On top of catastrophic wildfires, US-Iran saber-rattling, the rebirth of eugenics, the death of my favourite athlete and a global pandemic, racism remains a timeless pursuit.
Never has the Lenin quote, "there are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen" been more apt. I will return to the other events of 2020 in future blog posts as well as chronicle the path that led me from a life sciences PhD student in Dublin to a life sciences Venture Builder in London.
For now though, my thoughts are focused on white privilege and systemic racism. These words are often used but I think poorly understood, in particular by white society.
In essence, systemic racism is not being a full participant in society because you are denied social, political and economic representation. It is the colour of your skin placing an extra hurdle in front of life's other obstacles. Below are some examples of how this can manifest itself:
- Systemic racism is a wealth gap because you are denied access to capital to buy homes or build businesses
- Systemic racism is an employment gap because you have a non-white sounding name
- Systemic racism is being over-policed and over-incarcerated
- Systemic racism is facing the brunt of a global pandemic because you're denied access to quality healthcare
- Systemic racism is the acknowledgement that no matter your achievements, you're never immune from racial slurs
- Systemic racism is holding yourself to an impossible standard because there are few representations of your community
- Systemic racism is the hyper-sexualisation of your body
- Systemic racism is the casual questioning of your intelligence
- Systemic racism is living among commemorations of slave traders and white supremacists
- Systemic racism is having to march and protest to prove your life matters
- Systemic racism is having to deal with bigotry on a daily basis and never get angry
- Systemic racism is constantly speaking about the injustices of your lived experience and being ignored or told to leave
A phrase that resonates is that "to the privileged, equality feels like oppression." It is not surprising there exists an inertia to dismantle the injustice of systemic racism. It benefits those at the top and those at the top are white.
Yet defeat it we must, if ever liberal democracies are to live up to their ideals - a democratic system of government in which individual rights and freedoms are officially recognized and protected, and the exercise of political power is limited by the rule of law.
In the past, I have ignored explicit discussions about race and racism. I will do so no longer. In the powerful words of American journalist Charles M. Blow, "I do not exist to provide you with comfort; I exist to provide the world with light. It comes from fire. Sometimes it burns."