I have made a handbook for Black people who want to better support other Black people. We are not a monolith: some of us need more help than others, and some of us need very different kinds of help. This handbook is a conversation starter – some ideas to consider if you want to ensure ALL Black Lives Matter, not just the ones currently trending. A Trans and disabled Black person is going to have different needs than a young cisgender Black person living in a predominately Whyte country. We Black people are all individuals and our identities don’t stop after others see the colour of our skin. Included in the handbook is a list of resources for more information on each of the points.
This handbook is also useful for Whyte people and Non-Black Indigenous people or Non-Black People of Colour. I hope you can learn about the complexities of living as a Black person, and all the battles we have to fight on multiple fronts. I hope you can gain an increase in empathy and understanding, because we need as much help as we can get.
I’ve been an activist since 1995. Whether its for bisexuality, fat liberation, Black lives, disability, homelessness, nonbinary or for survivors of CSA, it’s something very important to me. However in all these decades a big issue have been other (usually white) people and organisations asking for help. I’ve been asked to give a speech at the start of Totnes Pride, address a room full of nursing students in East London, give a presentation to the police and much more. I’ve also been asked by students and researchers to pass on details of their studies to “hard to reach” groups (there’s actually no such thing as hard-to-reach people, but only those seen as not worth the effort to reach).
I’m usually fine with requests if I’ve been given decent notice, and if the request is politely and sensitively worded. But that rarely happens. What’s very common is this:
Hi, I’m in charge of X event, and I just realised there are no X marginalised/oppressed groups speaking. Please can you fill the gap? It’s short notice, but can you let me know by tomorrow if you can do this? The event is taking place at the upstairs room of a pub – first drink will be on me!
I’m a student at X University, finishing off my high-level research piece on X. I now notice there aren’t any X-minority/marginalised people in this study I’ve been doing for (long-ass piece of time). Can you pass on details of my research to your followers?
As I’m a student, I can’t compensate anyone for taking part.
Why are these problematic?
The first example assumes I drink, and am able or willing to climb a flight of stairs to get to the event. It shows a lack of awareness that I have a life of my own, and will drop everything at a moment’s notice. It’s also incredibly insulting – they obviously don’t care about the work I do or who I am, but they need someone to tick their diversity box. The final nail in the coffin is the lack of any payment. I’ve participated at events before for free, where the organisers have a track record of supporting marginalised people, or where the organisers are grassroots activists who are just as broke as I am. I once turned down a request to speak at a major London University, when I was told they couldn’t pay me, as they had already spent their funding on alcohol for the reception!
The second example shows that the student hasn’t given a single thought about who makes up their research – there’s probably a deadline coming up, and they know their supervisor/teacher is going to spot a blizzard in their test subjects. This example also shows a lack of respect of people who already have a difficult life in an awful society. Some students and educational researchers aren’t allowed or able to give cash, but there are other ways to help those who are helping you. This doesn’t count when I’m asked by corporate and government researchers. As someone once said, “F*ck you. Pay me!”
Some better examples of how to ask marginalised people to participate.
Example 3 (Events):
Dear (Recipient’s name)
I’m (name) from (group/charity). I’m in charge of (upcoming event that DOESN’T take place in few days time) We met at (event) AND/OR I’ve been (following your social media account/ work you’ve been doing) for (x amount of time). I’ve shared your (posts/lists of resources) with others who may benefit from them OR interacted with your posts/work and found them interesting/challenging. It’s because of this that I would like to invite you to (take part in/be on a panel/lead a discussion on) X subject at our event. Your work and experiences are valued by (group/charity) and we want to reflect that in this event.
I realise this current climate may be difficult for you, but I would appreciate if you would give my participation request some consideration. We have funds available OR are currently crowdfunding) so everyone who takes part can be paid/have their expenses met/are not out of pocket. If you need a carer or assistant to be with you, they will also be included. We are also working to ensure disability requirements will be in place both for our speakers and our attendees.
If you agree to take part, you would be asked to do so for (x amount of time). There will be water and light refreshments available, and there will be a quiet room/separate space if you need to take medications or just decompress afterward.
Please let me know if you have any questions/concerns/additional requirements.
(Contact number/textphone and email)
Example 4 (Research):
Dear (Recipient’s name)
I’m (name) from (educational establishment). I’m studying (subject name and level) because (your aim for the piece of research/what you hope to achieve with it). My Supervisor/Main teacher is (their name and title if applicable).
We met at (event) AND/OR I’ve been (following your social media account/ work you’ve been doing) for (x amount of time). I’ve shared your (posts/lists of resources with others who may benefit from them) OR (interacted with your posts/resources/work and found them interesting/challenging)
I realise this current climate may be difficult for you, and that you may receive many requests for research assistance, but I would appreciate if you would give my request some thought. As I’m at the START of my (piece of study), I want to undertake it with inclusion and ethical considerations firmly in place. I want to ensure everyone’s voices and experiences are heard. I would appreciate if you could pass on this (link to research questionnaire/information flyer/request I’ve worded in attachment) on to members of your group/your next social media post.
BONUS POINT I can provide questions in (X languages) if required.
I am unable to offer monetary compensation for taking part in this research, however I do can give some free (printing/photocopying/access to usually paywalled library sites or journals) that all participants can use.
As a thank you for taking part in this study, every participant will receive a voucher for X sum of money that can be used in X amount of places/supermarkets/essential outlets.
