Akala reflects on the history of the British Empire and it’s role in creating what we know about race and class in today’s world. He highlights how it has affected familial relationships, friendships, schools, culture and even music. He talks about white supremacy and how it’s synonymous with higher class. He mentions how white privilege is tied to the inferiority of others. He even talks about how the re-writing of British history can make it seem like Britain how no participation in some of the most horrendous parts of history.
This wasn’t going to be the post for this week.
But then two videos went viral on Twitter.
The first one was of Ahmaud Arbery jogging in his neighbourhood, in the US and was shot by an armed father and son. The incident happened two months ago, but the father and son hadn’t been arrested until a couple of days ago.
Secondly, there was a video of a black man, in Manchester, UK, who was tasered by the Police, while his young child screamed and sobbed beside him.
As a young black woman, these videos are traumatic, heartbreaking and tiring. Tiring because how many times do we have to make these videos go viral to demand justice? Why do these things even happen?
There’s so many answers. Quite frankly, I don’t have the time to go into it. Nor do I want to get into the argument about whether this world is racist or not.
What I will say is that educating yourself on racism and why this world is the way it is – is so fundamentally important, regardless of your race.
Racism is not just a “Black people’s problem”. If it was that simple, the world wouldn’t be the way it is today. It is everyone’s problem.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Ignorance is a privilege. If you overlook an issue simply because it doesn’t affect you. You’re just as bad as those that carry out the discrimination. You’re letting those that do wrong get away with it. If you want to help be vocal and seek to help those experiencing discrimination when demanding justice.
This is why Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala should be studied at school. It’s one for the history books. A masterpiece. Everyone should read this book regardless of age, race or class because it highlights issues that affect everyone.
Akala simply lays out why the world is the way it is in terms of the divisions between race and class. And then supports it with facts, making it impossible to argue with.
In all honesty, I prepared myself to come out with stronger feelings about racism after reading this novel. If I’m being honest, this topic and these issues used to really affect me. Names like Sandra Bland. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Mark Duggan. Stephen Lawrence.
They would play on my mind like a broken record.
After watching Seven Seconds on Netflix, I refused to subject myself to watching issues on this topic anymore. I realised that the bare minimum that I was expecting…the justice I craved…was never going to happen. And what I was watching was simply a horrific reflection of the world we live in today.
Which is why I still haven’t watched When They See Us.
And I don’t plan to.
But I realised that content which highlights racism and proposes how it needs to be changed are crucial. It’s why novels like The Hate U Give and Small Great Things are probably my favourite books of all time.
Whilst reading this book, I recognised how normalised issues of racism and classism had become to me. I wasn’t mad anymore. I had almost accepted that this is the world we live in today.
Akala’s book was a reminder that you should never ever allow that to happen.
Because whilst we’ve come far from the horrors of slavery or the issue of Apartheid, as Akala points out in his novel. The fact that videos of black men being killed or tasered by their white counterparts, are still going viral without any form of justice, only reiterates that there is still quite a long way to go when it comes to racial equality.
His novel serves to educate as it does to highlight the hidden truths of society. I could relate but I also learnt so much more about history, about the present and about what needs to be done in the future.
Akala talks about how despite being mixed-race, society quickly labelled him as black. And thus, that stereotype of being a ‘part of a gang’ was given to him because of, not only his race, but, his lower class status. He emphasises how in schools statistically young black boys, especially those of Caribbean descent, are preconceived to do worse in their exams or are most likely to be excluded from schools than their white peers.
Essentially, the novel reiterates how the irrational manifestations of prejudice, which is often revealed through discrimination, forced him to become educated. Society made an opinion about him because of his skin colour and his class. He knew if he wasn’t careful he could become the product of what society wanted him to be.
I could go on but I really want you all to read it for yourself.
Race and class are literally embedded into society as we’ve attached ideologies to them. They’ve almost evolved with time. To remove these social constructs will unravel the very foundation on which everything is built.
However, Akala highlights how it’s starting to change anyway as we move forward. Nevertheless, he’s sceptical about how much it can really change.
His reflection on the British Empire only portrayed how the past is useful to know where you’ve been and to understand why the world is the way it is today. But it also helps to understand how to change it, so that black people will no longer be frightened to bring up their children into a world that is still strife with racial inequality.
So if you want to make a difference, regardless of your race, but don’t know where to start. Or you simply cannot understand the racial and class inequalities that make the world what it is today.
Pick up Akala’s book and understand how the irrational prejudices of race and class have become the life supports of this world.
So then you can understand how it needs to change.