Colourism: An Interracial perspective – Series 1/5

Article written by Jonathon Rhule

Introduction: Exploring the innate complexities of the interracial experience

The most recent surge of the Black Lives Matter movement feels… different. The momentum has been maintained, the number of voices has multiplied, and the ears have, seemingly, become more inclined to listen. We have a long way to go, but we are getting somewhere, right? Well, yes and no.

The perverse media coverage of these protests compared to other events in this coronavirus-stricken nation is worth touching upon. Whilst their Dog Whistle Politics may fool some, communities of colour are all too familiar with these underhanded tactics to be duped. The unfortunate truth is that many in this country, view these protests as anarchic. That we are undervaluing the lives of the white majority, that these statues must be protected at all costs despite their abhorrent history or that we are the reason they can’t get a trim yet. I would go so far as to say that, in their eyes, we are as bad as the corrupt system we fight against.

The long-overdue calls to decolonise the curriculum have seemed to disappear from public consciousness recently. This is incredibly convenient, given that the government announced yesterday (at the time of writing) that they would not be reviewing the current syllabus. That it is, balanced, fair, and rigorous. I, as many others have, call bullshit but this ignorance is familiar. My Grandmother was born and raised in a small town in Jamaica just outside of St. Catherine. She is a member of the Windrush generation, who moved to this country for a better life and to help rebuild.  When my Grandmother boarded upon her voyage to the new world, she carried within her stomach, the man who would later grow to become my idol and inspiration: my father. Henceforth, she was educated in Jamaica before it would become independent in 1962. Herself and her Jamaican peers were educated under the British syllabus, which neglected to mention the root of systemic racial imbalance- slavery. Isn’t it entirely ironic, that those that were the descents of slaves, that had been colonised, brutalised, raped and forced to take their owner’s names, as my family did, weren’t even educated about their own atrocity? Actually, ironic is not the right word, it sounds about white right.

Despite my satirical use of the phrase, I wrestle with the fact that half of my blood profited and thrived within this society. Having suffered from anxiety and depression in some of my formative years, I have taken to running in the last 18 months to help stave off some of my symptoms. My recent runs, however, have not been so peaceful. I run past a group of white golfers and mute my headphones, worried they may hurl verbal abuse my way. I run down country lanes and hear a large vehicle approach from behind, striking me with the paralysing fear that I will share the same fate as Ahmaud Arbery. I run through an alley of pine and question: would half of my lineage have cared if the other was hanging from one of its branches, clutching for air, begging for life. This internal ancestral conflict plagues my thoughts as I go to sleep. I wonder whether the existence of my whiteness invalidates my voice, my opinions, or my efforts. Whether because I am not fully black, I have just cause in my fight for racial justice. Am I a subconscious beneficiary of white privilege or does the degree of pigmentation not matter to the institution?

In this series, I will seek to answer this question; to not only internally evaluate my standing and privilege but intertwine this inner discussion with investigative research into the topic of Colourism, mixed heritage, and inter-racial relationships. This internal dialogue and critical discovery will also be supplemented with interviews, featuring my parents, an interracial couple, my grandmother, a member of the Windrush Generation, and more.

As someone that does not feel accepted by either side of the racial divide society provides, I will explore why race is more than just black and white and how institutional racism exists not only between races but within the spectrum of diversity itself.

I have wanted to tackle this topic for a long time, and therefore want to do it justice. If you have any information or things to add, feel free to get in touch using the social media links at the top of this article.

This is a deeply personal exploration for me, and I hope you can join me on this journey.

Jonathon Rhule

Featured image: @abcnt on Instagram

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