This was the year when it seemed like success to do nothing.
A wise old man with whom I’ve spoken recently put it even better. He spent his whole life doing anti-racism work and commented on how, after George Floyd’s traumatic murder in May, it feels like real change has been made in 2020. The positive thing about this year,” he said, “is that, for a long time, we were stuck at -10.
It looks like we have actually gotten to zero in 2020. “It was a lot of work getting to zero.” Until this year, whiteness was always able to elicit the most intense offensive and defensive responses, even attempting to have a dialogue about anti-blackness, systemic racism – or, Heaven forbid – whiteness.
I should know: I have always seen the results of such an effort live on TV, while it has now become socially acceptable to simply consider the state of our problems.
It feels like a step forward, but it seems a bit of an exaggeration to me to call it an accomplishment.
If I sound ungrateful, fine, then.
It took too many lives to get this far, and then there are the great tragedies, and then there are the little things.
This year, since our freedom of movement has been so drastically diminished, all our worlds have shrunk, but sometimes the devil is in the specifics.
It is summed up for me by a conversation I had recently with a black woman who wields tremendous influence in the TV industry.
In the now-familiar, weird intimacy of a Zoom meeting, she and I met one-on-one from our respective bedrooms.
A huge rash grew on her breasts. It’s years of garbage,”It’s years of crap – racism, micro-aggressions,”racism, micro-aggressions. “Never before have I had eczema.
“My doctor said it’s broken out now because I finally gave myself permission to admit all these decades of my career to the toxic stuff I’ve put up with. “It’s one of several similar discussions I’ve had this year.
In the black country, being tired became a part of life.
As institutions, white friends and peers declined to accept the murder of George Floyd, it was exhausting.
When they did, it was exhausting. “How has racism affected you?”How has racism affected you? “Freedom is never really won,” she said. “It’s earned and won in every generation.” That’s real, and it’s damn exhausting, too.
My year ends with a right-wing columnist as I write, demanding that I educate him through Twitter about white privilege. This things, you can’t make it up. He suggested that his life story of struggling upwards – facing disadvantage, not excelling in school, and still now possessing a broad platform – shows that there is no white privilege. Occasionally I partake in these tedious discussions since I wrote a book about the need for a national race discussion and feel compelled when it happens to participate in one.
But I think people should read my book, or the many other great and insightful books on the topic, before asking us to talk to them about it. This demand by those who have not bothered to think about it before, for black people to justify racism, is precisely why “Your Black Friends Are Still Exhausted” was a headline in British Vogue in October with the additional suggestion to “Check On Their Mental Wellbeing. ”
And the fact that such an article is being run by British Vogue is symptomatic of the positive change that is increasingly taking place.
Not only has its publisher, Edward Enninful, converted the most prestigious fashion publication in the world into a celebration of all things beauty-which does not exclude blackness, but champions it-he has also been appointed the editorial director of Vogue for all of Europe. Music, literature, and drama are important instruments in this struggle, and we’re finally tasting what happens when black creatives assert themselves.
With her convincing I Can Kill You series, Michaela Coel has set a new standard for authenticity and imagination.
The Tiny Axe of Steve McQueen made it a cultural moment to share Britain’s own modern past.
I didn’t know how much I missed seeing the Britis sharing black love and joy.