeing with the level of injustice that took place in America in the past week and one can even get on board with the demonstrations taking place in the USA. However, I fail to see how in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed 40’000 people here in Britain alone, why people in the UK think they should be protesting, considering the global circumstances. This is not the time to come out and protest an age old systemic problems here, just to show solidarity to the USA.
What’s worse, are the excuses and comparison from the Left in support for it. ‘People have been going to the beaches’ ‘People are queuing up in IKEA’ ‘Dominic Cummings went and visited his family’ ‘Racism is a pandemic in itself’. Are some of the things the Left have been saying to justify the protests and the lack of social distancing. Some of these things may be taking place, but it has never been encouraged by anyone, actually it was frowned and criticised upon. And the last time I checked racism had not killed 400’000 people globally in a period of six months, like Covid-19 has.
One might argue, that systemic racism has killed more people than that. Which maybe so, but that issue has always been here, it didn’t pop out last week when George Floyd was killed. What is this innate need to encourage and support the protest at a time when we are just getting a grip on the Pandemic? What is this need to gather and destroy statues and further fuel and overshadow the real cause of Black Lives Matter?
What about the great NHS that no one has stopped talking about? For the last three to four months, all that the Left wing and the unions have been doing is clapping for the heroes, critiquing the government on lack of PPE, talking about underpaid and overworked nurses. Getting on the bandwagon of how the NHS is underfunded and under appreciated by the Government. Another spike in numbers, no matter how small or big from the protests, will not affect the Government, it will overwhelm the heroes that you have been clapping for. If you encourage mass gatherings in protests or any other form, how can you show sympathy or feel the needs for justice for the NHS? It is those hard working nurses and health professionals which will be the ones picking up the pieces. You just become empty placard protesters and fail to garner any support or respect for all the other causes you come to support.
No one is blind to injustice, but the actions of people are fuelling more of a division rather a voice being heard.
Ridiculous comparisons cannot be made to justify protests here in London, these can wait. We all know BAME People are the most vulnerable in this pandemic, our death rates are higher than most, another spike no matter how small or big, is likely to affect more people of colour. How ironic will that be? Black people protesting for their rights, which might make their communities more vulnerable in the process.
If anything is clear from all this support for protests, how little the left wing actually support and respect the NHS and the lockdown rules when it comes to their own agendas. And the same could be said about the other side too. It is clear many just want to protest to stay relevant and promote an idealistic version of themselves. And how little people really care about the impact of Covid -19.
Be sensible in your approach, so the message of the cause is not being lost. As, all I have seen in the last few days, is lefties going on a ruthless parade with their white anarchist fantasies, which has infiltrated and influenced the activities of Black Lives Matter.
This week in the middle of Lockdown something changed. Something so significant it diverted people’s minds and attention away from the ongoing Pandemic that has gripped our lives for the past three months. News that pivoted us away from the Covid 19 headlines. Forcing the public to defy the laws set out for us for this lockdown, and take themselves to the streets.
I am speaking of course, of the callous and cold hearted murder of African American, George Floyd in the USA at the hands of Police Officers. When George Floyd woke up that morning and took his trip down to the shop, he had no idea of the tragic fate that awaited him and how it was about to set the world on fire.
Let’s make one thing clear, there are no shades of grey in this case, no questions, no excuses and no investigation needed to determine the circumstances of what took place. We all saw the horrible video and what transpired. People and critics from both the Left and Right and anyone with a decency of humanity can see, that George Floyd was knelt to the floor and murdered in cold blood by Police Officers.
This is not the first time an African American has fallen victim to the hands of law enforcement and sadly, probably won’t be the last. The difference here and what separates this case from a long history of callous and brutal policing in America, is that there is no doubt or any shred of evidence to state anything other than murder.
For Black Americans, this is an ongoing battle of a long fought out war they have been having for centuries. And another red line crossed for them to say enough is enough. In the middle of a global pandemic, with their gloves and masks firmly on, they made it out to the streets to protest. A fire that had been raging inside them for so long had exploded into a large inferno and now supernova.
Black Lives matter- They have been saying it for years, but yet no one took that much notice of the movement, some ridiculed it and countered it with All Lives Matter. But countering that movement was no longer enough to suppress the anger, pain and hurt they have been living with for decades and centuries.
