Editor's Letter FS#148: By Ian Howley @IanHowley


ONCE YOU GO BLACK...

I’m a white man. Actually super white. So white that if I stand in the sun for too long I’m likely to burn to a crisp. That’s how white I am.  

So it can be difficult to relate to the direct racism lots of the Black and minority ethnic men go through on a daily basis. I’m unlikely to be rejected for a job due to the colour of my skin. I’m unlikely to be denied entry into a pub because I’m white. And I’m unlikely to be ignored by others in general. But I do get lots of racial stereotyping. 

I’m an Irishman living in London. That makes me a minority here. When I first moved over to London in 2010 I played up to the Irish ‘stereotype’. Sometimes what makes you stand out from the crowd can help you to be seen. And when you’re new to a city like London you do whatever you need to do not to become isolated.

However, after nearly five years here it can become tiresome to hear yet another Irish joke I have to falsely smile at - you’re not the first person to make a fun of my accent. I also get lots of people who think I’m stupid or thick - I have a degree and I’m the editor of a magazine. I always get jokes that I drink a lot of alcohol - I’m actually a light-weight and probably one of the first to bed. And I hear the word ‘potato’ directed at me about once a week - it’s so 2012, you should stop it! 

But my experiences of racism isn’t just limited to being an Irishman living in London. In April 2014, I got married to a wonderful man. His name is Donae and he’s been the best thing to ever happen to me. He makes me smile, angry, happy, frustrated, loved and we have a wonderful life together. Donae is American and Black. He’s had to deal with racism his whole entire life in America and it’s water off a duck’s back to him.

About two year ago I posted some pictures of us together on Twitter. Many couples do it. It may be a trip to the cinema or a dinner date or when you’re about to go on holidays. I posted a selfie of us out for date night. The next morning I woke up, opened the Twitter app to see replies from four people making jokes directed at me. “You know what they say about Black men! LOL.” “Is your ass sore this morning?” “He looks like he would do damage to you, Ian.” “Ohh you like the Black boys I see.” 

Of all the replies to my photo, 100% were racist jokes based on stereotypes and casual racism. I showed Donae and he told me not to worry about them and just block these fools - which I did. But this is not the last time I’ve had to deal with shit like this. I’m actually sick and tired of the casual racist jokes aimed at me because of who I am married to. But I get them all the time.

It’s difficult not to let this stuff seep into your bones and make you angry. I am angry. It’s come to the point that I rarely mention my husband on Twitter or post pictures of us, as I’m guaranteed to get at least one ‘joke’ about my choice in men. And if I magically don’t get a ‘joke’, I’m constantly on guard for that ‘joke’ or wondering what people think.

If you think that racism is just people shouting horrible words at minorities then you are completely wrong. It’s something that affects us all. Casual racism is deep rooted in our pubs, clubs, apps, social media and in our circle of friends. 

And this is why I wanted FS to tackle racism head on. What you will read in this issue can be difficult at times. The words used are hurtful, extreme and down-right mean but I feel we need to stop sugar coating this topic, be realistic and hopefully we can start to fix this problem we have in our community. 

Casual racism, direct racism and racial stereotyping is never going to stop unless we all do something about it. Racism is hurting a lot of people in our community. We are better than this.   

Ian Howley, Editor @IanHowley