Saturday, 11 August 2018

Stop asking people when they’re going to have children

Trigger warning: this post discusses miscarriages and infertility

If you’re in a long term relationship or married, but without children, the chances are you’ve been asked “so, when are you having children?” For many couples, it can be par for the course and is usually well intentioned or good natured banter from family and friends. But if having children isn’t on the horizon, or if not having children isn’t for want of trying, having to bat away such questions can be received with a range of emotions from mild annoyance and frustration to pain and distress.

Before I became a dad, it’s a question my wife and I would often hear. Typically said in jest (or perhaps truth in jest from our respective parents), and not a subject that I was worried or anxious about it, it wasn’t something that affected me. Not to mention, no one around us really harped on about it to the extent that it became an annoyance. Though for many couples, it can be a different story.
Feet by green_kermit is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
I’m at an age where many of my peers, but certainly not all, now have children. For some of those that don’t, that’s a choice and one that should be respected. Having children isn’t for everyone and for some it just isn’t a feature that they seek to be a part of their lives or their relationship. There shouldn’t be any judgement for that stance whatsoever. For others, it may just not be the right time for them, especially as people are generally having children later in a reflection of contemporary lifestyles. If having children is a decision you’re nearing to but not quite there yet, why should you feel pressured to hasten that decision to satisfy others?

Despite modern society increasingly distancing itself from archaic and arbitrary measures of what constitutes success, there still remains a fixation upon what we’re supposed to do in life and those expectations remain in our most personal spheres. We’re supposed to be in a relationship. And if we’re not, we can expect to be questioned why, and worse still, shamed for it. And if we’re of a certain age where many of our peers may be having children, and within a relationship, then obviously we should be too, right? Wrong.

It’s therefore little wonder that marriage and having children can sometimes be for the wrong reasons, such as an attempted solution to a broken relationship or merely buckling under the pressure of societal expectations. If the question of when children were coming disappeared, a layer of that unwarranted pressure to have children would likely disappear with it.

No one should be made to feel guilty or that they’re an anomaly for a decision that’s theirs to take in not having children. Yet many will be made to feel just that. Furthermore, the decision and commitment to have a child isn’t one that should be taken lightly. So shouldn’t we laud those who don’t conform and decline to have children if it isn’t an experience they desire?

For others, not having children may not be a choice they’ve made. Conception and pregnancy are not an exact science and for many who don’t have children, that hasn’t been for want of trying. Conception for some couples can take years of trying, sometimes to no avail before alternative routes such as IVF or adoption are explored. And even then, the process is not only not guaranteed but is also lengthy and emotionally draining.

For some couples, experiencing a miscarriage, or even recurrent pregnancy loss, can be a painful reality. Imagine the distress caused in both scenarios, compounded by seeing the babies of family, friends and even strangers as a reminder that parenthood remains elusive. It’s made worse by having to handle the insensitivity of people asking when you’re going to have children; when unbeknownst to them, the recipient of their question wants nothing more than to be a parent.

So how has such an insensitive line of questioning come to be so commonplace? Much of it can be traced back to expectation but it’s also reinforced by the older generation.

Becoming a grandparent is a wish held by many parents with adult children. Indeed, if I gave them the green light, my parents and in-laws would proudly parade my son all day, everyday.

Said parents see their own peers becoming grandparents and many want that for themselves. Although where it goes too far is when social conditioning starts creeping in again and becoming a grandparent becomes something that is supposed to happen. Some even see not becoming a grandparent as a disappointment and will ignorantly articulate this, nonchalant to the fact that there might be a reason why grandchildren haven’t been forthcoming.

It’s a view that’s particularly prevalent in ethnic minority communities where the significance of family makes becoming a grandparent almost a necessary rite of passage and something some will feel entitled to. That deeply misplaced sense of entitlement can be extended to ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ in the community, that you might not even know, telling you that it’s about time you had children. It’s well meaning but for someone who knows they perhaps can’t have children or is having trouble conceiving, it’s also incredibly insensitive.

There needs to be more awareness, sensitivity and empathy for those who can’t have children or are having difficulty conceiving or becoming parents. Especially with social media, we need to be mindful of excessively flaunting our parenthood to an audience that will likely include at least someone for whom we’re projecting an experience they’ve been unable to have for themselves. That doesn’t mean refraining from celebrating our own children but simply being a bit more thoughtful in our exchanges and what we share. And above all, not asking when children might be forthcoming unless it’s a conversation they’re happy to have.

We need to remember and respect that having children is a choice some choose not to make. Likewise, difficulty in having children, biologically or otherwise, is a reality for some who would like nothing more than a baby. When and if someone is going to have children can be a sensitive subject and more people need to be mindful of that.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

30 +1

For anyone who's a teacher, referring to your students as “my kids”, particularly for a younger cohort, is fairly typical. Just as a parent does with their own children, as a teacher, you build a rapport with your students and become emotionally invested in them. That's not only in their academic attainment and progress but their well-being and emotional welfare. Even seeing your students mature evokes a feeling akin to observing the development of your own children.

The same goes for the students who often see their teachers in a maternal or paternal role. I’ve been accidentally referred to as “Daddy” or “Dad” on countless occasions. It's unsurprising as given the duration of the school day, and the contact you’ll have with your students, as a teacher you spend more waking hours with your students than their parents do.

As every parent would probably attest, nothing really prepares you for parenthood. Nevertheless, becoming a parent when you're a teacher is probably the closest preparation you can get from a job. Where I had 30 children in my class, becoming a parent meant I now had an extra child to consider and this time I really was “Daddy”. But working in a profession that includes some features of parenting, albeit not to the same extent, would that mean teaching would be compatible with my new job as a dad?

Some might assume that teaching is a profession that gets the challenges of parenting and having a family. Your holidays usually coincide with your children's (headteachers do now have flexibility on scheduling holiday dates which makes it less common than it used to be) and schools finish at roughly the same time. Though the school day for students bears little resemblance to the working day for teachers. You’ll be at work long before and after students and working in the evenings and at the weekend is typically required. The myth of teachers working from 9 to 3:30 is one that teachers everywhere frustratingly, annoyingly and consistently dispel.

The holidays certainly help and compared to other dads, I get more blocks of time to spend with my son. Although it's not as clear cut as it would seem and most teachers spend at least a portion of their holiday working. Not to mention, while those who don't work in schools might not be able to empathise, it takes time at the beginning of every holiday to emotionally and mentally decompress from the relentless pressures of term time; not dissimilar to any other stressful profession.