I am not going to come out and say I can begin to understand the racial inequality and social isolation that riddles the fabric of American Society. Majority of people who don’t live in the USA can’t either. We can understand and maybe even relate to some of the issues that they face, but not even a Black person living in the UK can fully experience the everyday struggle that a Black person in the USA faces every day. From law enforcement, to housing, to education to employment, but I can understand the anger and of course the need to show solidarity.
But this need to show solidarity has left me asking more questions of this new wave of so called understanding, from a silent majority who have for so long, stayed quiet. This past week I shifted through countless blacked out messages on Instagram and Facebook to commemorate what they called Blackout Tuesday. A day of mourning and pause to make a change and recognise racism, but all I saw was a host of people who are jumping on this bandwagon to show their so called ‘Wokeness’. Almost as if Racism has only become a thing this week and didn’t exist before.
The very essence of Black Lives Matter is to stop racism. Are those who are now showing solidarity to BLM? Willing to fight the racism of just Black people or are they willing to fight the very core of racism that exists for all minorities, which is the very reason of the BLM movement. Racism and BLM go hand in hand, no Black person wants to have the right to be treated equally without the right for other minorities to feel the same, but has this message been delivered? Or have people seen this as another new trend to jump on. Is everyone who blacked out their post on Tuesday, really against racism or are they just against what happened to George Floyd and only George Floyd?
In the past few days celebrities, influencers and people, all blacked out their feeds. At one time on my Instragram, there was nothing to see but just blacked out pictures. This is a moment of win right? Or is it that for some, blacking out their pictures, is their way of redeeming themselves of a guilt that they have blissfully ignored? For some, especially celebrities and influencers, it’s just a tactful moment to stay relevant and look sincere to a cause that seems romantic, whilst for others it remains a burning pain. I could write a whole book on how celebrities, music companies, film companies and all those famous people who have come out in fight of BLM and Blackout Tuesday have contributed to the huge racism that still exists in our society and how they will continue to do it. But that is another chapter for another day.
Let’s concentrate on us? Are we the same as USA?
As we observe the protesters and social media posts, we see a need to paint the state as the enemy. Nothing new there I guess, as nothing seems to give one’s life more value or ones speech more validation, than when they are supposedly speaking up against a broken system and politicians. And whilst it is clear there are many broken aspects of our society we need to fix politically and socially here in the UK, we also need to realise where we stand, in our place in all of this.
In order to show solidarity, somehow we have become romanticised with the George Floyd story and the BLM movement. This needed anguish from people here in the UK to validate their grief, has seen them willing to drag down the status of UK to that of the USA. In an attempt to show that they truly understand their struggle. People are going out their way to show that somehow we too, are on the same road as the US- which is hardly the case.
Yes, there is a lot of institutional and structural racism here in the UK that needs to change. Being a man of colour, I have witnessed and experienced many. However, we are nowhere near the same level of social disparity and inequality that resides in America. We should not forget that in order to show solidarity and make changes, we have to fight from the pedestal we are on, and not drag ourselves down to pedestal we want to be on, just because being down there with America looks somehow more of a struggle and makes us a true underdog.
So as I found myself shifting through countless blacked out posts from people from all walks of life, I felt anger especially from certain personalities and people sharing their ‘woke’ messages. It made me cringe. Is this new found love for BLM and respect for Black lives a real turning point? Or are we are looking at just another fad people are jumping on before they return to their life of unconscious and continuous contribution to the structural inequality that rages with no real change coming whatsoever.
The questions needed to be asked?
Will the hipsters and yuppies that have helped the gentrification of cities, rising house prices, pushing out minorities further away from their home areas, that has continued to fuel social inequality and gap between rich and poor. Finally realise their roles in all of this and come outside from their gated communities and new builds to say ‘Hello’ or reach out to their minority neighbours. Will they shop in their local shops and be friends with Mohammed or Ade or are these names just destined to be their Uber drivers? Will they stop buying Cannabis or Coke from their local young minority dealers and start educating them instead? Or stop calling the police when they see a young crowd of minority boys in their hoodies? Will the middle class new generation of ‘Woke’ parents who voted Corbyn and buy organic food, finally send their children to local state schools instead of majority white schools miles away? Will people still move away from urban areas to raise families in quintessential suburbs, which signals out success because you have moved away from the rough, the congestion and of course the minorities.
