Where are you in your journey of Allyship?

Where are you in your journey of Allyship photo

It’s no secret that last year opened up a pandora’s box to the anti-blackness that continues to plague the world. Rightly so, it also opened up a conversation about the elitism the UK Arts and Entertainment industries have perpetuated for many many years.

The Arts sector has traditionally been perceived as a pinnacle of liberalism and inclusion, but in recent months the dialogue has changed and the vital structural changes that must occur to combat racism have been exposed.

Black and Black mixed – raced UK drama school students spoke up, celebrities exposed the poor treatment they had received at work and institutions began posting pledges of solidarity.

But now that the season of the black square is over, where are we now?

On May 25th 2020, in the height of a global pandemic when much of the UK was locked away in their homes, George Floyd was brutally murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Months before this On March 13th, Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police as she slept in her bed and on February 25th, Ahmaud Arbery was killed whilst out jogging, by a white retired policeman and his son. 

An explosion of consciousness was born and outcries of allyship began. 

Articles and Instagram posts erupted, responding to the urgent need to understand how to truly be an ally.

These included;

  • Learning to listen.

– Rather than centering or comparing your experience in a conversation about race, listening and not dismissing a black persons’ experience.

  • Doing the work

– Reading books, listening to podcasts and following black activists online.

  • Putting your money where your mouth is.

– Supporting charities performing anti-racist work, buying from black-owned businesses, and consuming black-made art.

  • Calling others out.

– Not only speaking up when a colleague says something clearly racist or problematic but making sure your family and loved ones are checked, corrected, and educated.

  • Acknowledging your privilege.

– Being honest with yourself about the system of white supremacy and how you benefit from it.

But without the initial shock of the summer of 2020 (learning about the true disparity of experience your black counterparts have had), can still say you are prioritising anti-racist work.

The dust is settling, and employers and gate keepers have had the chance to consider the key concerns around race equality, or the lack of it; but initiatives can only go so far. 

This movement towards equity still means continuing with individual work. Accountability and continuing work towards personal development are still needed in order to begin to create a better world for all marginalised groups.

Without a visceral and active desire to make change, action turns superficial and becomes performative. The insidious unconscious bias still festers and we are doomed to be ruled by it. 

We cannot rely on corporations, theatres and television executives alone to mould and bend with the times. When the main concern is financial gain there will always be work to do.

Allyship is a commitment. 

The summer of 2020 was the start of a conversation, born out of black trauma. 

Now, that conversation is turning into action.

Black people have always been right in saying, we cannot dismantle a system we didn’t create, but ask yourself…

Where are you now?

Are you still listening?

Are you still working?

More To Explore

Let's talk colourism photo

Is the ideology of colourism an issue in the Arts Community and in the UK?

In a nutshell, yes. While the origins of colourism date back to slavery, the television, theatre and film industries have certainly upheld its power and influence. Casting directors, producers, and directors are still being guided by their unconscious bias in opting for actors/ performers with eurocentric features over those with darker complexions. The Oxford dictionary describes Colourism as a “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone.”

UK Representation: The Backlash

A recent survey from Channel 4 highlighted that a total of 51% of Black, Asian and other minority ethnic people feel that UK television advertising does not represent different cultures. In response to the recent resurgence of the black lives matter movement there was a stark increase in black and brown representation in the summer months of 2020 into the winter months. But how did the UK feel about this ‘change of pace.’ The Gravy Song was the title of Sainsburys’ 2020 Christmas advert.