Academia, Race

Who does Black excellence look like?

Writing about Black people again you say!?!?! Yes.

Basically, this Black excellence thing is really interesting to me. I think a lot of opinions surrounding it are really polarised. On the one hand, some people think black excellence is amazing and sets a good example for our community. On the other hand, some find it problematic and make it seem like Black people are essentially saying “I’m just as good as you massa!!”. I think each view sort of makes sense, but I’d like to offer my view.

What does Black excellence mean at the moment?

Perhaps my view is narrow but I think, generally speaking, Black excellence is defined by things that are praised in this wonderful capitalist economy! Academic achievement (Oxbridge/Brampton Manor), making it into the corporate world, entering a higher tax bracket, beating your non-Black peers in areas which they dominate. Now I’m not saying these are terrible things. My question is, what matters to us as a community and what role does our success play in that?

While it is excellent to “beat the odds”, what else does it do? Representation does matter, and we arguably do need Black people in corporate spaces and higher education, but I think there’s more to this that is too often ignored.

 

What’s a better way to define Black excellence? (imo)

I think that the society we live in defines success in a pretty simple way, success is basically just having a career that pays really well and if you’re lucky, loving what you do. Even though with my generation there is more weight added to loving what you do, love doesn’t pay the bills as my mother says (she’s Ghanaian). Such a simple definition makes the path to success relatively clear, you go to school, you work hard, you get good grades, you go to uni, you work hard again, you get good grades again, you graduate, you find a job and then you make lots of money and become rich enough to start tax evading. The hard part is the tax-evading. Kidding.

The hard part is all the hard work (who would have thought?). It’s the countless hours of revision, studying a curriculum that looks nothing like you, maybe you work a job, your parents are on your ass about chores, etc. The list goes on. I’m sure a lot of us have heard the saying that you have to be twice as good to get half as far and to be honest, I think a lot of us have felt that. So obviously being successful in this sense earns you the Black excellence badge. You deserve it. You have suffered.

But do you deserve it thoughhhhhhh?

I think Black excellence is how much of an asset you are to your community.

If you’ve done all the work climbing up the corporate ladder just to snatch the ladder away when you get to the top, then you are a word that rhymes with spoon. And it’s not goon. What is the point in working so hard to do so little for anyone but yourself? Does that seem like excellence?

And what about our activists and community workers? What about the people in our community who look out for us but aren’t seen as excellent because they don’t dress fancy or dominate in their industries. What about the artists? The non-academics? They need to be recognised too. Just because we can’t quantify their value in terms of their earnings doesn’t mean we should overlook them. The same way Black people in education and the corporate world are more than just their grades and wages.

This isn’t to say that non-corporate Black people are never recognised, but it’s just that Black excellence is predominantly presented to us as rich Black people. And Martin Luther King.

Just because you do well doesn’t mean you do good. And in a time where we still have to be doubly better, I genuinely believe it’s our duty to look out for each other rather than be complacent with our own achievements.

To put it simply, who needs sponsorship the most? The Oxbridge student who is guaranteed employability or the young Musician who can’t afford studio time but needs it? You could argue that you can have both, but do you need both? There is no point in an altruism that isn’t effective.

We should be avoiding unjust hierarchies within our groups, not perpetuating them.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. – African Proverb

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Colonisation, Faith, Philosophy

Is Black atheism really THAT weird?

I saw a tweet the other day and this guy was saying that he finds it weird when he meets Black people that are atheist, or something along those lines. I found it weird because on one hand I kind of get it, most black people that I have personally come across anyway are religious but then I also think should they be???

There’s this whole argument that Black people should absolutely not be Christian because the WHITE MAN USED IT TO ENSLAVE THEM!!!!! I get where this is coming from but it’s just narrow-minded. It takes away Black peoples agency. Not only that but Christianity was in Africa before the slave trade and colonialism, it just wasn’t really a huge deal. There’s evidence that suggests Christianity was first established in 1 or 2AD in Northern Africa, this is before it even found its way to some parts of Europe. This also includes Islam which spread around the 7th century causing Christianity to retreat slightly, although it remained in places like Ethiopia. Islam also gained considerable momentum in the West around the 10th century. Then the Portuguese showed up in the 15th century which was the main driving force for Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But even in light of this, it’s not like in smaller communities people were sitting together singing hymns and retelling the parables, they were still slaughtering chickens for sacrifice and throwing away twins into evil forests. Sort of. (Sidenote: I really recommend reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe it provides great insights into precolonial village life). The extent to which Africa, specifically Sub-saharan Africa, was Christian is greatly overestimated just to argue against the fact that Christianity is the White mans religion. I think we need to shift how we think about religion, who it is for and who it belongs to. If it is the White mans religion where did he get it from? And why did he require a monopoly on violence to spread his belief of an all loving God?

