• Tyra Remi

Being Black is Political

You say the issue is not race, but then why is the colour of my skin always politicized?


Being a black student at a Russell Group University, I’ve definitely seen it all. From the awkward stares in lecture halls to being asked to prove my Britishness. Such experiences have definitely prompted me to have discussions on my own platforms and also with those around me.

Growing up in an environment which polices every part of my existence. From how I should talk to how I should do my hair. A society which expects me to conform and compromise my identity. I began to realise that my identity as a young black woman was political within itself.

Being a black student at a Russell Group University, I’ve definitely seen it all. From the awkward stares in lecture halls to being asked to prove my Britishness. Such experiences have definitely prompted me to have discussions on my own platforms and also with those around me.

Hearing people saying things like, “I don’t see colour” as though we live in a post-racial utopia. In a time where living whilst black, talking whilst black, running whilst black, could cost you your life. Rhetoric like this is yet again an invalidation of our experiences, an invalidation of who I am, my people, our history.

It is not as simple as to forget that colour exists.

Society will let you know that you’re black.

In the workplace, in academia, when the security guard follows you around the shop because you look “suspicious”, the police continuously telling you that “you fit the description”.

When you’re the only black person in the room and suddenly you’re the spokesperson for your whole community.

Being black, you’re subject to both hypervisibility and hyperinvisibility in tandem. African American culture continues to be the driving force in kickstarting the latest trends and shaping popular culture. It could be argued that African American culture is the global face of blackness. When we think about black issues, activism, black history, our black role models, successful black people, we have traditionally thought about them predominantly in an African American context.

The rest of black diaspora has traditionally lacked the same type of global influence. In conversations about race and activism, the black british experience in particular is left out the picture.

But in recent years, we are beginning to paint the picture of the state of racial politics in the UK, there has been a lot more exposure to these matters. Through different mediums and online platforms such as youtube and Instagram, we are able to tell our story to the rest of the world.

Additionally, with the rise of music from different diasporas, the soundwaves of the afro-beats and afro-swing genres getting millions of streams from across the oceans. The tide is finally beginning to change, the African American influence which has been so hegemonic in portraying the black experience is beginning to lose its dominance.

Hypervisibility, both a blessing and a curse. The media continues to push the narrative of young black men being violent and the trope of the angry of the black woman.

The media continues to warp the black narrative.

Visibly invisible, they don’t see race, they don’t see the colour of our struggle. It’s everything but race they say.

The discourse on us as a people, our roots, our ancestry, black literature, black academics, shoved off the bookshelves, in its place stand the same old canonical authors so out of touch with modern-day multicultural life and society.

The bellowing echoes of the students asking to decolonize their curriculum. The students asking that you address the black attainment gap in higher education. Students activists have been often left out the picture when discussing black activism.

As a student as at a Russell Group university, I’ve seen so many students putting in the work, being a part of the change they wish to see. Whilst occupying settings which are mainly PWI (predominantly white institutions) we often observe wider societal issues in a microcosm whilst navigating our own institutional spaces.

When our politicians to choose to ignore us, we create our own politics. We learn how to organise; we create spaces for ourselves to have discussions. Through our panels and through social media, through marches, through protests, through pressure groups. Through and through, black voices continue to be evocative, thought-provoking and political.

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