Will big corporate business and their employees, make an effort to make their workforce representative by employing the diverse nature of this country and we get to see more CEOs and Managers of colour? Will we begin to ask questions like why places like Canary Wharf and City Of London, sandwiched by the most diverse multi racial boroughs in UK, does not have a represented background. Why is it, the majority of their coloured work force are the ones who do front line work such as Security. Will business and their employers as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, reach out to the communities that surround them in a more holistic way, Rather than getting them to volunteer their privileged workers to read to children in schools or plant flowers in the community garden, for their perfect PR photo shoot and conversation reserved for their wine parties about how they help the under privileged.
Why do I mention this? Because this is what you call structural racism. This is the real fight. The little things, which makes the biggest differences. It is these things that build up and cause deep social unrest and segregation, which then allow situations like law enforcement and others to systematically isolate people of colour, causing a gap that ultimately leads to tragic circumstances and racism in society.
As a person of colour living in the UK, I see it every day. Being born and brought up in the UK, there are many experiences I can share, that no one will understand. Many have now come to admit this, but is just saying you understand, enough? Will anyone ever really go out their way, like they were quick to post their feelings of support, to ever understand, the burden I carry everyday to show myself as a good exemplary Bangladeshi male in the UK. Only to prove to the white mainstream society, that we are not all backwards, misogynistic, extremists with a hate for the UK. Every day we fight the labels they gave us. And put on a theatre show from the way we speak to the way we dress to the way we conduct ourselves. We orchestrate this, so in the wider sense of things, our community is not on the firing line. But even that is not enough, because it only takes one coloured man to groom an underage girl, or stab someone or say the wrong things. And we find ourselves fighting to prove to the mainstream white society, that we are not in fact that. This is the reality for minorities and also the reality of Black people.
Let’s talk global politics.
Racism doesn’t just reside in everyday life, it was allowed to surface and stay there, when for decades upon decades, Western countries have bombed and invaded, maimed and carried out their systemic killings of millions of Brown and Black lives around the world. And somehow it seemed ok, because they were defending them from an enemy thousand miles away, and the collateral damages was after all, not White, so their lives had less meaning. Will the people who blacked out their pictures, now question and challenge the most recent piece of history? Or are these causes not good enough to show on their platforms because it was not Black Lives Matter and that is the ‘rage’ at the moment. BLM in essence is about those injustices too, the racist nature of the global systemic elite.
Where was their global outcry when only a month ago the news surfaced, that China, who is responsible for the current pandemic was kicking out African people from their homes and refusing to let them eat in restaurant, because they had the absolute nerve to believe that Black people carried the virus. Black Lives Matter was fighting for them too, but where were the people who are blacking out their screens now?
Does our new found ‘Wokeness’ only stand for current fads to gain popularity and not the whole root cause of it all or challenge those who enable it. When Obama (a black leader) was the architect behind the fall of Libya, which then in the chaos went onto human traffic African men and literally sell them as slaves on the global market. Where was the sense of injustice and outcry like now? Obama came out looking like a hero then and even now, knowing he has done no more for the Black community than previous presidents.
So what do we do?
It’s time we started challenging media perception and stopped promoting books and TV shows and films, that promote the minority as people coping with identity and poverty issues, as desperate souls looking for salvation in the western world. Because us, playing to our stereotypes is what the White mainstream audience want. Are the woke people who read books and watch films, ready to see a brown or black leading character who has normal issues and not issues related to our race?
It’s time to challenge so called social media influencers, when they post and display pictures of them, that highlights their light skinned beauty as if that was the threshold of looking good. For years and years we have seen light skinned celebrities become the face of Black celebrity culture, something even more deep rooted in the South Asian culture.
And the communities are not completely blameless. When are the non-black people going to teach our kids and ourselves that it is not cool to act Black but not wanting to be Black. Time to challenge this vision of how black culture is ghetto culture and limit it down to Grime or Drill music, which is filled with misogynistic and violent lyrics, that further perpetuates the stereotype of being Black. When are going to fight to see the real representation and countless other achievements of the working and middle class Black people, rather than concentrate on the minority inner-city youths as the real Black experience and voice of the UK?
