When you’re growing up brown in a white country, you’re taught a few techniques of self-protection. Some of these are things you learn from your parents, others are those you build after you’ve experienced racial injustice, and some you learn from watching others like you be targeted. These are some of the tactics I have observed or been taught (but not necessarily abided by).
The Sore Thumb Rule
If you’re coloured in a majority white school, you already stick out when you should really blend in. Your colour makes you easy pickings, though being of colour may not be the thing they pick on you for. For safety’s sake it’s better to look as ‘white/normal’ as you possibly can. Do not bring smelly food for lunch. Do not make a huge deal out of the fact that you’re vegetarian. Do not wear the clothes your relatives brought you from your “home” country. Do not show genius. Look as average as possible. Then you may become like them: brown, but not brown. This will protect you.
Alternatively, find friends of colour and blend in with them, and only them. They may make you feel safe. Group security.
The Rule of Silence
No matter the circumstance, do not speak up for yourself. If bullied, take it and don’t make a fuss about it. If you see another colleague of colour being bullied, do not stand up for them. Do not associate with them. Do not stand for any elections, unless you are standing on a popular ‘white’ platform – do not mention your own experience of oppression.
The Race Card Rule
Never use the term “racism”, and never call out racism, even if you know that is what is happening. You must accept that racism is over and any oppression you feel will only be ignored if you use that term. Also never point out that you may be facing discrimination based on your race (especially in relation to jobs, etc). You will be accused of using the race card, even if you are not.
The Always Guilty Rule
In all circumstances of crime or violence or sheer walking down the street, expect yourself to be the prime suspect. Never argue with the police as they will always be shown as neutral. Always expect your privacy to be violated and that you will be questioned or eyed with suspicion at every point. Always stick to the law, and do not show any sign of radicalism. You will be blamed for everything – economy, terrorism, kidnapping, cultural destruction, money laundering, thieving, etc.
The Pass the Buck Rule
If someone else is mistreated, especially someone equally as marginalised as you, do not stand up for them. You are allowed to remain silent and seem disinterested, but it is best to support the suspicion and mistreatment of that person (especially if they are darker than you). Internalise the racism, and use it to protect you.
In the long term…
These rules are the things we are taught to protect ourselves. They are supposed to prevent us getting hurt, but instead they only prolong the pain and hurt we experience. Most of the time we are unaware that we are even paying any of these rules any heed. But in the long-term, these rules only make it more likely that in the future the worst atrocities of racism will rise again. These are things we are seeing now, in Europe. We are seeing immigrants be scapegoats for a failing economy they never created. We are seeing destitute people who have become so because of liberal intervention. We are reconstructing and blaming ‘terrorism’ for all the problems that we face, and allowing that shock doctrine to undermine our rights and privacies.
But we can prevent that, and the earlier that we do, the less effort will be required and the less people will be targeted. If you’re not being affected now, you will be in the future. Now, you can create that better future with me and other colleagues that stand up and shout that they will not be part of this façade, or you can wait your term to be the target. It’s your choice.