Last night I watched the wonderful poet Benjamin Zephaniah on Channel 4 News talk about his experience of racism, something that he like all people of colour have endured all their life. I was taken with his advice to all those middle class white people in middle England (like me) who think that it is not that bad in this country when he suggested they walk a day in his shoes. We never will, we will never fully appreciate what it is like to be on the receiving end of racial abuse, to be fearful of violence not just from criminals, but from people who are supposed to protect us. We may experience some of this on occasion but never will we experience this daily. This is not our lived experience.
Listening to him got me thinking about my time as a Charge Nurse on a Children’s ward in the early 2000s. We would regularly care for young people who were being sexually exploited. They would be admitted to us intoxicated or after self harming. They were difficult children to care for. They were aggressive, abusive and occasionally violent. I never enjoyed caring for them, I viewed them as a problem. One day I went to a multi agency meeting about the care of one of these children. Listening to this young girls story was heartbreaking. She had been abused, she was in care, she was dependent on drugs and being exploited and abused by men around the city. Her lived experience was horrendous, her trust in adults had been destroyed, adults had ruined her life. No wonder these children were so angry with us adults. Now I cannot imagine what it was like to live the life those children lived. But I could understand that we do not always see our world in the same way.
After that day I try to suspend judgement about how people react and behave, I have not lived their life, I am not seeing what they are seeing. When you see the protests and riots around the world, at the moment, and consider this an overreaction, remember this is your response to what you see. The people you see protesting and rioting are seeing something else.
Maybe if we all paused and tried to understand before we judge, then perhaps the world would be a kinder, safer place. I know I am idealist, I know not everyone will, but that doesn’t mean us kind hearted idealist souls should not keep sharing this message. As Brene Brown said “It is difficult to hate closer up….so move in.” Clearly metaphorically at the moment.
On the local news today I saw the #BLM protest, my heart swelled, firstly because my boys were there (wearing face coverings and being socially distant) and secondly seeing all of those young people from different ethnic backgrounds uniting to remember George Floyd and the many black lives needlessly cut short. Maybe our future is safe in their hands.
Black Lives Matter
Hold Hands With Strangers