Anyway, that’s besides the point. I think that right now we’re in a climate where people are either extremely afraid to be wrong/problematic so they never say anything even mildly controversial or people are totally controversial and abrasive about their beliefs. I think there is a happy medium and I also think that starts with honest conversations that are not controversial for shock factor. To do this you can’t be on the defence, you cannot be ready to be offended otherwise you’ll never learn anything. What if I want to talk about why the gospels have different accounts of Christs resurrection? Can I do that without someone being offended, probably not. Or what if I wanted to talk about inheritance laws in Islam or Judaism, or what’s happening with Palestine or Israel? I’d probably be labelled an Islamaphobe or Antisemite. However, this is assuming the things being said are genuinely not oppressive and I understand that some people just love to fight which is annoying.

There needs to be a space where both believers and non-believers can challenge and discuss their views without offending each other. I’ve seen in some religious communities that someone even asking a question is seen as defiance rather than an opportunity to unpack a specific belief. How we respond to each other I think is so important. One thing I’ve heard a lot of since I decided I wasn’t a Christian anymore was people telling me that it’s okay because I’m on a journey. And yes, everyone is on a journey but the end goal for me isn’t Christianity. It’s almost as if other peoples way to cope with my lack of faith is to assume that at some point I’ll eventually “see the light” which is so crazy because I don’t have the opposite expectation for them. Not only this but I’ve seen non-believers be embarrassed about their religious pasts and only ever insult the religion they once followed without trying to have productive conversations about it. Or even some atheists looking down at religious people as having less academic capability which is just so wrong. It goes on and on and back and forth, without being productive.

I think organised Religion is too obviously political to ignore which begs the question of whether people are having genuine personal experiences or if they’re just subject to conditioning. Some people don’t like this because they don’t like the idea of being subject to anything but conditioning is so real. Conditioning is why me, as a proud feminist who believes that generally men and women are capable of the same thing, could NEVER propose to a man. I think I would rather eat a rubber duck. It’s a totally random example but the principle applies. There’s absolutely no reason I shouldn’t one day be able to bend my knee and ask for a mans hand in marriage but I literally just can’t, for no good reason. And that’s how conditioning works, you can believe things that are totally unjustified just because it’s become a norm for you through whatever sociological or psychological process. A simple question could be, if I were not born into this family in this country would I still have this ‘objective’ belief?

Maybe if I challenged myself enough I could think myself out of refusing to propose but I have bigger fish to fry. Plus it’s just one of those beliefs I’m okay with being subject to. Humans aren’t as rational as we think.

The big overarching point I want to make with this is that we should let people say things, and although people do just say anything, we should let them talk to we can figure out how right or wrong they are without being mean. Unless they are mean first.

((Also, there are tonnes of resources online that teach African history in an accessible way, it does take a fair amount of sifting through useless stuff but it’s worth it!!))

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Altruism, Environment, Fashion

What is the cost of what you’re wearing?

The fashion industry seems like one of the most sophisticated industries in the world but honestly it belongs in the gutter. You’re probably thinking how can I say this with the clothes that are piling up in the corner of my bedroom but I never claimed I wasn’t a hypocrite!

Anyway that’s besides the point of me writing this.

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of these “drip” pages (personally I think they’re ruining twitter) and also there’s this podcast I like called reasons to be cheerful where there was an episode on fast fashion that actually got me thinking about fashion outside of a creative context. I did some reading around it and a part of me wishes I didn’t but I think it’s worth sharing despite the fact that (spoiler alert) everything is hopeless and it seems like the world is going to hell.

Basically there’s two ways to look at the impacts: the social and the environmental. I think that the two do overlap in some ways but I won’t get into that.

The social side is essentially that fashion is great because it allows us to shape our identities, how we dress can serve as an indicator of who we are and is often a defining part of almost all cultures. Our styles evolve with our age and in a lot of ways its a vehicle for us to improve our self-esteem. But on the other hand it’s extremely exploitative on a lot of different levels. There is the issue of larger and more powerful brands stealing the works of smaller brands, the child labour, unsafe working conditions often endured by the people who make our clothes , unfair pay, animal cruelty and a whole lot of more nuanced issues. These social costs are often the ones that appear to be addressed the most in the media especially after the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013. What’s even more tragic is that about 1/6 people in the world work in the fashion industry and 75% of garment workers globally are female so these issues are incredibly widespread.

Some people say things like how we kind of have to consume fashion because otherwise people in third world countries might not have jobs, but if you have managed to convince yourself that you’re doing a favour to anyone but yourself when you buy a cheap T-Shirt I have news for you…You’re delusional. What’s the solution I propose then? Well I’m not entirely sure, I barely know enough about the problem to even begin to understand the solution I’m just putting what I do know out there.

The environmental side is a little different because I don’t think there are any actual benefits of fashion to the environment (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). The fashion industry is unbelievably harmful to the environment. Some issues are honestly so random, like when you wash clothes that are made from polyester the micro-plastics from it inevitably enter the water which is consumed by fish that are then fished for human consumption. Then there’s the fact that it takes 2700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt and that fashion is the second largest polluter of water. This is so NUTS because only like 2.5% of water on Earth is fresh water and only 1% is accessible because the rest of it is frozen so we really don’t have water to waste at all. Not only that but the pollutants can cause the water to become carcinogenic (cancer causing).

