As a mixed-race person coming to the Isle of Man for the first time three years ago, I was shocked at how few people of colour I saw. While I grew up in a predominantly white area in England, I have never been so aware of my skin colour as I was in the Isle of Man.
In the three years that I have been coming to the Isle of Man I have experienced more comments about my skin colour than I have in the last 21 years. While Manx people on the whole are aware of issues of race, these kinds of comments which often go unchecked are damaging and offensive. When I have been faced with ‘everyday racist’ types of comments since living here, the majority of the time I have failed to call people out on them and instead have just shrugged them off and laughed about them with my friends. I’m a strong believer that a good way to tackle prejudice and ignorance is through education, which is why I want to share this piece.
What is everyday racism?
‘Everyday racism reinforces negative stereotypes or prejudices about people based on their race, colour or ethnicity. It is also defined as the integration of racism into everyday situations through practices that activate underlying power relations’. ‘It can involve off-hand jokes or comments that may not be intended to cause any offence. However the lack of intent does not excuse it – because racism is about the impact it has on the people affected’.
In the past I definitely thought these kinds of comments were harmless and naïve but as I’m becoming more educated about everyday racism, I’ve realised that these comments are racism, plain and simple. I know I’ve often shied away from calling someone’s comments racist but the comments that I’ve received have offended me and often been based on preconceived ideas because of my skin colour.
Comments that I have personally experienced since being in the Isle of Man include…
“Your English is very good”… I was born and grew up in England…English is the only language I speak!
“I expected you to sound ‘well’ foreign” = because you’re not white I didn’t expect you to speak English.
“I’m almost as tanned as you now” – this is undoing mine and people of colour’s lived experience by comparing it to your tanned holiday skin.
“is your girlfriend the black one?” = my skin colour is the most determining factor about me because I am not white. And, I am not black.
“where are you from? No, where are you REALLY from?” – I want to know why you aren’t white?
“all lives matter” – saying black lives matter is not implying that other lives don’t matter. White people have not been enslaved, lynched, forced into segregation in the way that people of colour have.
“what, I can’t even say —– anymore? What are we allowed to say?” = It is even worse for Black and Brown people to have to listen to and be referred to by racist, outdated words because people don’t want to update their vocabulary.
Or outright derogatory terms or slurs which I have overheard.
What can I do? How can I be anti-racist?
Having difficult conversations is a great way to challenge everyday racism, simply by calling it out and making people aware of what they are saying. It doesn’t have to be confrontational or rude.
Simple things you could say could include: “would you mind explaining what you mean by that?” or “what you said made me feel uncomfortable because…” or it could be as simple as “you may not have meant it to be, but that comment is racist”
Keep educating yourself so you have knowledge to widen your perspective.
This could be through books, I recommend “Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race”. Or following informative pages on social media such as ‘everyday racism_’ on Instagram. Podcasts that are informative include ‘About Race’ with Renni Eddo-Lodge.
Social media is a great outlet to share information that you think may educate your sphere on issues relating to race.
We all have a responsibility to call out racism when we see or hear it, I am definitely guilty of shrugging or laughing off comments . Although it may feel that challenging racism is a huge task, ultimately you can influence your own sphere.. Whether this be your place of work, online, family and friends, a sport club, your school or university – you can influence change.