Black and POC Solidarity 2021
Many groups face oppression in the UK, but today I am talking about the relationship between the Black community and our friends who are also easily identified by the colour of our skin. Those who firmly believe we should be united against racism based upon our similar hues. We can, but much needs to change.
POC allies I need you to understand this. I also need people who create policy, provide opportunity or allocate funding to hear this. Until you do, our community will struggle to build healthy and mutually beneficial solidarity with those who should be natural allies and we will remain in prime position for exploitation.
Black and People of Colour face different problems. Are tainted by different preconceptions. Some of you are profiting from long held prejudices and stereotypes that blight the Black community and it needs to stop.
Black people are:
Lacking in business acumen
You would think our POC allies would flatly refute these ludicrous claims, but no. Many like to help in the most unhelpful ways. Often, they are just helping themselves.
As a creative I keep my ear to the ground for new funding opportunities specifically for the Black community. Increasingly I’m finding that POC are positioning themselves as intermediaries between funding bodies and the community they are meant for. These POC are seen as more business savvy, more reliable and are more likely to be viewed favourable by those who hold the purse strings. And they know it.
They become our teachers, mentors and guides. They know how to plunder Black funding and position themselves as the first point of call for those who wish to engage the Black community. They are deeply embedded in the financial aspects of our creative arts. It’s rarely a collaborative process. More often than not it’s our culture that is up for grabs while their sacred artistic practises are protected. Our community rarely engages beyond a brief flirtation. A Bollywood loop here, the occasional co-production there, while there’s a free for all when it comes to our talent. They can all see the value in our creations. Very few see the value in us.
They workshop us to death. Plunging us into a perpetual state of learning. We are never quite ready. Always ’emerging.’ We need help with applications and organisation, all those little things that key into the familiar labels that were attached to us many years ago.
Rather than pointing the finger squarely at institutional racism, society is let off the hook as the idea that we just need a little help and guidance to reach the levels attained by POC is promoted.
If you want to help us, leave funding opportunities for Black people be. Quit positioning yourselves between us and funding bodies. Ask yourselves why funders are more comfortable with you. Question your privilege. What was acceptable in solidarity twenty or thirty years ago has shifted. If you’re still working with us in the same way you were decades ago, chances are you are getting it wrong.
For every one of you living your dreams on the back of our blood sweat and tears, there are a hundred Black artists who are better placed to serve our community. Foundational contributors to the UK’s music and performance scene are working nine to fives to subsidise the peanuts they are paid for their art, while we are exploited by the very people who claim to stand with us.
Our POC ‘allies’ often have Black faces on their teams, pushed to the front to give the impression that they are in the business of helping us. While these Black representatives may be financially rewarded, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the benefits these POC garner through their proximity to Blackness.
Those of us who complain are labelled as difficult or bad allies. Often we are punished and find ourselves on the outside looking in while these gatekeepers use their power and influence to block our progression.
Our talent, innovation and our culture, are still very much on the block. This isn’t partnership. It’s a creepy benevolence that ties into the all the negative stereotypes we have to bear and ruthlessly exploits us at every turn.