The time has come to challenge so called quotes like “Once you go black, you never go back” or “I’m into Black guys”. “Black people are good at sports” “Black guys are strong and can lift.” These quotes may seem like you are promoting the Black race as superior, but don’t get fooled in your misguided and so called good intention positivity. All you do is single out the Black race from the rest of the population as something other than ‘us’, even if that something is seen to be a positive. It is this level of singling out that has been a virus to the Black community and what leads to stereotype in an effect lead to the dehumanisation of Black people that leads to events such as the George Floyd incident.
Racism is a deep rooted systemic way of thinking and belief. In order to fight it, we have to challenge the everyday living of our lives from global policies to the way we think and act in life. Blacking out pictures, attending protests and sharing hash tags and then moving on in the world saying I am going to think differently, is not enough. For many, it’s gaining points and likes for your own self indulgent publicity with no real root of change. Fighting racism is not a romantic struggle- it is a real hard one that people in an ideal world, do not want to fight. It didn’t suddenly come into existence when the police officer put his knees on George Floyd and it is not going to end there either. So if you are ready to question and change everything around you, then do it. But please save your blackout pictures and hashtags, if you just want a moment of glorification to show your new found ‘wokeness’ because to be honest in this day and age, if it took a clear concise video of three Police Officers standing by whilst another one put his knees down on the neck of a Black man for eight minutes… yes, eight minutes, whilst the guy was screaming “Officer I can’t breathe” fifteen times, yes fifteen times. For you to finally acknowledge and blackout your screens to say that you think Black Lives matter and racism needs to be addressed. Then you need to ask yourself some real hard question and your knowledge of this world.
I for one chose not to Black out anything for me the struggle is deep rooted and less orchestrated.
“I can only be responsible for what I do. I don’t know how to be responsible for what every black man does.” – Tupac Shakur
RIP George Floyd.
As we edge over fifty days of lockdown, the true picture of Britain slowly emerges from the dust. The dust however, has far from settled. Our death toll has reached over 33’000 and it continues to rise. Even though the number of deaths per day is on the decline, it’s pretty certain that we will reach the milestone of 40’000 within the next few weeks or month.
In the midst of this, Boris has announced the ease of lockdown, not surprisingly without its fair share of criticism. We are no longer told to ‘Stay Home’ but rather ‘Stay Alert’ as we can now venture out as far as we like for our daily exercise. We can also meet one person outside of our family homes, providing we adhere to social distancing. The big news however, was the return phase for children to go back to school from the 1st of June. Which had begun the torrid, age old war between the trade unions and government.
The consensus is, it is not yet safe for children to return. Whilst those on the opposing side are rallying for the heroes (in this case the teachers) to return to work and free our children. Either way, it seems children once again have become the pawns on both sides and their education has become politicised. I wonder if it all works out, if we will have a dedicated time slot each week, to clap for teachers as well.
Soon after Boris made the announcement, very quickly and not surprisingly social media became a political hot-spot, with even famous celebrities, producing satires of his message, which was expected. People were quick to pick up the flaws of his speech about easing lockdown, like it was a competition on who can critique the government in the wittiest possible way, rather than sense the magnitude of the situation we are currently in. The one thing that I could take from all of this, was how those who criticised the government the most, are also the ones who are reliant on every word they say.
Common sense seems to delude the public, as they seem to want everything to be spelled out to them, rather than understand and decipher a message. What is it about keeping and adhering to social distancing as much as you can, regardless of where you are and who you meet along with washing your hands, so hard to understand? This is after all, the only real remedy. There are no vaccines or preventable medicine at this time. If you don’t feel safe to go out you don’t have to and even the Employment Act gives you the right not to go to work, if you fear for your safety.
It sometimes feel like the public want the government to come down harder on them, than they already have. Like a fetish or lucid fantasy, where they want the government to chastise them and call them a ‘naughty boy/girl’. It’s scary to imagine, how the public without realising, are romanticising and even hoping for more authoritarian rules. Make no mistake, lockdown is a police state, the reason behind why we are in lockdown, is irrelevant. We are currently living as close to an authoritarian rule than ever before in modern history. And although it may not be anything like China or a ‘Stalin’ type regime, it’s the closest we hopefully ever will get.