That does erode your quality time with your family but it can't be denied that having a generous holiday allowance is a hugely family-friendly advantage of teaching. It also reduces the need for childcare outside of term time to an extent that most professions just don't afford.

Within term time, it's another story; one that sees many teachers experiencing a dichotomy between being a teacher and a parent. You unquestionably want to do the very best for your own child and the children in your classroom. Nonetheless, managing the task of the personal and professional competing pressures isn't easy.

Being a working parent, regardless of your job, is always going to present challenges. Being knackered from the working day, while wanting to spend time with your child in the evenings, is a fixture of most parents’ lives. Though with many jobs, at least there's the weekend. Yet for teachers, evenings and weekends are often consumed by work. There's also an emotional and mental drain in teaching that compounds any post work fatigue and an experience that only teachers and those in similar roles will really understand.

Teaching is a job with no respite - not dissimilar to being a parent - so your mind is constantly in overdrive with the endless tasks you have in addition to actually teaching and being responsible for your students. Think of the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, and the unrivaled reward, of being a parent. Then imagine also experiencing that during the working day, but with 30 children.

Consequently, the balancing act of teacher vs parent can sometimes seem near impossible.

Excessive and unmanageable workload in teaching is generally acknowledged and well documented, and it can be overwhelming regardless, let alone once you become a parent. So what gives? No teacher wants to let down their students by doing a half baked job and no parent wants to feel they’ve neglected their children because they've been a slave to their job. It's a professional vs personal dilemma that no one should be faced with but one that is a reality for most teachers who are parents.

I understand the value of my time but acutely so now that I’m a dad. That means recognising the importance of spending time with my son. I allocate a finite amount of time for working in the evening and at weekends and ensure I leave work so that I'm home for bath time and putting my son to bed; recognising that failing to do so means reneging on my duty to play a meaningful role in my son's day and his routine. While my wife is on maternity leave, it’s also a small redress in the balance of the respective contribution we currently play in raising our son.

While at work, I work smarter but with a stubborn attitude in refusing to renege on any responsibilities as a teacher, arguably to the detriment of my well-being. Furthermore, at the back of my mind ever since my son was born, I’ve had the concern that I didn't want to give anyone the opportunity to suggest I wasn’t doing a good job now that I was a parent. Whereas had I been struggling, and in a profession where the key stakeholders are children and parents themselves, shouldn't I have envisaged that scenario being met with support and empathy, within reason, as I got to grips with being a dad?

Teaching isn't void of that empathy for parents and experiences will differ between schools and it can also be different for mums and dads. On a recent keeping in touch day, my wife (who's also a teacher) was asked by her headteacher how she felt about her return to work in the context of her new role as a mother. Conversely, there's been no similar discussion or enquiry at my school surrounding my well-being and state of mind in managing being a teacher and now also a dad. And it's been a near consistent experience for most dads I know who are also teachers. Is it because it's believed dads won't be doing much on the parenting front and it's therefore deemed an unnecessary conversation? Or is it an indication of the extent to which schools are attuned to modern parenting?

There's much progress to be made in teaching with regard to the well-being of staff in what is a highly pressured job. As a result, many teachers have been institutionalised to feel that needing support is a sign of weakness or not performing appropriately. Add a dose of toxic masculinity into the mix and I fear that this underlying attitude has also contributed to the instances where the challenge of being a dad and a teacher is ignored by schools and teacher dads themselves.

Unlike teaching of yesteryear, where senior teachers had simply paid their dues with lengthy service, school senior leadership teams now increasingly include fiercely career driven teachers. Many throw themselves wholeheartedly into their careers and eschew having a family or even a partner, a choice that should be respected as their own. But if senior leadership teams are becoming less reflective, and potentially less empathetic, of the experience of family life, how will this will pan out for teachers who do decide to become parents?

The lack of flexible working arrangements in teaching is indicative of this. It's certainly not unheard of but particularly in primary schools, where routine and consistency for the students is so important, some headteachers will be opposed to it. Although these are some of the necessary approaches if teaching is to truly become a family-friendly profession. I know of teachers that have been granted flexible working arrangements upon their return from maternity leave, which sets a great precedent for the direction teaching needs to go in. Conversely, I know of many teachers who have had their request for flexible working, to support being a parent, denied.

Teaching and becoming a dad are undoubtedly the most worthwhile roles I’ve ever had. So why should they at times seem mutually exclusive? They don't need to be, nor do parents who are teachers want an easy ride on account of being a parent. However, in roles that are generally considered as altruistic and relentless, the challenge of assuming both needs to be one that we're more aware of.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Tony Bellew wasn’t the only one to claim victory against David Haye in their rematch

Father Time and denial had defeated the Hayemaker before he even entered the ring; Haye and the rest of us just failed to accept it

I’ve always been a fan of David Haye. Since he was a cruiserweight, his timing, speed and explosive punch power were undeniable, even for anyone who didn’t like him. Under the tutelage of Adam Booth, his ring craftsmanship was impressive. He’d stalk his opponents, quickly finding his range while remaining elusive. That was before sensing an inevitable opening in which he’d relentlessly exploit. Once Haye had smelled blood, a brutal stoppage of his opponent was typically a fait accompli. It’s therefore little wonder that Haye has oozed confidence throughout his career.

His heart was sometimes questioned but that’s largely because he rarely had to dig deep. Prior to his defeat to Wladimir Klitschko, his only taste of defeat was against Carl Thompson. Hubris got the better of him as he punched himself out; leaving himself gassed after his unsuccessful early onslaught. Nonetheless, after the Thompson defeat, it was back to regularly scheduled programming and Haye’s punch power continued to deliver the W to his resume.

When Haye started landing bombs, who could withstand his punch power at cruiserweight (well, Carl Thompson aside)? And at heavyweight, it was broadly the same story.

Haye started to campaign at heavyweight in 2008, three years shy of his 31st birthday when he had always been resolute would be the deadline at which he’d retire. That was a sensible decision and at face value, achieving his goal of heavyweight titles within that time seemed fairly viable.

He defeated Nikolai Valuev to earn the WBA heavyweight title the following year. Losing his title to Wladimir Klitschko in 2011, Haye subsequently stuck to his word and retired. But after the fracas in Munich with Dereck Chisora, in 2012 he came out of retirement to fight Del Boy again, only this time in the ring.

