Shh, Don't Talk About Race
Why can’t we write about race, religion or sexuality without being nervous of being branded as a bigot? Whether we want to admit to it or not, we’re often restricted when it comes to having conversations on certain subjects. Would an Asian write on matters concerning Africans? A straight dude about lesbian rights? A Muslim on the struggles Christians might have? Not very many, and it’s mainly because of that fear of being ‘inappropriate’, of saying things that might upset other. It’s not just the unfortunate event of not being able to freely express oneself. We’re also actively forcing our out-of-the-box thoughts left unsaid. Far too often we look for these little signs that give us the go-ahead, as if to confirm we’re qualified to have an opinion. Why is that? People often go into defence mode when there’s the smallest degree of criticism involved. “Is it because I’m black?” is a question I’ve heard so many times it could become a meme. Of course in some cases it’s true, but often it isn’t. But, it’s when questions like this are presented without reason that stops people from talking. Piers Morgan is hardly one to stop expressing his views regardless of what people think. Recently he wrote an article asking African Americans to stop using the n-word. You know which one we mean. He expressed his view regardless - not that he’s ever been stopped. Daring as it was, it received positive and negative responses. In true Piers fashion he responded with ‘is what I wrote that offended #blacktwitter or the colour of the man who wrote it’. Whatever you might think of him, there’s no denying his question has a point. If the argument is well researched and backed with valid points, what’s the problem? This isn’t all about how white people can’t cover black topics because they can. This was obvious with the Boko Haram kidnapping and all other black topics in the news. There’s a way to write about issues not directly related to our own ethnic backgrounds without being offensive in news stories – why couldn’t it extend to editorials and opinion pieces? There’s a burden of speaking up. I will never know first hand what it’s like to be another person and neither will you. Unless we've been in their position, we can only understand, but this shouldn’t be the reason to feel restricted. Talking about things makes us understand one another, and so we should do that. Our views on race, religion and sexuality aren’t set in stone. We enjoy reading and hearing the views of others. Sometimes an outsider might have a whole new perspective – what’s the harm in exploring that? As writers or people concerned with social issues it’s vital to provoke and evoke thought. Defending yourself can be difficult, and hard to handle when doing it alone. So food for thought – next time you read a concern that an individual has on a grouping that’s not theirs, give them props for speaking up.