Opinion

"When it comes to race, we all have to do more"

Just saying all the right things about oppression will no longer cut it, says Sam Delaney

A protest in solidarity with the Windrush generation and against the impact of Government's 'hostile environment' immigration policies. Picture: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media

The state-sponsored murder of citizens, racist invective by a serving president, riots, violence, mad distracting rows about statues and yobs doing Nazi salutes while professing to protect the legacy of Winston Churchill.

There is never a good time for any of this stuff to happen. But with everyone on lockdown, with time to digest and reflect upon the issues surrounding the murder of George Floyd, perhaps this is as good a time as any. Amidst the usual cut and thrust of daft and exhausting lives, we just don’t have the will or the capacity to sit down and really examine the injustices that surround us and our own personal roles in their continued existence.

A normal, pre-lockdown me would have observed all of this stuff with fleeting sadness and frustration before quickly numbing out the difficult and complex questions it raises. I am so well practised in just blocking shit out.

But the Covid pandemic has forced me to take my foot off the gas, lounge around in my tracksuit bottoms all day and find the time to face my demons a bit more than usual. I won’t bore you with it all here but the top line conclusions are: yes, I have been complicit in a variety of social ills my entire adult life, from greed, consumerism, economic exploitation and environmental destruction plus the whole ugly spectrum of prejudices, from racial to sexual and everything in between.

Screw that: I’m done virtue signalling

I’m no angel. But I’m no different to 90 per cent of people. What can I do about it? I have a mortgage to pay and kids to feed and just don’t have the balls to abandon the socioeconomic systems that facilitate my family’s survival. But perhaps I could be 10 per cent better at everything. Take responsibility for the impact my actions have on the wider world. I used to refuse to separate out all the recycling because China were opening about a billion toxic factories a day. So what difference would my actions make? Then I realised that whatever China did was beyond my control; all I could do was remember to put the cardboard in one box and the plastic in another.

I’ve loudly declared my opposition to racial prejudice my whole life. I was raised that way. But posturing is almost part of the problem: dickheads like me can breeze through life hiring white people 95 per cent of the time while making sure to post trite, liberal-sounding memes on Facebook to show our white liberal mates that our hearts are in the right place. Screw that: I’m done virtue signalling. I will read the books, watch the movies, binge on the TV shows that are created by the victims of prejudice. I will immerse myself in that stuff so that a new, more honest narrative might become slowly embedded in my mind. And maybe then I will know how to change my behaviour. Is that the best I can do? Probably not. I could do much more. Maybe one day I will. Either way, I guess I’m probably going to hell. But, you know, whatever.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty: This is how we stamp out teenage misogyny and sexism
Naga Munchetty

BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty: This is how we stamp out teenage misogyny and sexism

Purists might baulk, but Sam Smith headlining BBC Proms opens a pathway to classical music
Sam Smith arrives for the 2023 BRIT Awards ceremony at The O2 arena in London. Image: Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Claire Jackson

Purists might baulk, but Sam Smith headlining BBC Proms opens a pathway to classical music

We need more women MPs – but we can't just expect women to stand for election. We must act
Lyanne Nicholl

We need more women MPs – but we can't just expect women to stand for election. We must act

Poverty prevention is our best hope. Here's some tangible ways to keep people warm, dry and fed
Tom Clark

Poverty prevention is our best hope. Here's some tangible ways to keep people warm, dry and fed

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know