Pandemic as I read in an article today only goes away, in two different ways. One: If the virus disappears. Two: If society no longer makes it an issue and moves on with their lives. Meaning, sometimes the fears of a pandemic is in our minds and it’s greater than the actual real threat of it. Once we lose the fear, we lose the pandemic.
The real question now is what happens in the the aftermath when we finally end lockdown. There is no doubt we will enter a global recession and the cost of which is going to hit us – the public, hard. It’s a sad state of affair that within the space of 12 years we are now going to have two recessions, taking away so much from the current and future generations. As the government extends Furlough for another four months, the cost of the rescue package has reached a staggering £124 billion. This will need to be now paid for by us- the taxpayers, with a rise of income tax more or less likely.
London TFL has announced a 1% hike in fare prices, with people who have Freedom Passes, to have their travels limited. Congestion charges for motorists will increase to £15 from £11. There are discussions that children will no longer be able to travel free on transport. Can you imagine if that was the case? A city where thousands of children have the right to travel for free on transport to get to school and move around London independently, stripped away, making their parents/carers cough up the cost. This all announced within the first two months on lockdown and make no mistakes, this is the just the tip of the iceberg.
As we move forward, we will see more cuts in essential public services, like there had been under ‘austerity’ for the last decade, to cover the costs we are now building up. Meaning, the long term effect of lockdown will put more vulnerable people at risks and maybe even more deaths. We would have to be living in some kind of twilight zone, to think the Tory government will not come harsh down on essential public services to make up for the money they have promised us now.
So, as we move forward with ease of lockdown, applying our foremost gift of common sense is a priority. We need to protest the right moves instead of the ones certain sectors of the anti- government hit squad are glamorising. Making satirical analysis of which friends or family we can meet outside of our homes shouldn’t be high on our list to analyse. These are nothing compared to the real and harsh changes which are happening to our systems, that we need to shout and scrutinise now. When Covid 19 is a distant memory, the long term effect of the lockdown will hit our country and our individual lives, will we be that sympathetic when it does? What will the ones who are asking the government to spend more money now, say, when the government asks for that money to be paid back? We might be helping the vulnerable now, but is what we are advocating for now, helping them in the long term for which the effects will be far longer and more stringent?
As we come to the end of a sun soaked Bank Holiday weekend, there is a midst of hope and anguish. This week UK produced the highest figures in Europe in terms of Covid 19 deaths. We surpassed Italy, as our numbers went over 30’000 and counting. Ten thousand above the number, which the government had said, would be a good outcome. Globally we are now second, only behind USA in terms of death toll. Yet, with the death count increasing, well above what we had hoped it would stay under, the talks of easing lockdown is well underway and come Sunday we are expecting to hear Boris unveil how he plans to ease lockdown.
The nation is divided and there are divisions within those divisions. Nobody can guarantee the true nature of Covid 19 and what will happen when the ease of lockdown does happen. Will it re emerge again? Will we see another spike and go through another lockdown, if it does?
This weekend, I found myself running again in the heat, some might say I’m crazy, since not only am I running in peak heat but I am fasting too. But I’ve never shied away from testing my body under extreme circumstances. All the runs I have done during Ramadan had all been very good, if not the best ones I have done this year. Probably because I’ve been pacing a little slower and getting rid of negative toxins from the food I am not eating. Every supermarket and shops seem to have run out of flour and vanilla extract. I don’t know why that is, could it be people are baking more or stockpiling (flour is a very good ingredients to create many nutritional types of food)? Maybe its Ramadan and the Muslim community are in by large known for their dishes that require flour. None the less, I find myself a bit anxious, wondering if we will ever return to a status quo, where I can pop down the supermarket and not worry about a certain product not being there. It’s all a bit sad, since I am using this lockdown to brush up on my baking skills.
One of the hot topics, since talks of easing restrictions began, has been the status of schools. Many will agree the schools opening, will be the first major move of lockdown being over. The morning routines, the laugher of children, picking them up and dropping them off, all seem to be a memory of yesteryear.