Even after reneging on his claim of retirement, the Chisora fight could have been an ideal close to his career. Stopping a durable Chisora could have been the final W on his record. Alas, as so many fighters fail to do, Haye instead dared to evade the inescapable Father Time.

Returning to the ring in 2016, Haye fought two unknown fighters, who were roundly considered tomato cans, for a total of three rounds. His power was still there but power is typically the last attribute to fade from a heavyweight’s arsenal. And against such lacklustre opposition, timing and speed was never going to be called upon.

Nevertheless, Haye allowed those fights to bolster his denial that he was the same fighter before his hiatus. I was in denial as I wrote in encouragement of Haye remaining in the sport as he showed what he had left. Yet, I was in denial of the very facts that I had articulated in the very same article -

While Haye had a decisive KO win over de Mori, it was after 2 minutes and 11 seconds of the first round. That’s 131 seconds from which we were able to gauge how much ring rust Haye may have accumulated in the last three-and-and-a-half years. What we do know is that Haye hasn’t lost any of his punch power and explosiveness, or his ability to finish an opponent once he smells blood. Conversely, there were glimpses of Haye’s timing and accuracy being slightly off but nothing that wouldn’t be expected from such a lengthy lay-off. There also wasn’t any opportunity to assess Haye’s punch resistance, or, due to the brevity of the bout, his stamina.

Father Time had called but Haye, and the rest of us, were ignoring him. Furthermore, the constant injuries, no signs of the Haye of old being present, and Haye’s inactivity, should have made it a giveaway.

When the Bellew fight was made, Haye was generally expected to blast the Liverpudlian out. At least that’s what most, including me, expected. Again in hindsight, I asserted what Haye and others, myself included, acknowledged but failed to give sufficient credence to -

Haye began the fight clearly looking for that big shot but with some untidy and reckless work that reflected clear ring rust. There wasn’t anything clinical about his boxing in the first round that I scored in favour of Bellew. Haye experienced more success in subsequent rounds within the first half of the fight and I scored it accordingly. Although he wasn’t eclipsing Bellew how many expected and the Liverpudlian wasn’t fazed by him either. Bellew took some solid shots from Haye but soaked them up and came back with some of his own.

I still stand by the fact that Bellew beat what was effectively a one-legged Haye (who probably entered the ring already injured). He also beat a faded fighter who in his prime would have smoked Bellew within a few rounds, the latter being something we should all have acknowledged. Father Time laid it out for us to see but we didn’t want to accept it and primarily, neither did Haye.

When the rematch with Bellew was called, it was postponed because of injury. Father Time must have been facepalming at the extent to which he was being ignored by Haye. Still, the result of the first fight was being put down to injury and exclusively so. A fully fit Haye was going to do what he would have done a decade prior, or so Haye and many fans and pundits believed. Although we failed to recognise that despite the chiseled physique being back, the fighter it once belonged to was no longer there.

Boxing YouTuber UltraTechSports, who as an aside has one of the best video intros on the internet, posted a video after Haye’s public workout and suggested that Haye looked injured. Haye’s distribution of weight was off and he wasn’t able to push off from his back foot which would undoubtedly hinder his biggest attribute of punch power. If Haye’s timing and speed had already gone, without his power, it was the final call from Father Time that Haye could no longer ignore.

Paulie Malignaggi, working as a pundit for Sky, made a similar observation from the first round. We weren’t seeing the Haye of old and UltraTechSports was bang on. Haye’s shots lacked their once signature power. Once that became apparent, Haye could no longer remain in denial and the once formidable fighter was now unravelling before our eyes.

Haye now needs to retire, a conclusion he should have come to years ago. Even if he were to continue fighting, it’s unlikely he’d find himself back in the mix as a contender for titles and the heavyweight landscape arguably has more depth than it did when he was at his peak.

Prior to the fight, he said that anything short of a spectacular defeat of Bellew would result in his retirement but in a post-fight interview, he didn’t seem so forthcoming with a retirement announcement. Maybe hearing Bellew and Eddie Hearn telling us “I told you so” in every iFL TV interview will give him the nudge he clearly needs.

With Hayemaker Ringstar Promotions, Haye can remain active in the sport without having to enter the ring again. He’s made a lot of money and despite a patchy record at heavyweight, has a legacy of being a former heavyweight and unified cruiserweight champion. He’s achieved much in the sport but I don’t want to see him in the ring again. Regardless of the result, he has no business being back in the ring either and that should be the message from everyone around him. I suspect those were sentiments from Adam Booth after Haye beat Chisora but to Haye’s detriment, it was clearly a message that he didn’t feel he needed to heed.

As for Bellew, I’ve always said that I’ve got a lot of time for him. He seems like a genuine guy and while I maintain he’s not an elite fighter, he’s a solidly good one who doesn’t lack heart. Bellew beat Haye and we shouldn’t take that away from him. However, Bellew wasn’t the only one getting the W at the O2 Arena; Father Time and denial were also there to claim their respective victories from David Haye.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The demise of Brand America

As a child, I used to regularly walk past an independent shoe shop on the local high street. They sold a range of footwear from formal shoes to trainers (or sneakers for any American readers). On the latter, they included the freshest American imports that weren’t yet household names amongst the likes of Nike, Adidas, Puma and Reebok.

I’d yearn for some of the trainers displayed in the shop window. But for none more so than the black Patrick Ewing high tops, with the miniature basketball tag (if you know, you know). I coveted them for what seemed like an eternity but alas, I never did get them.

My desire for these trainers was inexplicable. I was too young to have any appreciation of what was cool or fashionable and I didn’t even know who Patrick Ewing was. Nevertheless, I knew these trainers were American and that straightaway gave them a kudos for which I couldn’t articulate yet accepted in my young mind.
If you know, you know
Culturally, America represented what was deemed en vogue. Just like American music provided the soundtrack to the era, Hollywood would churn out glossy depictions of American society that albeit dramatised, would ooze credibility.

There was a shift in the veneration of American culture, and America as a whole. America just didn’t seem as credible as it once was and American influences on British society and culture were now rapidly declining.

It wasn’t just within popular culture where there was a departure in how America was once perceived. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, America was arguably second to none in the west. Even after the collapse of communism in the Soviet bloc, when the Cold War had caused US debt to soar, largely due to military spending, they continued to be seen as an economic and military powerhouse. But at some point, the allure of America began to erode.

Brand America, that once gleamed so brightly to outshine all of its competitors, was beginning to lose its sheen.