Additionally, fashion accounts for 10% of the global carbon footprint and it produces billions of pounds of fabric waste annually which will continue to grow. From 2000 to 2014 the clothing we own has increased by 60% and we kept each item of clothing for around half as long as usual. About 150 billion garments are produced yearly; so as much as recycling is a great idea the rate that clothes are produced heavily outweighs the rate at which it is re-used or re-manufactured. Even if you just think about it aside from all the data, it’s kind of crazy how every few weeks when you enter a clothing store it looks slightly different. We call it trendy, how fashion is always changing but is this cost worth it? Absolutely not mate. Things go in and out of fashion so quickly we almost forget things exist, like look at ZX Fluxes, they went out of fashion as quick as they came in. I can’t even imagine how many of them are in landfill or collecting dust somewhere in someones shoe cupboard because it’s social suicide to wear them.

We’re literally wearing our planets demise. Maybe this is slightly dramatic but then is it really? The data says otherwise.

As consumers who live in a consumption culture whose fault is it? CAPITALISM!!!

I’m kidding, sort of.

But I think with issues like this everything is so complicated, we all play a role, some larger than others and since this isn’t an open letter to the industry or government I want to talk about what we can do. It sounds flowery but we should be more mindful. Before you buy anything you should really think about how much use you’re actually going to get out of it, is it disposable? If it only going to be good for one picture? Can you even genuinely afford it? Maybe you don’t want to think about this because you don’t want everything in your life to be that deep but the reality is that it is that deep. I’m not saying you should never buy another garment again because that’s unrealistic but I don’t think anyone should act like it’s impossible to cut down how much they consume.

It can be hard because a lot of the time you’ll kind of forget the point or feel like you’re not making a difference at all, but everyone thinking like this is dangerous and we can’t convince ourselves that we don’t care just because we assume everyone else won’t. And that goes for anything that matters.

Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want – Anna Lappe

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
Easy to read facts on the fashion industry:
https://www.wri.org/blog/2017/07/apparel-industrys-environmental-impact-6-graphics
Interesting paper about our responses to fast fashion alongside general attitudes to sustainability. (If you can’t access the paper just let me know and I’ll send you the PDF)
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.2752/175174112X13340749707123?needAccess=true&instName=UCL+%28University+College+London%29
Short video on the social and environmental costs of the fashion industry:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq0–DfC2Xk
Rana Plaza Accident in Bangladesh:
https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/geip/WCMS_614394/lang–en/index.htm
Cost of Cheap Fashion TED Talk:
https://youtu.be/5r8V4QWwxf0
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Race

Can Black People be Racist?

Okay so amongst the rubbish I get asked on curious cat someone asked me if I thought Black people could be racist to be white people. I was literally like omg someone has finally asked me something relevant!!! But when I answered yes they then proceeded to say I’m one of those all lives matter people.

Hate to see it.

I think the main disagreement when it comes to talking about whether or not Black people can be racist is how we define racism. There are a lot of general definitions that are mainly saying that it’s when you discriminate against or treat someone differently based on the fact that they’re a different race but I think these definitions are valid. Some say that they’re problematic because they may be written by white people but this doesn’t actually mean they’re wrong. You don’t always have to be a victim of something to understand what it is.

The go-to definition it seems is the “power” one where people define racism in terms of power.

Essentially the definition is:

Racism = Prejudice + Power.

They then use this definition to justify that Black people cannot be racist to white people because there is a power imbalance. I can see why people might agree with this. It is true there is a power imbalance in a lot of circumstances but just because there’s a new “quirky”/”woke” definition of something doesn’t mean that it must be true. If you really think about this, we cannot define general racism this way.

By saying you have to be powerful to genuinely be racist totally ignores intersectionality and can be extremely problematic. To explain why I’m going to conflate power and money. If we say racism requires power what we’re saying is that poor white people cannot be racist and rich Black people can. Now this is obviously stupid.

This is also saying that Asians cannot be racist towards Black people because they too are a group that lacks power. Although in a lot of aspects they may hold more privilege, this does not take away from the struggles faced in their own communities. Now I know a lot of black people would agree that Asian people can be racist, but you cannot say this and then maintain the power definition of racism. Anti-Blackness in the Asian community and the Black response to it is a whole other issue that I’m not going to unpack in this particular post but I hope you see what I’m getting at here.

The power definition of racism is really describing institutional racism in my opinion. Institutional racism is racial discrimination that exists in certain establishments or institutions, as the name suggests. Where power comes into this is who allows or manages the behaviours that discriminate. For example, institutional racism would exist between someone who has the power to hire/fire and a potential or current employee if the person in power makes decisions solely based off the persons race.

It gets kind of complicated here because questions like “what if the person hires on a positive discriminatory basis?” So like what if the person employs an Asian based on the fact that they think Asians are smart, or they’re trying to diversify the work place? Well calling that racism seems a bit far fetched, that just seems like ignorance to me but I’m just a small girl with a small blog so what do I know!!

 

We shouldn’t excuse ourselves from bad behaviour just because we were once or still are the victims of it. That being said, Black people being racist isn’t comparable to white and even Asian institutional racism. In the wise words of my friend Tosins mum ” If a white person is racist, they can most likely block job opportunities and get away with things that Black people cannot. When a Black person is racist, you are limited to only inciting fear and violence because there is no institutional power”.