Like the lockdown, parents all over the country are divided on schools being opened. Even Wales and Scotland have said they will follow their own rules rather than England’s. Yes, children are asymptomatic, but the risks they pose to others, is what makes us apprehensive about re- opening. Many people and unions have been vocal against schools opening prematurely and perfectly within their reasons and views. But as a professional who has spent years working in education and with a focus on Special Education Needs and vulnerable children and families. I feel it might be good to put forward an alternative view and how locking down schools might not be the best of interest for everyone.
Many children with special educations needs will have an Education Health and Care plan. This is a legal binding plan, a Local Authority will produce with outcomes and funding to meet the needs of the child at a school. Many SEND children in mainstream schools will have one of these plans. Nearly every child attending a special school will almost definitely have one too. When the government chose to close schools in March, they did state that for those children with EHC Plans, schools will remain open for them as well as children of key and essential workers along with vulnerable kids.
Yet, many parents with children with EHC Plans, have chosen for their children not to attend. This could be down to many obvious reasons, but overall it’s a mixture of the change of structure of how school will work during lockdown, the amount of restraints that have been put on all our daily lives to be able to take a child to school and not to mention the medical and health needs of a child.
Children with SEND are different, they are more difficult to cater for at homes, especially those living in already cramped spaces of in high amounts of poverty. The strain of caring for them on a daily basis for parents is difficult as it is on a normal day, let alone under lockdown. Through my job, I have spoken to families over the phone, who are stuck between a rock and hard place. Too scared to send their children to school due to the structure change or keep them home and deal with their care and difficult behaviour. There are parents that are not able to make a trip to the supermarket to buy essentials due to taking care of their children. The list is endless. To get a understanding of what I am talking about, just think about all the daily tasks that we do with our children, all the barriers we face, multiply that by five and then picture that scenario in a lockdown setting and you will get an accurate picture of the challenges being faced by families and a child with SEND. Yes and although they might still be a minority compared to the rest of the children population, we cannot ignore the issues they face. All inner city London Boroughs, will have at least 2000 children with EHC Plans, that’s roughly 2000 families who are vulnerable, but the numbers are higher, as not all SEND children are eligible for EHC Plans, but the issues they face still remain the same.
The same applies for the children who are under child protection. Even though they too are eligible to attend school, reports have shown that these families are not taking up the offer and there is little any authority can do to force them. These are children who are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. So as we think and talk about people vulnerable to domestic violence during this lockdown, let’s take some time to also think about all the children who are vulnerable to schools being closed. For many of them, schools provide them with a safe structure and stability, to make some sense in their lives. Lest we forget about the children left behind when coming to have a reasonable conversation about schools remaining closed.
Stay Safe, Stay Blessed.
Entering the month of May meant, we spent the whole complete month of April in Lockdown. But Lockdown when it was first announced near the end of March is a lot different than what we are facing in beginning of May. We have become complacent, the regulations put forward by the government bouncing off our backs. Through the homeschooling, baking, tedious Zoom meetings, countless hours of social media and streaming channels like Netflix and Disney plus. There is an underlining sense of anger, boredom, frustration and hurt that has been mixed together to create a pandemic version of us. And it remains to be seen if or how long it will take for us to dust of this new version of us or how it moulds us into the post pandemic human in us.
In my running app I clocked a total 146km of running in April. That’s a new world record for me. I have never ran this much in a month, but I guess with gyms closed and the only times I can legitimately go out is either for exercise or shopping, it was bound to be the case. Very fast and very quick some of the perks of lockdown are dying out. The clapping for NHS every Thursday has now been hijacked with a sense of cringe and over-kill, it was nice the first time, but every week? Whilst the NHS and the world bends over backwards to deal with Covid 19, we have made the message clear. We support all the health workers and the amazing work they do, but let us not overdo it with our sense of selfish righteousness.
