In a Messy and Ambiguous World

Photo by Ocean Biggshott on Unsplash

A couple of years back, I posted on a subject of interest on Twitter. With the limit of 140 characters available on Twitter at the time, I used he to refer universally to makes and females alike. At this point in time, I had a feed for my tweets to appear on Facebook, as such my message appeared on Facebook.

Two ladies in my network read the message and challenged me on just saying He. I explained to them that I had a limit of 140 characters, pointing out that if they counted the number of characters in the post, they’d find there were exactly 140 characters in the message. To include he and she, I would have to remove something else that was important to the core message, I further explained.  My explanation did not satisfy them and one announced that people had to be called out.

Speaking honestly, I must say I was disappointed. It wasn’t a post about gender and they had moved the focus away from the core message. They both knew me and what I stand for. I’d lunched with one and served on the same Board as another for a couple of years. I would have hoped that they would have focused on my intent rather than they need to call me out. I’m a female with no interest or desire to undermine females. As such, their only real achievement was to create the risk that I wouldn’t share my thoughts in the future for fear of being challenged or to describe how it felt – for fear of being attacked. I believe that this is connected to people’s frustration that they are no longer able to say or do “anything because of political correctness. i.e. According to the dictionary, “language or behaviour that deliberately tries to avoid offending particular groups of people.”

I was reminded of this when I came across a recent video clip in which Barack Obama challenged people about their Wokeness. i.e. according to the dictionary, “the state or quality of being woke (=aware of social and political issues relating to race, gender, class, etc.)” Obama speaks of the fact that it is a messy and ambiguous world in which people are not perfect. He goes on to explain that we need to be careful about assuming that we’ve done something constructive by challenging people; doing so is not always productive.

It’s not to say that we shouldn’t challenge people when they say or do anything inappropriate  – specifically in relation to race/heritage; gender, LGBT right etc. Mocking people, calling people names, insulting people’s lifestyles or features and calling it banter is never acceptable. Asking awkward questions may be uncomfortable, but we do need to be careful not to close down discussion and debate. Shutting people with no ill intent down may keep them quiet, but it won’t change their hearts and mind. Ultimately we risk losing the opportunity for people to come to a woke state of their own.

I’ve very much enjoyed writing on sensitive issues in relation to Black Britain over Black History Month.  It’s led to dialogue both online and face to face. Speaking to a group of student, one stated that I’ve got them speaking about things that they are told not to talk about. At first, it felt uncomfortable for her, then she realised that should it was a safe space and they could trust me not to condemn them for speaking openly. I learnt from them just as I have from all the other people that have engaged with me through the month.

I’m what I describe as a “Why Child” as I’ve never lost the childhood curiosity that leads to questioning things to increase learning and understanding. I very much hope that you’ve learnt something new from my 31 Days of Black History. I also hope that the dialogue continues as I believe that it’s key to society having a better understanding, sensitivity and ability to deal with the challenges relating to Black Britain.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at any point in time if you believe that I can help in clarify or bring a greater understanding to you and others.

In addition, below are links to a couple of additional resources which you may find to be useful:

Hopefully everything together helps to bring us that bit closer to the full inclusion of Black Britain with all its richness and value into Mosaic of Britain

Thanks for engaging.


Thanks for following me through 31 Days of Black History. Do sign up for my mailing list where I will share more information. CLICK HERE

Susan Popoola

Mosaic Fusions:

Author: Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain

#Mosaic #BlackHistoryMonth

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