Culturally, economically and geopolitically, America was now beginning to represent a narrative that didn’t appeal in the way it once did. However, with its hubris, insularity and complacency, America didn’t realise that it was now beginning to be seen very differently, especially with its most folly of choices in the election of Donald Trump.

As the world watches Trump’s vision of making America great again, an America where the white supremacists have a mouthpiece in the White House and the once underlying prejudice of the country no longer needs to be covert, the image of America has torpedoed.

Yet while Trump might have provided the catalyst for this downward trajectory, even with the popularity of his predecessor Barack Obama, this shouldn’t really be viewed as a revelation.

With a late entry to World War 2 mitigating the impact of war on the country, the Marshall Plan and the subsequent narrative of the Cold War, America had established itself as the world’s arbiter and policeman with a global presence and influence that was unparalleled.

The Cold War was an ideological battleground for America and if you weren’t down with them, they were going to use their influence and position against you. In America’s immediate sphere of influence in the Caribbean and Latin America, its foreign policy showed just that.

The invasion of Grenada, frosty relations with Jamaica under socialist Michael Manley due to his links with Fidel Castro and of course the embargo against Cuba, all showed America in an unfavourable light. Moreover, these were states with populations and economies that were dwarfed by that of America. Were these actions really befitting of a nation that so many governments were clamouring to curry favour with?

It was a similar story worldwide although American imperialism was met with little opposition. Furthermore, it managed to engender enough resentment in creating instability and a general mess in so many places it touched. Consequently, that meant a shift where America was now experiencing increasing disdain. This unwittingly became the price for the pursuit of American hegemony.

Meanwhile, America has lost its dominance on the world stage in a changing world. Countries like India and China, once considered impoverished developing nations, have become economic powerhouses and emerging superpowers. Militarily, and with its ties to Russia, China provides a deterrent that keeps American military ambitions in check. Despite Trump’s misplaced arrogance regarding American military prowess, even he doesn’t want it with China (or at least his military advisors don’t). Geopolitically, the status quo for America just isn’t what it used to be.

Life in America, once the envy of foreign audiences, was also seen differently. The image of living in America was an export that much of the world sought to emulate. Although eventually, that image began to be chipped away at by an awareness that living in America wasn’t great for every American.

If only living in America was as cool as Apollo Creed and James Brown made it seem…

The response to Hurricane Katrina left America appearing to write cheques that its body couldn’t cash. If America lacked the wherewithal for a meaningful and effective response to a natural disaster, what business did it have claiming authority on how other countries ran their own affairs? Not to mention, it was now clear that America was acutely polarised between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and the latter’s experience wasn’t part of the lifestyle projected by America. Films like Boyz N the Hood showed this years earlier but Hurricane Katrina wasn’t a film. It was real life and inescapable in sharing an undesirable narrative of modern America.

Ariel view of Hurricane Katrina destruction by Office of Response and Restoration is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Police killings of black people and systemic racism also brought America’s institutionalised ethics into disrepute and showed ills within its society that were hardly selling points for the country. It was the same for the vehement defence of the Second Amendment against a backdrop of fatal mass shootings including at schools. The praise that was once heaped upon America had now turned to criticism that shows no sign of stalling.

America was once akin to the most popular kid in school who everyone either wanted to be friends with or wanted to emulate everything about about. Though today, its popularity is waning and doing so rapidly. When you contrast the shift between the perception of America today with that of America at the end of World War 2 and throughout much of the Cold War, the difference is palpable.

Like the British Empire before it, America has seemingly began to run out of steam in maintaining its dominance. Once permeating popular culture and achieving political hegemony through its global influence, Brand America just isn’t what it used to be. And like most previous superpowers in history, even an opportunity for a rebrand is unlikely to see it return to its former glory.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The growth of grime and UK rap

Just like their American counterparts, rappers from the UK rap and grime scene have long had an image problem when it comes to their acceptance in the mainstream. Their artistry, being born of articulating the ignored experience of deprived communities, typically makes for a grittier identity than those from other genres. Consequently, for many rappers, that persona is deemed an essential measure of credibility; so much so that many rappers will exaggerate that image when they really aren’t about that life.

Yet when that identity has met the mainstream, it’s traditionally struggled to find itself compatible with a more commercial sphere. The necessary professionalism, etiquette and maturity needed to operate beyond the periphery of the underground has often not been forthcoming from rappers. That’s manifested itself as tardiness when attending professional engagements, a distinct lack of media training (not every sentence needs to be rhetorically punctuated by “you get me?” when you’re on a mainstream platform) and an unawareness of some behaviours and vernacular just not being appropriate for mainstream audiences.
“I’m a big man but I’m not 30… oh, wait…”
Even the ability to show a lighter side hasn’t always been apparent; incredulously, there’s been an underlying view that momentarily losing one’s screwface might actually erode the perception of an artist’s credibility. It was akin to the bashment scene before the likes of Elephant Man injected some of the fun back into the genre with his colourful visuals and acknowledgement of the dancing culture within the genre.
Why so serious?
An inability to separate the road from the radio, incriminating themselves and others with reckless talk, and glamorising rather than articulating tales of the road, was once all too commonplace. Some might say said artists were keeping it real. But from a business perspective, it was keeping it real dumb.

That didn’t help the perception of the culture either. And given most rappers are black or assume the culture of the diaspora, it didn’t help the perception of the black community either (and we’re undoubtedly facing our own image problem without needing the aforementioned to compound it).

However, in recent years there’s been a shift and the scene has found a professionalism and maturity that it lacked for years. That’s provided a conduit for more artists, and the scene overall, into the mainstream and without necessarily needing to compromise with a watered down product. No longer is it mandatory to be tense at all times and even a burgeoning voice of genuine social consciousness has emerged.

It’s hard to pinpoint when or how the change came about. In the era of Chip (when he was still Chipmunk and mentioned in the same breath as Ice Kid), Tinchy Stryder et al entering the scene, major label investment in their media training was very obvious. Nevertheless, let’s not forget Chip came through via Alwayz Recording before signing to a major label. The business savvy of Alwayz Recording in knowing how to play the mainstream game was therefore apparent even before Sony got involved. And it was a similar story for others of that wave.

Tinie Tempah, one of the most commercially successful artists from the scene, quickly gained a reputation in the industry for his professionalism. In Tinie, there was an artist who was from a scene that was rapidly gaining traction and he eschewed the traits that meant the mainstream were still reluctant to engage with the artists who originated from it. He was punctual, articulate and knew how to engage his audience on a respective platform.