Boris came back this week and took his rightful place on the mantle. Being a father again, didn’t seem to distract him from taking to the front line and declaring that he will not be taking paternity leave at this time. Of course, I can imagine how hard it would be for his girlfriend, it’s not like they can afford nannies and other private professionals to help out. ‘The peak is over” he told us triumphantly, but what that means again is ambiguous. There are still no new signs of an exit strategy, whilst Pier Morgan and the media seem to have a fetish over the 100’000 tests that Matt Hancock has promised and not delivering. It’s all becoming a tennis match with the ball going from one side to another, all the while, ignoring the real victims in all of this.
The US Government declassified three videos of suspected UFO’s. Clarifying that they are investigating what it could have been. With a US Senator declaring this only scratches the surface of the intelligence they have gathered around UFOs. As a fan of the unknown and especially my strong belief around the cosmos, its surprising this isn’t big news. The Governments are practically admitting the aliens might be real and the world doesn’t seem to care. It makes me think back to my first post, when I wrote with the state of the world the way it is now, would it be a shock if aliens invaded us?
Is it such a surprise? That whilst all this is going on, people have started to self govern and have taken measures into their own hands. Yes, it did pour down with rain one or two days this week, even with the weather the way it was, throughout my daily running this week, I saw no signs of any lockdown or social distancing. Businesses are starting to re open and people with masks on (as if it was an armour of shield against covid 19) out and about with cars on the roads, like it was just another pre-lockdown day. Yes, if you concentrated hard enough, there were no groups of people or gatherings, but regardless there were people out just doing what they can do. It makes you wonder if they should just recall everyone back to work at their offices and make them earn their money. Shops and supermarkets have put stringent rules in places only for show but no real effect. In my recent trip to Sainsbury’s, as I queued up to be let in. I watched NHS workers, being allowed to skip the queue and being let in. It makes you wonder, why we are in the queue in the first place. If queues were designed to let only a certain number of people in at a time for social distancing measures, surely someone can’t just flash a badge and walk in. We have become distorted with our views and what is common sense and not. All the more reason, why we need an exit strategy and lockdown to be eased as soon as possible. With the ushering of Summer, it’s going to be very hard to maintain any law and order, as people jump on bikes, their jogging pants and frolic around enjoying the sun. It is not just me who is observing this, as I scroll through social media comments, people from all over the UK seem to be saying and observing the same things.
What we need is some common sense, if people can just self manage and clean themselves and keep social distance, whilst businesses can make a few adjustments, is there any need for a lockdown at all?
Like many, I wish to be to go out and make some sense of normality again. I worry mainly for the state of the economy and the country and if we will have jobs to go back to. I worry for the mental health of my two children, who have not seen their friends, family, teachers and cousins or had a quality level of education that they are used to. As rumours spread around that schools may open back in June, I am hoping we will see some easing in the next few weeks. It’s all about how the government want to play this, either they can come out on top and give some dates or the people will make their own.
Until then -Stay Safe.
This week has been different. As we moved pass the pivotal first month of lockdown, it becomes more and more clear, this might be the ‘new normal’. It’s been hard for many reasons. One of the main reasons being, we entered the month of Ramadan. I don’t think there has ever been a time in history, when the Muslim world faced the most holy and auspicious month of their calendar, this isolated and alone. When the true essence and purpose of this revered month, is meant to embody and epitomise the feeling of community, kindness and togetherness. As the days go on, I plan to write more about what it all means celebrating and observing Ramadan in such a surreal and sad time.
The effect of lockdown is having its toll on the globe, and every day the growing toll is evident. Some people in the US have taken to the streets and started protesting against lockdown measures. Beyond their harsh placards and banner of protest, if you look deeper, their reasoning is not completely unfair or unjust. But then there many who oppose it too. It seems the world population is being polarised, between anti-lockdowners and lockdowners. Two sides venomously opposed to one another and it will only get worse, if it stays this way.
Donald Trump suggested some outlandish solutions this week, somewhere along the line of injecting disinfectant and using ultra violet lights inside a human body. Even by his standard, that sits on the border line of crazy. It makes you wonder, if the mental effect of lockdown has got the better of the little bit of sane that occupied his mind.
Here in the UK, we passed the sad milestone of 20’000 deaths, the stark figure, we were told would be a good outcome, if we managed stay below of, by the time this pandemic was over. I must admit, when I first heard the figure a month ago, I never thought we would reach it. I took it as usual overestimation and exaggeration floated around by the media and government PR. But the fact that we have reached this number, with no signs of it slowing and numbers from care homes to be yet taken into account, all of which within a period of 30 days- is ofcourse a hard pill to swallow.
