Having fun while being Brown

Ashanty, Mia, Kayza, Chardine, Enam, image creadit Roxene Anderson

Ashanty, Mia, Kayza, Chardine, Enam, image credit Roxene Anderson

“Brown bodies at peace” seems more like a joke to me these days if anything.

It’s hard having fun when having brown skin. This is something I’ve realised recently as I have become more politically aware of my surroundings.

It’s one thing to be aware of political incorrectness and political issues all around you, but when they affect you on a personal level, it seems impossible to be at peace and enjoy a concert, a festival or a party when you are unable to shut down your critical eye.

For example, think of a nightclub setting, it’s where you go if you want to release some energy and have a good time. However, this scene has been an uncomfortable experience for me as someone who experiences sexism, racism and other forms of oppression on various levels.

Being constantly aware of both the male gaze, the white gaze, as well as the ongoing misogyny in both heteronormative and queer spaces make it even harder to find a place in which I can relax and “have fun”. Especially as for intersections finding a space to simply have fun and be at peace seems like a mission.

Festivals are known for being a place of absolute freedom of thought, however, when my friends and I were in a big crowd watching the lead act, all we ended up doing was discussing if it was ok to ask a girl in front of us to take off her feather headdress.

We should not have to have the responsibility of changing the environment around us and making it a safe space, these spaces should already exist.

Read more about unsafe spaces at festivals 

My body needs to rest and it should be allowed to feel safe and at ease in places other than specific safe spaces.

I should be able to go anywhere and feel safe.”

So how can our bodies feel at ease? Sometimes it is up to us to cater to our own needs. And here’s a list of how I have learned to do this for me as an individual:

A Safe space just for you;

Being surrounded by people who understand your identity always helps, having a space in which you can all regularly share your common struggles but also celebrate your differences. When a group of marginalised people get together it is difficult to avoid talking about our oppressions, and as much as it is important to listen to each other (because no one else will listen) It is also important to set a rule of not talking about oppression all of the time, as it can be very mentally draining to some people especially when done in a setting that does not cater for these types of discussions. It is important to separate fun from “the fight”.

Knowing that you can’t educate the world on your own;

You may be the only one that sees the politically wrong behaviour in the bar or club, but it’s not always your responsibility to educate. Sometimes we need to leave the education up to our allies. This is important when talking about putting our bodies at ease, enjoying and resting. Educating someone on racism, for example, has very different effects on the emotions and the physical well-being of someone who experiences it than someone who is an ally to people of colour and has not experienced racism themselves. We need to put our health first.

Know your worth;

Some spaces and some people simply don’t deserve you. There are many LGBT spaces that are not safe spaces for people of colour and queer folk. Just because a space is dedicated to marginalised groups does not mean that all marginalised groups are welcome. It also doesn’t mean that they deserve you to be there. The subject of knowing your worth is something I am personally still exploring. But what I have learned so far is that in order for my body and rights to be respected even in a club setting, I need to respect myself. There are a lot of interactions that can harm my mental wellbeing, for example, a problematic chat up line by someone that could be totally interpreted as racist and misogynist. Therefore, it is important to know your worth and know that not all spaces and people deserve your time.

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Be a loud token;

No matter where you are and what you’re doing, living in London under white supremacy makes you a token in most spaces. At University or  even a  feminist symposium event, you may become the only person of colour that they point fingers at to claim diversity. It can be a very similar situation in a party environment. It’s important to be  a loud token, to say I know I am your token, but I have the power and I’m here for me.

Token jumpers, created by Jacob V Joyce