I just feel like being oppressed doesn’t mean that you cannot oppress others. Maybe you don’t have the power to oppress to the same degree; but then why would you want that? It seems regressive to me.

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Altruism, Social Media, Vegan

6 Reasons why you’ve tried & failed to go VEGAN.

I really hate to be that vegan girl (not really lmao) that writes about going vegan or whatever but it seems like veganism is really popular these days and worth writing about. Everywhere you go there is at least one vegan option and honestly over time, that one option doesn’t totally taste like shit. I’ve even noticed that less people are making grass jokes which is always nice.

Now if I had a pound for every time someone told me that they respect veganism but they could never do it (when I didn’t ask) then I would have enough money to do something expensive. I’ve had so many friends try and fail. They probably watched what the health or earthlings or something and then went vegan for like a solid week and then ate meat “by accident” and gave up. That’s no shade if you fall into that category, but if you want to try again this is for you.

 

1: YOU MADE VEGANISM A STREAK

I think what happens to a lot of people is they might start off super strong and they have a great plan of how they’re going vegan and then all of a sudden they just give into a craving and veganism is totally out of the window. I think that in some ways this is probably the fault of the vegan community making people feel like their efforts are meaningless. But I’m here to tell you that if you accidentally consume, or even on purpose in a moment of weakness, eat meat or dairy you aren’t “less vegan”. Honestly, there are so many times that I have accidentally consumed dairy and my digestive system has paid the PRICE. If every time I consumed dairy I gave up on veganism entirely I probably would not have managed to make myself lactose intolerant (that was a joke, I have no idea if that’s even scientifically possible).

All I’m saying is, don’t be so hard on yourself. Because I know when it comes to things like going to the gym or revising you lot aren’t beating yourselves up about not being consistent so why isn’t your attitude to your diet the same? If you accidentally consume meat or dairy understand that you are just an incompetent person. Kidding. Just take it easy and manage the expectations you have of yourself. Whether that means meatless Mondays or going vegan cold turkey.

 

2: GOING VEGAN IS ON TREND

We’re living in a morally surveillant era, where the lifestyle choices you make send signals to society about what kind of person you are. Most peoples initial idea of a vegan is a white left-wing activist who has blonde dreads and only uses paper straws. Personally, I don’t know anyone who fits into this but my point is that how we interpret labels like “vegan” can affect our views on the lifestyle. There a ton of vegan YouTubers who are no longer vegan and lots of YouTubers doing 30-day vegan challenges. Vegan is a word popping up literally everywhere and its presence in the media can really make it feel like a trend or a phase rather than the lifestyle that it is.

If it’s something you want to try for fun, by all means, go ahead but I think it’s important to understand that it’s not a fleeting trend that shouldn’t be taken seriously. A lot of people might fail at it just because they don’t care enough. You see the word vegan everywhere but it’s not often that you see the actual cruelty against animals that motivates this lifestyle. You’re never going to truly want to stay vegan if you just do not care about animals. This isn’t me saying that you have to care, but just know if you don’t it won’t last.

 

3: YOU WENT VEGAN AND YOU STILL HAVE ACNE

There is an extremely common misconception that going vegan will cure all of your health problems and after only eating plants you’re going to wake up extremely energetic and live till 100. This just isn’t true. The thing about veganism is that everyone thinks it’s extremely healthy. On a vegan diet it’s just harder to be unhealthy, but trust me when you get used to it and discover your fav snacks are vegan the health thing is going out of the window. The health thing went out of the window for me when I deeped some indomie was vegan and I ate it for a week straight (this is no cap).

If your skin clears up that’s great, me personally, can’t relate. But if you go vegan manage your expectations of how much your life will change. The reality is that you won’t be perfectly healthy always eating fresh fruit and veg especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like vegetables.

Then what’s the point of going vegan? Well, it’s best for the animals, best for the environment and if you do it well your health will improve.

 

4: THE ONLY VEGAN FOOD YOU (think you) KNOW IS SALAD

All I can say to this is know yourself man. If you weren’t eating salad before you went vegan then what on earth is going to motivate you to eat it now? I had my first reality check when I spent like £9 on a salad from tossed (don’t get me wrong it was good) but I realised that this isn’t going to be my story and this isn’t who I am. None of my friends let me forget how much I spent on that falafel salad and honestly I don’t blame them.

Salad is a collection of vegetables that are just water in the form of different textures. If you like salads then I’m happy for you but if you don’t like salad just know I understand. There are a billion different vegan foods you can buy and cook at home if you just look for them, you don’t even have to look that hard. If you watch one or two vegan recipe videos on youtube in a few minutes your recommended will be flooded with vegan content, in fact it will be hard for you to avoid. You can take your favourite foods and then just make them vegan. Well, what if your favourite food is steak? Have a watermelon steak. Jk, I don’t know what to really say to that other than to take the opportunity to maybe find a new favourite food?