Newer and younger artists, who would have once been stuck with a paradigm of ignorance from previous artists, now had an exemplar on how to act accordingly beyond niche success while reaping the benefits of commercial and critical acclaim.

Achieving commercial and critical success has long been considered a challenge, just as the notion of rappers maintaining their credibility while showing a capacity for not taking themselves so seriously has long been elusive and seen as a dichotomy. The belief that these are mutually exclusive has long held back the scene but there’s been a shift in that perception to its betterment.

Giggs, undoubtedly one of the hardest and certified rappers in the scene, carries unquestionable authenticity in his bars. Yet he’s undoubtedly contributed to refuting the view that rappers need to be constantly tense. Check his Instagram account and contrary to what many might expect (and what the Daily Mail would gladly have you believe), you’ll see banter galore that in no way dilutes his credibility. Nor has his content changed in the process.

Buck, Giggs’ manager, brings similar content to his social media and like Giggs, he doesn’t feel compelled to perpetuate the portrayal some might ignorantly expect. A criticism of the scene was that its major players didn’t show any growth but Giggs and Buck show exactly why the scene has finally been able to move forward in embracing maturity without any loss in credibility.

On New Years Eve, Buck posted a video advising people to avoid any drama and to stay away from anywhere that might present avoidable trouble. For Buck to send such a positive message, but from a perspective of credibility that others might not possess, shows just how far the scene has matured and the direction it’s hopefully taking.

As the scene continues to grow, so does its social awareness. The 2017 UK General Election saw Labour make huge gains and the support of the scene and its fans for the Labour leader, accompanied by the hashtag #grime4corbyn, undoubtedly contributed to that. Although unlike some endorsements of politicians by musicians, this wasn’t a gimmick. Jeremy Corbyn’s desire and championing of social equality, juxtaposed with the inequality and growing poverty that has characterised Tory Britain, resonated with the scene.

This wasn’t faux political engagement. The socio-economic injustice of Tory Britain was something many within the scene had experienced first hand and were able to relate to. Furthermore, it signalled the advent of a social and political consciousness. Just look at how many from the scene have been vocal about Grenfell Tower, just as Stormzy was at the Brits? Whereas the dialogue occurring now would have previously been limited.

Increased unity and a willingness to collaborate has also facilitated the growth within the scene. One of the reasons southern rap experienced popularity while New York fell off was that southern rappers worked together while New York rappers wouldn’t. The UK scene has done the same and it’s brought about an attitude that means it no longer remains stagnant in its maturity.

Just as the players within it have matured, the grime and UK rap scene is finally beginning to evolve with them. While entry to the scene is typically at a young age, we can’t all maintain the mindset of our teens as we’re faced with the trappings of adulthood. Like Chris Rock said, no one wants to be the old guy in the club and the scene was at risk of becoming that old guy.

The grime and UK rap scene hasn’t lost any credibility as it modifies its outlook. Indeed, there are now artists that admittedly have a more commercial sound but that’s part of the scene’s expanding breadth. It’s also alongside the harder and signature content that it’s best known for. Instead, the scene is gradually losing the narrow perspective that long kept it in the shadows of the success and growth it’s now capable of achieving.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Chris Eubank Jr needs to rebuild and go back to basics

Contrary to what Team Eubank had managed to convince many pundits, boxing fans and even the bookies, Chris Eubank Jr lost a unanimous points decision to George Groves. The Brighton man was outclassed by Groves from the first bell and it quickly became apparent that nothing Eubank and his father had prophesied in the fight was going to happen.

When Eubank started his professional career, I was taken in by the hype based on his supreme conditioning and great engine. But his loss to Billy Joe Saunders was the turning point when I realised I’d been hoodwinked like so many others. I started looking at Eubank’s handpicked opponents, typically void of decent head movement and therefore perfect for replicating his “instafamous” training methods (because no matter how many times you hit the punching machine, it’ll never hit you back), and his apparent lack of punch power. What exactly had he done in the ring to confirm he was the real deal? He talked the talk but he didn’t walk the walk.

Consequently, I tipped Groves getting the W in their fight. I could see Groves using his boxing brain to fight at range, controlling the fight with disciplined and effective use of the jab all night. And that’s exactly what happened. Eubank was unable to close the distance and his messy and ineffectual work (exacerbated by a bad cut beneath his right eye) was the only thing he showcased.

Groves, however, was just too good, too big and too strong for Eubank and he worked to a game plan whereas Eubank seemingly didn’t even have one. If anything, I thought the scorecards were too close based on the extent to which Eubank was schooled by the Hammersmith man.

How could I be so sure? Surely Eubank’s high workrate and athleticism had to count for something? Was this not destined to be the opportunity he needed to showcase it?

It could have been. But when you can’t land a shot, and you’ve claimed you don’t need a trainer to steer you away from what was often an amateurish performance, you’re very quickly going to find yourself in a dilly of a pickle. Alas, that’s the situation Team Eubank had engineered for their man.

Coming up short for the second time in his career that he’s actually stepped up in class, Eubank, and his father, don’t need to eat a slice of humble pie; they need to eat the entire thing. Until the first bell, they’d convinced so many of his prowess and so compelling was their narrative that many believed the hype. Yet Eubank’s talk was writing cheques his body couldn’t cash.

In defeat, Eubank appeared delusional in calling for a rematch and audaciously calling out IBF super middleweight champion, Caleb Truax. There was no realisation that right now, challenging for world titles isn’t what he needs or deserves. Rather Eubank needs to go back to basics in every aspect of his team and career.

Team Eubank are still claiming Eubank’s performance wasn’t reflective of what he’s capable of. How many more opportunities does Eubank need to show us he’s the real deal? Unfortunately, for Team Eubank, Groves, like Saunders before him, has derailed the Eubank hype train until further notice.

Eubank proclaiming himself as some kind of Clubber Lang (of Rocky III fame) wrecking machine who doesn’t really need a trainer is ludicrous and the biggest learning point he should take in defeat. Eubank is a phenomenal athlete and at domestic and fringe world level, that can sometimes be enough. Although to operate without any depth in actual boxing skills at world level is ridiculous and declining to enlist the services of a trainer to address that is beyond arrogant. Should Eubank be able to talk himself back into undeserved contention for a world level fight off the back of his defeat to Groves, he’ll be left wanting again with the status quo.