Please let me know if you have any questions/concerns/additional requirements.
(Your Contact number/textphone and email)
(Supervisor’s contact number/textphone and email)
Example 3 shows that some thought has gone into the request. It acknowledges that marginalised people should be compensated for their knowledge, time and energy. It takes into account that many marginalised people will have multiple oppressions, and physical and mental disability or Neuro diversity is a common one. It sets out exactly what is expected, so I can manage my energy levels (spoons), that I may need a friend or carer to be with me, and that what I have to say is important. Sometimes just having my travel expenses covered will be incentive enough for me to participate in an event, especially if they are a shoestring group.
Example 4 shows that the researcher is taking ethics seriously. It shows that although they may not have money, they have other resources that would be very welcome to marginalised participants. Free photocopying is like a gift from God! Most importantly to me however, is the timing. I’ve received countless requests from students who are in a last-minute dash to finish their research, and who never gave people like me a single thought. Marginalised people are not a handy addition or a footnote – we should be in your research from the very start. This example shows that I will be respected by the student, and that my experiences and knowledge are important to them.
So to end, stop treating marginalised people like trash. We are over-studied and under-funded. You have the power to change that.
Among the many insensitive questions I’d like to see disappear in 2019, this is in my top 10. Firstly, it sets up the answer to be either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and when it comes to dating and romance, things are rarely this simple. It also assumes that the person answering the question isn’t bisexual/pansexual themselves. The way some of these questions are phrased are also leading: “Would you date a man who had sex with a man?” The person asking this question is often looking for shock value; a reinforcement of their own ideas. I’ve seen many youtube vids where this question is aimed at people assumed to be intolerant or bigoted. Type the words, “Black bisexuality” into the search box of youtube, and you will find zillions of reactionary, depressing vids of black people, whether they are gay, lesbian or straight. Tempers quickly flare at just the thought of dating a bi/pan person – how dare the interviewer even ask them such a thing? Stereotypes abound, voices are raised, faces become twisted. Bisexuals cheat; they spread sexually transmitted diseases, they can’t be faithful and will always want to be with another gender. The potential for emotional and physical violence is evident in the disgust of many responses. As a black bisexual person watching these videos, it makes me despair – having been out and open as bi for 25 years, these are the same responses I heard right at the very start. So little has changed for bisexuals of colour.
Bisexuality and Pansexuality is about attraction to more than one gender: you can be bi/pan and a virgin/celibate/aromantic. But to bigots, bisexuality is about having unsafe sex with as many people as possible, so that means they don’t deserve respect at even the most basic level. The chances of the people answering this question, having dated/slept with/fallen in love with/been attracted to a bisexual person who was closeted, is pretty high, but their knee-jerk “NO!” ignores all that. It lets the world know the responders aren’t that kind of person – sullied by any theoretical closeness to bi/pan people.
Would you date someone you were attracted to? Would you be with someone you love, but many straight and gay/lesbian folks hate? Would you accept that people who cheat or exhibit unsafe behaviour, come from all sexual orientations? If the answer to the above three questions is YES, then I want to say THANK YOU for being an okay human being.
Content note: Swearing. And when I start swearing, you know shit’s bad.
So which one comes first? Are you black or fat first? Are you LGBT+ or fat first? These are questions that need to piss off and die immediately. I cannot seperate myself into palatable components for your digestion. I could draw a Venn diagram of how they all overlap, but sadly the people who ask these sort of things don’t want to learn – they want you prove yourself. Spoiler alert: you will never be worthy to them.
If you discuss fatphobia, but never mention how race affects how you are treated, then what the everlasting fuck are you doing? Fat liberation is blindingly white, cisgender and heterosexual. These are the voices who get heard, whose articles appear in popular media. These are the people who can afford to attend Fat/Body positivity conferences and know they will receive a warm welcome. They will never be the only one of their ethnicity in a group of fat folks.
If you discuss fatphobia, but never mention how fat LGBT+ people (with a few Bear-shaped exceptions) are subject to punishing drives of fat hate; how poverty affects fat LGBT+ people of colour differently than their white counterparts, then take the first exit out of here, you useless cumstain.
I am thoroughly sick of the white, able-bodied cisfemale gaze being the only thing I see in fat liberation. I am tired of their voices as the only ones amplified. And I could happily live the rest of my life without reading another piece on fatphobia that only concentrates of American white women who are at the smaller end of the fatness scale.
I want to read about experiences of disabled fats, LGBT+ fats who are black or brown, fat folks who are elderly and/or poor. Because we are the ones who face multiple oppressions, who can’t afford to shop the latest fat celebrity lines (I’m looking at you, Beth Ditto) to look incredible. We are the ones who get written out of conversations time and again, even though we have been speaking out for decades.
So all you gusset-tickling, wankers can just shut your mouths for one shit-stained minute. The rest of us would like a chance to be heard.
I spoke at Queer Black Spaces 3 last night; a rare LGBT+ event in Black History Month. During the event I listened to other Artists of Colour as they spoke about erasure of Queer people of colour in recent history, and how important archives are. I was taken with just how much of history there […]
OctoCon – The Irish Sci-Fi convention (or activism never has a day off) In last week’s episode of Jacq goes to a Sci-Fi convention… I’ve been to 3 conventions prior to OctoCon. Dragon Con was awful. Nine Worlds was pretty bad. EasterCon (Dysprosium) was good. I was completely ignored at DragonCon – as in I’d […]