 

5: YOU WENT COMPLETELY COLD TURKEY

As admirable as this is, I’m not sure how sustainable it is. I was vegetarian for about two years before I made the switch to vegan and I think that’s a big contributor as to why I’m able to keep it up. It wasn’t an extreme switch for me.

If you slowly transition from cutting down meat and dairy from meals, to then entire days, then entire weeks etc. you’re more likely to stick to it because as you go you’re leaving the cravings you used to have behind. The good thing about doing it this way is that if along the way you realise you don’t want to go completely vegan you can just stop there. You don’t have to choose between being carnivorous and plant-based. Obviously, it would be nice to be more plant-based than anything, but know yourself and understand that if you can make a change in some areas then you should. That might be as little as ordering the vegan option when you’re eating out or picking out vegan snacks when you want a quick bite to eat.

It’s also important to change your perspective on veganism as being extreme. When really what is extreme is eating processed meat and dairy in every single meal. Even organic or free-range options are unlikely to be trusted, are usually expensive and inaccessible.

“The consumption of processed meat was associated with small increases in the risk of cancer in the studies reviewed. In those studies, the risk generally increased with the amount of meat consumed. An analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that every 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%.” this seems prrrrreeettty extreme to me and this is coming from the World Health Organisation. If you don’t want to believe it that’s fine but if you just do your research you’ll be able to see for yourself the effects it can have.

 

6: I JUST SPENT TOO MUCH MONEY GOING VEGAN

Nobody told you to go shopping at wholefoods or start only eating at vegan restaurants. Veganism is extremely affordable if you understand that products specifically marketed to the vegan community are going to be more expensive. If your weekly shop includes meat and dairy and all of a sudden you cut that out and spend it on alternatives the overall cost is still a lot less.

 

In light of all the above, just do your research and make sure it’s catered to you. If you grew up eating biryani don’t go looking up vegan lettuce wrap recipes, try to stick close to what you know. And just keep trying!! You have nothing to lose.

 

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Feminism, Sex & Relationships

I just get along SO much better with guys, girls are too much drama!

Unfortunately, I’ve seen this statement quite a fair bit. I think it’s problematic. But I don’t think it’s problematic because “girls who say it just want male attention”.

I think it’s problematic because no one is asking why this is being said.

Let’s assume for a second that girls are in fact, “too much drama”, and guys aren’t. Why is this the case? It appears that it’s common that when women argue, we really go through it. We are spiteful, we are mean, we resent, we bitch, we talk about how we felt, we unpack our emotions, then we decide whether we want to keep the friendship alive. When men fall out: they argue, then they make up (or they just never talk again). As if nothing happened. Some may even talk about their feelings, but I can count on one hand how many guys I know that are like this. I’m grossly generalising here. But I think you get my point.

Salvaging relationships is exhausting. But then, why wouldn’t it be? If we take out all the horrible bullying and just really take a good look at how we feel, this takes time and it is tough. Especially when you’re in the wrong. But this isn’t drama. Drama is the meanness, the resentment, the bitching. All the stuff we can do without. To be fair though, I feel like as women we’ve grown up thinking that this is totally normal. One of your friends upsets you and all of a sudden she’s a fat ugly bitch. It’s basically the script of Mean Girls. It is just embarrassing and ridiculously unproductive. Like maybe she just isn’t being supportive or she’s behaving selfishly, but fat ugly bitch? Come on.

A more productive approach might be to take a good look at yourself and just think for a moment if you are the problem. Accountability is key. I think there are several approaches to take (e.g. talking to a friend about it, talking to someone older etc.) but I’m not a life coach so I’m just going to assume that you lot know how to communicate properly.

Anyway, another point I want to make is that in navigating female relationships, the aim is not to replicate male ones. Just because guys tend to kiss and make up quicker, doesn’t mean their friendships are any stronger or any better. When you don’t unpack your shit, you’re missing out on improving your emotional intelligence. Being powerful, successful and smart is not the same as being more “manly” and acting in accordance with “toxic masculinity” or what is stereotypically manly isn’t going to get you any of those things.

Also, saying that you get along better with guys is fine I guess everyone has a preference. But isn’t it odd how no guy has ever said he’d rather be in a friendship group of all girls? Sometimes when girls say this it sounds like they aren’t even open to the idea of making female friends, and I get that we can put each other through hell but at the end of the day this is a patriarchy, so if you think only having male friends will solve your problems you are mad! I’m kidding, sort of, I just think it’s important to keep an open mind.

Having a solid group of girls allows you a safe space to complain as much as you want about other girls. And I don’t mean gossiping about superficial things. I mean talking about times where we have been put down, shamed or scorned by other women. We should be able to do this publicly and openly but this can be difficult when at the same time we are trying to take apart certain narratives. Especially when it comes to black women. It’s not fair at all but it is life, for now. Having this safe space to rant can allow us to let go of the bitterness we might be harbouring.

On a lighter note. When female relationships are good they can be so amazing. There’s nothing like bonding over whether you prefer pads with wings, talking about your first sexual experiences, talking about plans to disassemble the patriarchy, encouraging one another, holding one another accountable, sharing makeup for a night and pretending like it’s hygienic because you don’t always share makeup. I could go on, I really live for moments like this. I get that life isn’t a movie, but having that bond is genuinely life-changing.