Ronnie Davies, Eubank’s trainer seemingly in name only, is effectively a sideman in the corner. That isn’t Davies’ fault, that’s the position he’s been relegated to by Eubank and his father. Davies needs to call it day with Team Eubank. He doesn’t command the respect of Eubank and that ship has long sailed.

Eubank needs to seek someone who’ll actually train him and almost reteach him to incorporate boxing basics into his style. He needs someone who he’ll listen to and respect and with whom he’s able to establish a rapport where they’re a trusted voice in the corner. The question is, is it too late to undo Eubank’s arrogance and establish the required balance in his team? His corner was an absolute shambles. Has he not realised this himself?

Much has been made of the distraction that Eubank Snr presents to his son’s career and his team. Eubank Snr knows how to sell a fight with his controversy but perhaps Eubank Jr too has been taken in by his father’s promotional fanfare. After his latest defeat, Eubank Jr may have finally been given the nudge to distance his career from his father and if he wants to progress his career, that may well be an unexpected move in his rebuilding. After all, the ‘warrior’s code’ clearly wasn’t enough on this occasion and Eubank Jr might want to enlist some orthodox advice going forward.

Naseem Hamed, part of the ITV Box Office punditry team, went as far as saying Eubank should call it a day and didn’t mince his words in lambasting Eubank’s performance. Hamed alone made the PPV worthwhile, dropping more truth bombs on Eubank than a Funkmaster Flex show. I don’t think Eubank need throw in the towel on his career but he needs a rebuild of his team and a reality check of just how good he currently is.

Eubank arguably also needs to move back down to middleweight. Groves is a big, strong super middleweight and without a rehydration clause, he would have entered the ring as a light heavyweight. In contrast, Eubank is a blown up middleweight who’s just too small. Already not being a big puncher, he lacks the power and size for the 168lbs division. It was apparent when he fought Groves and it’d be the same against any legitimate super middleweight at world level. They say speed kills in the ring but not if you can’t land a shot and can get man handled from the outset.

Eubank is a decent fighter, just not the fighter he claims to be. If he wants to become the boxer he says he is, he needs a new team and to adopt a dose of humility to balance out his spades of hubris. His defeat to Groves, and the accompanying deflated ego, may just be the wake up call he needs to effect that.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

The forgotten narrative of a new dad

When my son was born, I had two weeks of paternity leave before I had to return to work. That’s it. Two weeks. In contrast to some countries, that might be quite generous but in comparison with up to a year of statutory maternity leave in the UK for women, it’s incredibly meagre. More significantly, it denies new fathers a reasonable amount of time to bond with their newborn child, not to mention being able to support their partners with the challenge of parenthood before returning to work.

During our pregnancy, society’s lack of regard for me as a dad-to-be (in contrast to that of my wife) was distinctly apparent. And when my son was born, that continued. As a new dad, my narrative as a parent is one that is unfairly relegated, further diminishing the role of fathers in society.

My return to work after paternity leave was complete with getting up early and returning home late, just as I had done before fatherhood. Although, long working days, and the pressures and workload of my role, were now accompanied by a new layer of responsibility in being a dad; a responsibility that trumps the former without exception.

That responsibility is often exclusively associated with mums as fathers continue to struggle in shaking the stereotype of fathers of yesteryear, some of whom exercised their paternal role at arm’s length and left it to mums. Whereas today, most dads are involved and supportive of their children and their partners.

Just as I was unable to fully empathise with my wife in her experience of being pregnant, I can’t fully relate with what it’s been like in becoming a new mum and everything that comes with it. Nevertheless, I have enormous respect for her and I acknowledge the efforts she makes as a mum that probably exceeds what I would be capable of managing in her position. While I’m arguably biased, she’s a brilliant mum with a natural maternal instinct that never fails to meet what’s best for our son.

We’re fortunate that her parents and extended family are very supportive and they’ll eagerly welcome any opportunity to help when she might need some respite. However, I also recognise how my return to work brought an opportunity for the onset of loneliness.

Being a mum at home during maternity leave or otherwise isn’t easy and it can place a strain on the emotional well-being of new mums. It can undoubtedly represent an emotional and lonely journey (that can manifest itself as postnatal depression) exacerbated by varying support that not everyone is afforded. Yet with those challenges come the reward and fulfilment of being able to enjoy witnessing the development of your child. The smiles, cackles and the many ‘firsts’ mums get to see all make it worthwhile.

For all the dealing with poonamis, when you could really do with someone to tag team with on the clean up and changing operation, or frustratingly spending the bulk of your day with your child on your breast, unable to get even the most minor task completed, the reward of being a mum is so much greater. Much of that reward is what as dads we sadly miss out on sharing.

There’s a distinct lack of empathy for dads. Our return to work is viewed as respite from parenthood. Complete with adult company and structure to our day that isn’t at the whim of breastfeeding on demand or similar, our role is considered a walk in the park. What do we have to complain about when we’re actually afforded time to ourselves without a baby in tow regardless of what we do? Sadly, that’s how the narrative of a dad is routinely, erroneously and unfairly perceived.

During the week, I feel almost like an absent father. I usually do a nappy change just before I leave for work and I’m home for bathtime and bedtime. But I’m knackered in the evening and any quality time with my son and indeed my wife is compromised by my fatigue, though that doesn’t mean I shirk my role and responsibilities as a dad. It becomes increasingly apparent that I miss out on much. I might see my son do something new and I’ll rush to share it with my wife; only to find out it’s not so new after all. I was just at work when he first did it.

I’ve never attended any parent and baby classes with my son (notably more commonly known as mother and baby classes) while my wife has. Even doctor’s appointments preclude me from attending because they’re scheduled throughout the working day. Weekends are too short as it is and they’re punctuated by life admin and work.

A few weekends ago, I took my son for a walk to see the geese and ducks near the local lake. It was an effort to give my wife some respite while being an opportunity to spend time with my son. However, when I messaged my wife to let her know where we had gone, she was slightly annoyed that I hadn’t waited for her to make it a walk we could have gone on as a family.

Innocently, she was unable to empathise that I craved spending time with my son, and wanted to give her a break, hence us going for a walk where she wasn’t accompanying us. Even with an involved dad for a partner, addressing the lack of time I get to spend with my son wasn’t a driver for her rationale in understanding my decision.