Boris Johnson is meant to make his triumphant return to the stage after his recovery from Covid-19 on Monday. But his ministers have already foretold, that lockdown is not easing any time soon and we have to get used to this being the ‘new normal’ when they do decide to ease the restrictions. Their words, leaves us with more questions than answers. There are no exit strategies against this invisible killer, until and unless a legitimate vaccine is found, for which there is no actual time or dates given- just assumptions. So how do we go about his ‘new normal’ and what exactly is this ‘new normal’ and how do we rebuild a world for which there is no clear mandate?
I might be fasting, but I am still doing my daily jogs at a slower pace, to keep some level of normality and routine in my life. As the rest seem to have been broken and tattered. My dental hygiene routine is gone and so has my sleep pattern. So what did I notice in my recent runs? London- especially the part where I run to and forth, Tower Bridge, London Bridge etc… There are no signs of social isolation. Maybe it’s the blazing sun (it has been over 20 degrees for the best part of the week), maybe it’s the effect of the lockdown or maybe it’s both. But people are out more than usual from when the lockdown intially began. Sitting in parks, walking, cycling, jogging or with their kids. It’s hard to point fingers or be upset and we can’t always blame selfishness on their part for being outside. How long can we mentally ask people to stay coupe inside London houses, with its reputation of being cramped spaces, house shares and lack of open space within their vicinity?
A few more coffees shops have opened, serving coffee and ice drinks through the shutters of their windows. I’ve even seen Police Officers cue up to get their daily caffeine boost. Maybe this is the new normal Dominic Raab was talking about. As the weeks go on, the government need to come up with a plan quick. People need normality or an idea of what this new normality is. As business start opening up and more cars and people hit the road. Maybe the strategy should now be, how we behave outside rather than how to keep us trapped inside of our homes.
Personally, I am already prepared, to live a life, where waiting outside of supermarkets, banks and other shops is going to be the new normal. Not being able to congregate in more than two, working from home, not meeting up or going to visit cousins or friends houses and saying goodbye to sitting inside a restaurant to have a meal. And I think that is how it’s going to be for a long time, even after they find a vaccine and manage to immunise the whole country, we might me be too institutionalised to go back to the status quo of Feb 2020.
But other things haunt me. What if gyms are closed indefinitely? Because they are not considered essential and it creates a perfect breeding ground for Covid- 19 transfer. What if festivals, theatres, sports events and cinemas are all closed or restricted as part of the new normal? How are we supposed to get by? These things which are by no means an absolute essential, but good for our creativity and mental health and also holds huge economic benefits for the country and the workers who work in those industries.
As more and more people end up being furloughed or losing their jobs and salary, where do they go in this ‘new normal’? Already there are talks of drafting in furloughed workers to do fruit picking in the summer period to make up for the absence of the migrant workers, on who we relied every year. Although it makes economic and practical sense, that we spread the work force to fill in the labour gaps. There are many ethical and deeper questions to be asked about this. Are we entering an era, where fruit pickers or other similar work force, are no longer migrants, but a wide range of people from educated and well established background? Sitting in the sun, picking fruits and sharing stories of what they did and were back before lockdown. Like soldiers drafted into war, or economic migrants, migrating from one country to another. This certainly seems like the setting of a novel, if the current global state, wasn’t one at the moment.
And as parents, what about schools? How will they manage social distancing in a school environment, how do you get 30 children in a class to keep their distances? Do we build bigger schools, do we make a rota for children to attend school? How do we do all this without effecting an entire generation’s education, mental well being and growth?
Day 34, and there are more still more questions than answers. Binging Netflix, taking up a virtual hobby, rekindling lost connections, or even doing housework are getting over tiring. But there is always hope. Twice this week, I saw Venus with my naked eyes, when I looked up into the skies at night. The sky was so clear, that I was able to see more stars and the crescent moon shining ominously. Proving as always, to keep hope alive, the world within maybe changing but the cosmos is still flowing as one.
Stay Safe, Stay Home.