I’ve talked a lot about why female relationships are important. I just want to touch on two more things lastly. The first thing is that this doesn’t just have to be within our own age group, look to those who are older AND younger, you can learn so much. Secondly, I know I’ve talked about female relationships like they’re just something you can pick up from the shop. I don’t mean to come across this way and I know that it is easier said than done but I just want to encourage you to put yourself out there if you feel like you could really get along with another girl. You might surprise yourself.

To all of my girls reading this, I couldn’t love you anymore if I tried and I’m thankful for all of you every day.

Female friendships that work are relationships in which women help each other belong to themselves.

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Academia, Colonisation, Politics

WHAT is my degree actually doing?

For those of you who don’t know (or anyone that cares) I’m in my first year studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at UCL.

I’m writing this purely out of a reoccurring frustration I’ve been having with politics. I have my qualms with the other P and E but upon reflection, they’re personal problems.

However, when it comes to politics I know this goes beyond just my personal feelings. At first, I thought that what I learned and the way I was taught wasn’t problematic and the issue was just me not paying enough attention. But when I really started to pay attention to what I had been taught, I realised I have learned a whole lot of nothing.

And by nothing, I don’t mean I literally haven’t learned anything new. Some of my lecturers are actually really great. I just feel like I haven’t learned anything relevant. Even though I only just started studying politics I don’t really feel like I know anything more about solving political problems or the extent of what they are.

When I did my weekly readings I thought that my boredom came from a place of misunderstanding because of how dense and historical they could be. I also thought that perhaps the topics we were studying like the state and democratisation were necessary for an introductory course; so I was totally willing to devote my time to making sure I understood these things.

Then I realised that I was only learning about a small section of Western/Eurocentric thought. The thing is I could complain about the lack of diversity in academia but there are so many people that have already done this. Not that it makes it any less of a pressing issue, but I’m honestly just over talking about it. My main issue is that the extent to which my studies are even Eurocentric is questionable. How honest and transparent my subject is, is my concern. For some reason talking about colonialism in lectures or seminars is totally ignored, this is genuinely shocking to me. This must be madness because how can we talk about Europe and NOT talk about colonialism. It’s like if anyone says the word colonialism they’d burst into flames. I even saw that on one of the readings I had for this week the scholar said in the introduction that he wasn’t going to address colonialism. But why?

The answer is I’m not totally sure, but I think I have an idea. One thing I have learned in politics is how big of a deal nationalism is. British values are something that continue to be heavily promoted in this country despite the values being incredibly generic (in my opinion). This isn’t an issue though, I think that British values are great in some ways but to some British history is a massive threat to this. For example, tolerance is a British value but in the countries that the British colonised they essentially did everything they could to label native people as barbaric and toxic. They drew boundaries where there weren’t boundaries before and forced their language and religion on pretty much every single country they could get their hands on. So my question here is WHAT exactly did they tolerate? If we really deep it, the Brits (and also other European colonists) couldn’t tolerate other people living in their own countries. That is laughable. Sure, British values came after this but my point isn’t that the British are hypocrites. The point I’m trying to make is that if the British essentially just owned what they had done I really believe this could dampen a sense of national pride and I think this might be why history and politics are taught the way they are. And I think this is so wrong. National pride doesn’t depend on the erasure of a countries toxic past. To be honest it’s even debatable how necessary national pride is but that is a whole other topic.

The extent of the British Empire is actually quite remarkable, it stretched literally across the whole world people used to say “the sun never sets on the British Empire”. Well, the sun has set. But at what cost? The colonisers reaped enough economic benefits from the colonies that independence would not have been a long term threat to them. However, independence wasn’t as liberating as it is made out to be for the colonised. There is a lot to unpack here and I would be doing a huge disservice if I pretended like I knew all the ins and outs of colonies gaining their independence. But what I do know is that the effects of colonisation are still felt today which makes total sense because a lot of countries only recently gained their independence. Even in saying this, the extent to which ex-colonies are independent should be closely examined. Conditional aid/loans suggest that poorer countries (often ex-colonies) aren’t totally independent and what’s holding them hostage is economic growth and stability that they are made to believe can only come from the west. Economics is also guilty of not addressing this issue.

I think that sometimes “woke” culture or whatever you want to call it can make colonialism seem something that we just cannot seem to get over or always complain about and I do understand that. It can get really exhausting. But I think that when you really think about the scale and the proximity of colonisation it becomes something that we should examine so that we can offset the issues that have arisen from it, not something we should just forget about because it’s depressing to think about.

When I decided I wanted to study politics I thought it was going to be more problem-solving. Like, what are the issues in the world today and what political mechanisms can solve them? Perhaps that was my naivety coming out but regardless I guess I do have politics to thank for making me think in such a critical way. I just wish that it came from a place of genuine interest and not passionate outrage.

Interesting stuff to read: (slyly long but worth it)

 

The Case for Colonialism

 

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Faith, Feminism, Sex & Relationships, Sociology

So what’s the furthest you’ve gone with a guy?

Honestly, there is a lot to unpack here.