The lack of understanding of what a dad experiences in missing out on time with their child is far reaching and worrying but a shift in thinking doesn’t appear to be forthcoming. My hour to the lake with my son was insignificant compared to the entire week my wife spends with him; for many, that’s not a perspective that’s even considered when thinking of the emotional challenges for new dads.
Escape from the Job by Stefano Corso is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Personally, there’s a further frustration with the forgotten experience of dads and that’s as a black dad. Negative and racist stereotypes have left many seeing a black, involved dad as somewhat paradoxical. Being out with my son, I’ll sometimes receive odd glances while pushing his pushchair as if it’s a mirage to see a black dad, let alone a dad period, behind the handlebar. Black dads exist and we’re involved.

Elliott Rae, founder of Music Football Fatherhood, wrote of his experience that I, and many other black dads, share. Consider how dads are already perceived as the lesser of two parents. That’s compounded for black dads who are subject to the unfair stereotype of being occasional fathers that are only involved on an ad hoc and unreliable basis.

While my wife is exclusively breastfeeding and on demand, that remains a role I can’t fulfil. But as far as everything else goes, I’m on deck. If I hear my son crying at night while my wife is asleep, I’ll dash to the nursery to soothe him back to sleep before she wakes up. I do everything associated with being a parent and to support my wife in what society acknowledges can be a tough role in being a mum. We just need to acknowledge that albeit differently, being a dad isn’t easy either and our experience deserves to be included in the narrative of being a parent.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

We need to recalibrate our moral compass when it comes to the sex industry

While the digital era may have eroded the adult entertainment industry’s traditional revenue streams, the demand for content has hardly waned. If anything, it’s increased. The shift from print and recordable media to the internet has made adult entertainment more accessible and sought after than ever before. According to Alexa Internet, Pornhub now even ranks higher than Microsoft search engine Bing in global popularity. Newer formats for the industry, like webcams and chat line channels, have also provided further platforms and avenues to quench the desires of their audience.

Elsewhere within the sphere of sex work, prostitution is considered the world’s oldest profession. The staying power of the sex industry is proven and as long as libidos exist, it’ll remain. Yet the stigma around it continues.

Sex is often the elephant in the room which reinforces the stigma around the industry. Granted, for many, sex is something that should be kept as personal. But that shouldn’t drive our judgement of those involved in sex work. Furthermore, when you consider what should cause our moral compass to point south, should that really include the sex industry?

Putting aside what might be legal in respective jurisdictions, ethically, what has anyone working in the sex industry done wrong? Sex workers provide a service for which there will always be demand. They barely rely on advertising so it can’t even be said that they’re influencing their client base to acquire a service or product that they didn’t really want.

I doubt anyone visits Pornhub after seeing a billboard en route home and remarking to themselves, “that reminds me, I should check out some porn this evening”. Similarly, no one decides to visit a strip club after getting a flyer in their letterbox. The customer base within the sex industry, regardless of the platform or service, need little persuasion. It can’t be said that their business and interest is sought aggressively or immorally either.

So why is the sex industry condemned and subject to such stigma? With adult entertainment, there’s arguably a taboo around masturbation that compounds this. But is it also because the basis of their business is sex and society isn’t comfortable enough to openly accept their product?
Jenna Jameson by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Have we allowed our discomfort to taint our judgement against those that work within the industry as we perpetuate the seedy image it’s been forced to assume? More importantly, why have we felt it necessary, and acceptable, to criticise sex workers who haven’t done anything wrong aside from working within a profession that doesn’t sit well with our own opinions?

Sex workers often can’t admit what they do without fear of judgement. Conversely, how many bankers have that same reticience or shame when announcing what they do for a living? It beggars belief that a banker can work in an industry void of ethics, celebrating the fact that what they do for a living facilitated a financial crisis and continues to polarise wealth in society, yet not be judged for it. Meanwhile, being an adult entertainer remains a taboo occupation.

Lisa Ann didn’t cause the subprime mortgage crisis but her (former) industry attracts a level of opprobrium and shame that would indeed be apt for the banking industry that actually did.

When a former detective claimed that thousands of thumbnails of porn had been found on the work computer of Tory MP Damian Green, it wasn’t a good look for him. That’s understandable on the basis of that much porn suggesting he was busy knocking one out when he should have been busy representing his constituents and fulfilling his role as First Secretary of State. However, it’s the porn that he’s experiencing shame for rather than the fact that he was viewing it at work.

I’m no friend to the Tory Party but if we’re judging Green and other Tories for their conduct, there are much worse activities that they should be censured for. We have a Tory government that presides over a country where food banks and poverty have become the norm alongside underfunded public sectors. At the same time, the 1% continue to thrive and aggressive tax avoidance and evasion is encouraged. Yet watching legal porn is what we’re judging a Tory MP for? What does that say about how skewed our own moral compasses are when it comes to adult entertainment?

There is a moral debate to be had around adult entertainment and the broader sex industry. The safety and treatment of those within the industry, and the promotion of distorted images of women, gender relations and expectations within relationships, calls into question much around sex work. However, that’s distinct from the stigma that the sex industry attracts.

Everyone is entitled to their views on the sex industry. And while it’s longevity is proven, it will always remain a divisive subject. Although that shouldn’t mean those who work within it should be subject to an unnecessary stigma based on the discomfort of others.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Money can’t buy happiness

I’ve always been fairly prudent with money and recognised its value accordingly. However, through circumstances beyond my choosing or control, I found myself taking out a number of loans in my late teens. While my peers used money from part time jobs for clothes and going out, I was instead supporting my family and now servicing the debt that came with the loans I now had to pay off.

At the same time, my struggle with depression meant I was fully acquainted with the dark cloud that hung over me. I thought the albatross of debt had caused me to feel this way and figured money might be the solution to banishing the immovable cloud that had long plagued me.

Eventually, I came towards the end of the loan and decided to pay it off early. I’d yearned for this day and was sure that I would feel better once I was debt-free. I vividly remember walking into a branch and announcing to the member of staff at the desk that I would like to pay off the balance of my loan. After years of repayments that I resented, this was going to be the beginning of life after debt and I would start feeling better immediately as money was about to solve my problems. Alas, I was wrong.
By Howard Lake and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
I walked out of the branch, free of debt, expecting that ominous cloud to have receded as soon as I crossed the threshold of the bank. But it had it hadn’t budged, and it wouldn’t for many subsequent years. I felt helpless and empty. I’d pinned all my hopes of feeling better on paying off my loans but it didn’t change things whatsoever. If anything, it made it worse because I was all out of ideas as to how I would ever address my depression. And I had now succumbed to the belief that I wouldn’t ever be rid of it.

