June 06, 2020
It is a deep source of shame to me, as a mixed-race man, that I speak out so little on the issue of race. However, now isn’t the time to be silent. 
Why Ive Never Spoken Out About Racism
Sometimes it feels as though sitting on the fence is a far safer, easier option. When we speak up, we’re bound to face a backlash. Ultimately though, making our voices heard will eventually lead to a safer, kinder society. We all have a duty to speak up. 
The cruel and needless death of an innocent Black man named George Floyd has sparked a huge surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
It is also a response to the systemic oppression and discrimination that people of colour face around the world.
Speaking out as a mixed-race man has been a complex issue for me in the past, but I’ve come to realise that I must do more.
Every Black person will know the experience of talking with their white Friends – white people that they know and love, that they know to be decent people – and feeling the air leave the room at the mere mention of race.
I remember being on stage and having to say the line “I am Black” to an entirely white auditorium – I could hear the sphincters of 300 audience members tighten simultaneously. Related... This Is How To Support Black British People Right Now – And How Not To What’s even more daunting is having to deal with people who oppose my views. I dread posting a “Black Lives Matter” picture to my timeline, only to have someone that I consider a friend respond with “Don’t All Lives Matter???”. It’s a level of missing-the-point that is just exhausting to deal with. 
Here’s the thing: Black people are still being killed unnecessarily. Black people are being beaten, abused and mistreated.
My wanting to avoid a bit of awkwardness isn’t really a good enough excuse. When thousands of people like me refuse to speak out because it feels awkward; the consequence is Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd’s neck, thinking he get can get away with ignoring Floyd as he begs for his life. 
If any of my white friends or family can’t handle a frank conversation about racism, it’s not my Job to avoid those conversations, it’s their job to get better at them. 
As for not wanting to get involved in arguments; well, you can’t be honest and get on with everybody. You can’t have integrity and bravery and also avoid disagreeing with people.
You don’t have to engage with the ignorant, but you have a duty to try and change those minds that are open to being changed. Related... Opinion: Britain's Record On racism Is No Less Bloody Than America's Another barrier to speaking out that I’ve grappled with is feeling scared that I’ll get into debates and won’t be smart or informed enough to argue properly. 
Pretty much everyone feels this way. Especially smart people. If you were completely convinced that you could not lose a debate, you’d be destined to lose it. 
It’s healthy not to feel absolutely certain that you’re right. But it’s okay to fight for those things that you think you’re right about. I should try to become as informed as possible, of course. But I can never have all of the information. 
At some point you just need to dive in and argue for what you think is right. If you lose a debate to someone smarter and more informed than you, that’s okay. 
In fact, it’s good! It’s an opportunity for you to sharpen and improve your own perspective. 
British people are especially prudish when talking about racism, and part of this might be rooted in a feeling that I have wrestled with of being unqualified because I don’t live in America. 
Everybody, everywhere is qualified and duty-bound to support this movement. But as a citizen of the UK, should I be campaigning for change in America or for change in the UK? Does the UK not have systemic racism to the same extent as America?
Of course, I should be campaigning for change in both countries, as well as in all those other countries where Black people are still being oppressed. 
However, there seems to be a notion that we’re piggybacking off of America’s race relation issues in order to exaggerate our own. 
True, we don’t have anywhere near as many guns in the UK. We don’t have families living on estates, which only 150 years ago were working slave plantations. 
We do have systemic racism and a legacy of slavery and colonisation that affect the daily lives of every person of colour who lives here. I occasionally meet people, white and Black, who tell me that I am not Black. Racial identity is a huge cause of angst amongst us mixed-race folk.To try and measure and compare the amount of racism between our two countries is, firstly, impossible, and secondly, missing the point. 
We want to stand beside our American friends, we want justice for George Floyd, his family and the countless other Black Americans who have been mistreated by law enforcement. We also want to draw attention to the fact that Black people are being mistreated and abused by law enforcement here in the UK. 
“Which country has it worse?” isn’t an important question at the moment. ”Why is this still happening?” and “How can we stop it?” are much more important.  
But too often, I feel unqualified because I’m mixed-race. 
Firstly, everyone, regardless of their colour or their background, has a duty to speak out for what is right. Everybody should feel empowered to defend people who are being oppressed. 
No one should feel unqualified to join the Black Lives Matter movement. The tricky part is knowing which role you play. And for mixed race people like myself, this is a very difficult problem... 
I have a Jamaican father and a white British mother. I am considered Black by the vast majority of people that I meet. I have been attacked physically and verbally many times throughout my life for being Black. 
However, I occasionally meet people, white and Black, who tell me that I am not Black. Racial identity is a huge cause of angst amongst us mixed-race folk. 
My unwillingness to throw my hat in with my brothers and sisters who have two Black parents comes down to nothing more than fear. I’m afraid of being called out as impure or as a fake. 
So, no more beating around the bush: I am mixed-race and I call myself Black. Deal with it. Barack Obama is Black. Lewis Hamilton is Black. Dwayne Johnson is Black. I am Black. 
Lastly, I don’t want people to think I’m only speaking out because it’s fashionable and “woke”.
Presumably, there are people out there who scour their timeline looking for the trendiest opinion to adopt. People who wake up thinking “Which cause can I support today that will gain me the most followers on Twitter?” 
Most of us aren’t this way. Most of us are people who want to help make things better, but who don’t always have the guts to do it properly and whose attempts to help are sometimes misjudged. 
I honestly think that if your heart is in the right place, you shouldn’t feel bad about jumping on the bandwagon. What else are we gonna do? Purposefully avoid protests that become popular? 
No, we want them to become more popular. We want to increase the momentum, push the snowball and turn it into an avalanche. 
Yes, we should all be learning about and campaigning for issues that don’t have a platform. But, like it or not, most people are just going about their daily lives and only begin to care about an issue when it’s thrust under their nose.
Politicians only change laws to improve our civil liberties when public opinion forces them to. We need to be encouraging people to support the movement as much as possible. Perhaps agonising over whether or not someone is virtue signalling isn’t the best use of our energies at the moment.  
So, by all means, hop on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon, but do it for the right reasons. Oh, and if you are white, don’t push a black person out of the way and grab their megaphone.  
Wesley Charles is a writer and Actor based in Manchester. Related... Boris Johnson Must Show BAME Communities How Black Lives Matter, Says Former Tory Minister The police Officers Who Killed Breonna Taylor Are Still Free This Is How To Support Black British People Right Now – And How Not To How To Go To A Black Lives Matter Protest During The Coronavirus Lockdown Opinion: Britain's Race Problem Rivals America's. It's Just Less Visible
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