Questions like this tend to have underlying misogynistic roots. Often times what it sounds like is “let me assess what this girls sexual experiences are so I can figure out what kind of treatment I think she deserves”. As much as society has progressed it would be a lie to say that women who are as sexually liberated as some men are treated the same. You might not even be explicitly thinking this, but what if the female you’re talking to has what you consider to be a lot of sexual experience? Are you going to treat her exactly the same as the one who has less? You might think yes, but your subconscious may still be unlearning the values you’ve picked up during socialisation.

Despite there appearing to be a shift in attitudes surrounding ‘sexual purity’; in a lot of cultures and religions shaming women in particular for engaging in sexual activity is normal and even encouraged. Having views on what context you think people should be having sex in is one thing, but shaming others in an attempt to control is not okay. Especially when it comes down to some religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism mainly) where premarital sex is seen as a sin. Faith and salvation are personal and shaming someone for engaging in what you believe is a sin isn’t going to make them repent. In fact, it just makes you (someone who is also not living sin free) look dumb and nobody wants to look dumb. I really want to highlight here that shaming isn’t the same as what some believe is correcting someone in their faith. Shaming is telling your brother/sister in Christ/Islam/etc. that they aren’t good enough and that their faith means less than yours because they have “sinned differently” to you. That is also not okay.

Also, this odd obsession with virginity and purity can be really problematic. Someone being a virgin doesn’t make them any more or less vulnerable than anyone else and finding this attractive is very questionable. Even in saying this, ideas around virginity and the way it is socially, culturally and biologically constructed mean that what it is to be a virgin transcends discussions around just sex and relationships.

ANYWAY.

Even if your values don’t align with the stereotype, this doesn’t take away from the matter at hand. How you treat others should not completely depend on their perceived sexual experiences.

Don’t get me wrong though, this works the other way. It’s important to think about the purpose of invasive questions regardless of your gender or sexual orientation.

Maybe it’s not that deep, does that justify asking someone invasive questions out of the blue?

I think not.

Maybe you’re asking because you want to know what the person might be comfortable doing with you. But if this is the case, you could actually just ask them what they’re most comfortable doing with you in the given moment in an appropriate context. What they have done with someone else won’t necessarily be an indicator of what someone is willing to do with you and this applies outside of a sexual context. Also, making someone else feel like they’re being irrational for not wanting to answer is borderline mad.

Well, what if you’re just curious? That’s fine, I’m sure we’d love to know lots of things about the people we are getting to know but are you going to put your curiosity over someone else’s comfort? It might be the case that the person you’re talking to wouldn’t mind answering, but your best bet is minding your business unless you’re actually talking about your sexual experiences. What the furthest you’ve gone with another person is not a 21 questions type of question, it’s not a question you ask after ‘wyd’ and it most definitely not a question you ask to someone you barely know.

So if anyone does ask you and you don’t want to tell them, always remember that you don’t owe them an explanation.

Some might disagree with me and that’s okay. Part of me was reluctant to write this but I had to get it off my chest. Perhaps I’m just writing this for myself out of frustration so that the next time I’m asked I can just send a link.

You can’t force someone to respect you, but you can refuse to be disrespected.

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Philosophy, Social Media, Sociology

Cancel Culture

If there’s one thing that anyone with social media this year has been exposed to it’s cancelling culture. I think the essence of “cancelling” makes sense. You notice someone/something is being problematic so you stop supporting them/it. After all, by continuing to support someone who might have said things that are not deemed to be progressive can mean that in a way you’re validating their actions. You’re indirectly saying “I don’t care about the fact that you might have said or done something offensive, I like you that much I’m willing to look past it”. At face value this seems fair enough, after all we’re not all going to be offended by the same thing.

There are several problems with cancelling. First of all, some people might not agree that supporting an individual who behaves offensively means you are validating their actions. For example, if your favourite musician is known to sexually assault women does this mean you support the sexual assault of women? This seems a bit far fetched especially since their musical capability is independent of their ethical beliefs. But what if their music is actually about degrading women? Then the line between their beliefs and talents is blurred. This gets complicated, especially because we need to ask ourselves if the nature of the persons behaviour is representative of the kind of person they are. What I mean by this is if someone makes one racist comment in their lifetime, does this make them racist? If not, then how many racist comments do you have to make to be deemed racist? Do you even have to make a racist comment to be racist?

But let’s assume that supporting a problematic person means you ARE indirectly supporting their actions, then it follows we should not support such a person because we don’t want them to have a platform to express their offensive ideals. How do we go about actually cancelling them? Well from what I’ve seen on twitter, when a group of people decide that they no longer want to support someone, they tweet about how that person is cancelled and then they proceed to totally drag this person. This can take many forms, sometimes it can be kind of light hearted where a bunch of memes are made about you (like we saw with brother nature) or you could end up receiving death threats, having your job taken from you, being kicked out of your school etc. People on social media have the power to really end your life without you dying.

