Shayam is a support worker in Dial House @Touchstone, our BAME service, as well as co-facilitating a BAME women’s group. She reflects on the issues within the BAME community and the deep impacts of racism.
I joined our “radical and innovative” service (as we have been described) in 2004, having worked in all parts of the service in various senior roles I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today without the positive and supportive conditions that have been offered to me.
I’m the ME in BAME and am writing this blog to give voice to the often overlooked racism against black people from within the BAME community itself. It’s hard to face, but an issue we have to lay claim to, so we can overcome it and begin to eradicate the anti-black sentiment deeply rooted within many communities of colour.
Black Lives Matter. Black Deaths Matter. This isn’t to say all lives of colour do not matter, but it is time to stop, reflect and unite our voices to demand justice for black lives. In doing this we lay claim to a social justice for us all.
To be true to my values of openness, warmth and passion, I cannot stand beside black people in an honest and true way without acknowledging the anti-black racism that exists within the “AME” communities.
One of my recent roles has been to create conditions for BAME members of the community to have their mental health needs met in an environment that responds to their needs; led by BAME people, for BAME people. Though we were established in 2013, the Dial house @Touchstone service still has to justify our need to exist. We constantly have to explain that just as we have specialised areas within the service – deaf workers supporting deaf people, a mens group run by men, an LGBT group facilitated by an LGBT worker – our BAME visitors can be supported by BAME workers if they choose Touchstone.
This is not about exclusion from the mainstream, but about acknowledging difference and embracing different attitudes to mental health and well-being. I currently also co-facilitate The Sisterhood Group: a space for BAME women to share their experiences in a safe space. An atmosphere of openness, warmth and passion allows these women to open up and move forward.
However, to be true to my values of openness, warmth and passion, I cannot stand beside black people in an honest and true way without acknowledging the anti-black racism that exists within the “AME” communities. Many communities in the UK, as well as all over the world, continue to hold on to negative, oppressive, offensive views that there is a colour line, where black people reside at the bottom. These views – that centre on the notion that “the paler the better” – stem from historical colonial and imperial rule, where deep colourism and racism has infiltrated our ways of seeing.
Racism is painful, difficult, challenging and traumatic. Unlike other forms of abuse there is not one abuser, but an endless series of them
We need to STOP, acknowledge and reflect on where these ideas have stemmed from and who it serves. This is a disempowering and dangerous mindset. We can only change the systemic racism in our society when we as individuals can own up to our own racist views and challenge them.
Racism is painful, difficult, challenging and traumatic. Unlike other forms of abuse there is not one abuser, but an endless series of them. It happens at school, at work, at college, in the shops, at the bus stop. There isn’t a time when it stops, it’s constant and can take many forms: a look, a comment, being spat at, an assumption that you “don’t have this” or “you can’t do that” or you don’t speak English “so well”. It has a deep impact on mental health, living with this reality is hard to put into words.
The past few months have been challenging and difficult for everybody. I hope that we can move forward with a sense of hope and willingness to come together, valuing each other’s differences and accepting them.