Personally I think that if we truly want to cancel someone, what I mentioned above is totally counterproductive. Cancelling culture is way too loud. If you really want to stop supporting someone, stop supporting them, it’s really simple. I know some people who didn’t even know about brother nature until twitter dragged him. The saying that all publicity is good publicity is kind of valid here, you’re promoting someone by mentioning their name whether you’re praising or cancelling them. Do you really want to give someone you don’t support that kind of attention? Of course here it can be said: How will we ever know about problematic people unless someone brings it to light first? This is a fair point, but it’s not that difficult to dispute: if you read something about someone and believe it be true, unless you feel as though people around you would care, don’t say anything on a social media platform in order to prevent that person from getting too much attention.

It’s also important to address that with cancelling culture social media offers redemption, sort of. This is another issue. Who can forgive and when do we forgive? Should we forgive someone who tweeted racist things when they were 14? Should we forgive them even if we aren’t sure if they are displaying that same behaviour? One thing that’s been talked about in the YouTube beauty community is that some YouTubers have been caught making racist comments a few years ago, but they’ve made their apology videos and now when reviewing make up products they are vocal about shade range. Does this excuse their earlier behaviour? Do people have to earn their forgiveness by displaying the very opposite behaviour of what they depicted a few years ago? As a consumer that’s for you to decide. You might not think that your attention is worth a much as your money, but it can be.

That being said, it depends on who you are. If someone with a platform made racist comments towards Asian people, and you are not Asian then it’s not up to you to forgive anyone. You weren’t the victim of the comment. In order to forgive you have to have been offended. This seems obvious but countless times I have seen the unaffected demographic forgive influencers for their behaviour. You also can’t tell someone whether or not they should forgive, it’s okay to have an opinion but know when to share it

There are so many philosophical questions that can be challenging to think about, but we shouldn’t shy away from them. It may seem like this is a pointless activity but it’s one thing to form an opinion, it is another to understand WHY you believe what you do.

I’ve asked a lot of questions in this blog post, it’s not because I’m sitting on the fence about anything. There are people I do and do not support for particular reasons but the point of this post wasn’t to say who we should and shouldn’t support. It’s to encourage us to consider various lines of thought before we come to such decisions and encourage us to be sensible first and vocal second.

 

Your silence CAN mean just as much, if not more than your vocality.

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Academia, Altruism

Why wait?

Most of us are our biggest critics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless we are also aware of our strengths. A lot of the time we’re more qualified than we think, we know more than we think we do and we have more influence than we’re aware of. We can often forget that we are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for, and this includes the extent to which we can help others.

When I’m talking about helping others I’m not talking about conventional charity, not that this doesn’t matter, but I’m talking about doing things that directly make use of the skills we have acquired. Helping out at a food bank, feeding the homeless and bucket shaking are all things I’m sure we’d agree are extremely charitable but it doesn’t appear like us young people, including myself, are doing much of that (unless we’re forced to or you’d like to put it on your cv of course). If you’re an academic, why not teach? If you’re sporty, why not coach? You might be a musician, a creative, a programmer, a gamer etc. Whatever you are, whatever you do, where you are is where someone else wants to be. This might not seem like the case, which is understandable. Most of us are young, where we are now isn’t the end goal but that doesn’t mean we can’t share with others the things we learn along the way. Especially those of us that live in communities where our younger peers don’t have older role models, there is a space there we need to take up.

We shouldn’t just wait before we arrive at a stage in our lives where we feel like we’ve made it to then decide “I fancy giving back to my community now”. Especially after you’ve left your community, assuming that you’ve spent years working hard to become more socially mobile it’s easy to get tunnel vision and become out of touch with the lifestyle you once lived. That’s not to say that you can’t work your way up first and then ‘give back’ but you have the means to help now, so why not help now? Knowledge is currency.

What do I mean by helping others? I look at it this way: when I was slightly younger I had a few short term goals and achieving what I did was a lot easier than it could have been. But the only reason this was the case is because I had guidance. I was privileged enough to have a support system that was made up of people of different ages; but those that really had an impact on me the most were those who were close to me in age. Listening to your elders is something we should all do, within reason. But taking the advice of those who have just experienced something that you potentially might, is invaluable. You’re more likely to take the advice of someone who understands the environment and stage of life you’re in currently.

Sharing and teaching others what you have learned or mentoring someone younger than you doesn’t just benefit them. Where there is teaching there is learning. You might not necessarily gain any more insight into your area of expertise but you will learn a lot about yourself and how to communicate effectively and considerately. But don’t feel obliged, because when someone looks up to you to some extent they can become your responsibility and this is a big deal. That being said, someone looking up to you helps in keeping you accountable for your actions. I just think this is something we should all consider.

Be transparent, show people your process, learn from others, pool your resources, take someone under your wing. How do you make your mixtapes? How do you edit your videos? How do you revise? What does it feel like to achieve what you did? When did you fail? There are so many questions that you have the answer to, that could give someone else the insight they needed to live better. It’s also worth noting that we should also allow ourselves to be taught, to be led and to be corrected.

I HIGHLY recommend you watch these:

Peter Singer talking about effective altruism. (This is more about money)

What is altruism?

Shawn Blanchard on mentorship.

‘How can you climb the social ladder and then take the ladder with you?’ – A.Aboker

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