Money couldn’t address my depression, and in effect buy me happiness, and I was ignorant and naive to think it could. Yet in an ever-materialistic society, we’ve been conditioned to believe to the contrary.

When many of us think of happiness, it’s generally linked to an image of materialism. Money and opulent lifestyles produce a narrative for what many of us perceive as a life of happiness. If only we were able to fund that lifestyle, without any constraints, surely our happiness would be secured and guaranteed, right?

We’ve become accustomed to our perception of happiness as a superficial concept. And as a result, we can’t see past or realise our folly in money being a weak, inadequate and hugely misleading gauge by which we measure it.

We can’t pretend that there isn’t a joy and contentment that’s derived from money. Being able to maintain a lifestyle that affords us the freedom to do what we enjoy, and to purchase whatever we desire, without feeling the need to monitor what we’re spending, is undoubtedly what most of us aspire to achieve. And it’s certainly a life I wouldn’t reject.

Although, what happens when we become jaded with what money can provide? When we need to make more and bigger purchases to replenish our levels of happiness? Or when we encounter desires that money can play no role in facilitating, yet run so much deeper than material cravings?

Good health? Companionship? Self-fulfilment? Money can’t buy any of them. It’s at this point that we realise money is a vehicle that will only get us so far in our pursuit of happiness. And like getting on the wrong bus or train, that you were nevertheless sure would get you closer to your destination, it often terminates at a location that makes it even more apparent how far you are from actual happiness.

Bob Marley’s last words to his son Ziggy were “money can’t buy life”. Money wasn’t something Bob Marley was lacking to say the least but he realised that it didn’t buy happiness. Although never more could it have been apparent to him, his family and friends as he died, a rich man who could buy much but couldn’t buy life.

In my lowest periods of depression, no amount of money or material possessions would have been able to shift that dark cloud. Money was a worthless commodity and a currency that wasn’t accepted in exchange for anything that would aid my mental and emotional health improving. Sadly, it’s typically at moments like this when we realise how ineffectual money can be in facilitating our happiness; when we’re already at rock bottom in our distance from achieving it.

It’s difficult to distance ourselves from the notion that money can bring us happiness when we’re bombarded by images that support that. Social media perfectly filters the lives of celebrities appearing ‘happy’ in all that they show us. So we attempt to project our own ‘happiness’ with similarly curated moments that have the same aim of showcasing our materialistic prowess. Because there’s no doubt of someone’s happiness when they’ve taken a selfie of themselves outside of a designer store.

We’ve sadly based happiness on carefully selected snippets from the lives of people we don’t know and assumed that if we had their money, we’d match their assumed happiness too. We don’t know what happens after they put their phones down and aren’t “doing it for the ‘gram”. Are they depressed? Are they experiencing personal problems that make what we see insignificant and shallow in contrast?

Not only are we linking money to a perception of happiness that’s based on someone else’s life, but we don’t even know if they’re actually happy. It begs the question how we’ve been able to make such a strong link between two entities without tangible and credible evidence to support this assumed connection.

How many people underpin their pursuit of happiness by money? Aggressively seeking a partner who’s rich? Or a job with good pay that they hate but feel will validate their self-worth? The assumed feeling of happiness that those decisions result in is typically short-lived as the denial associated with them can rarely remain repressed forever.

Good mental and physical health for ourselves and those around us, self-acceptance and connections to people that matter to us. None can be purchased with money yet all provide happiness to an extent that is unmatched by anything acquired in a store. We need to start redefining what happiness means to us and how we go about achieving it.

Our own path to happiness will always be subjective. Nonetheless, we’ve been made to believe that it’s driven by materialism as capitalism has permeated even how we define good mental health. Hence the narrative of happiness being linked to money. If we consider our own definition of happiness with honesty and introspection, we’ll realise that money isn’t a key to attaining it. It undoubtedly affords us tangible representations that certainly bring us satisfaction and joy. But in the truest sense, money can’t buy us a version of happiness that really matters.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Difficult conversations in the black community

When you compare black people to other ethnicities, we’re arguably one of the more open communities. Black culture is always apparent in the places that the diaspora finds itself within and we generally integrate better than other ethnic minority groups. By that token, both our successes and challenges are more visible and the latter is therefore viewable for those even outside of the community. Where other communities are very adept at keeping their problems in-house, our experience has meant the contrary.

Being from London, one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities, I feel qualified to say with confidence that I know we aren’t the only community with challenges. I’ve seen institutionalised misogyny, racism, drug use, domestic abuse and much more as stereotypical, albeit not consistent, features of other communities that never seem to get the spotlight on them due to their insularity.

But for the black community, we aren’t afforded the luxury of keeping our problems to ourselves. Consequently, the issues some sections of our community are faced with are exploited by the media and society and used to besmirch the majority of us, even within our own eyes. The latter is significant. We can’t perceive ourselves in such a negative way, let alone allow others to do the same, without realising it’s something we need to talk about. So why is this a conversation we aren’t having?
Three Men by Rennett Stowe is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The sad reality is that even as a black man, who’s been around black people my entire life, I will be more likely to be suspicious of a large group of black youths congregating than I would with a group of white youths. That’s only for me to have to check myself for what is essentially racial profiling of my own people. Rapper and activist Akala said the same of his initial thought of suspicion when seeing a fellow black male paying in a large amount of cash at the bank, again, only to have to check himself for succumbing to racial assumptions.

Despite both being black men, society’s successful racist conditioning has caused us and others to identify with a negative perception of those in our own image. What a win for racism and a failure on our part to recognise and stem it from happening.

It could be argued that the openness of the black community places us in a better position to address this and to have the conversations that other communities instead ignore. Though we aren’t taking advantage of that and we’re suffering in our denial that this is necessary dialogue for the community.

In a controversial but incredibly hilarious sketch from his Bring the Pain HBO special, Chris Rock spoke of the distinction between most black people and the minority that feed the stereotypes we face -
“Now we’ve got a lot of things, a lot of racism in the world right now, Who’s more racist? Black people or white people? Black people! You know why? Because we hate black people too! Everything white people don’t like about black people, black people REALLY don’t like about black people. There’s some shit going on with black people right now. There’s like a civil war going on with black people, and there’s two sides. There’s black people and there’s n******. The n****** have got to go”.

Putting aside subjective views on use of the n-word, amidst my uncontrollable laughter I immediately identified with such a brilliant articulation of the frustrations I had as a black person with a few within my own community. There was us, the majority of black people who made being black a privilege and something to be celebrated. And then there was them; the minority whose foolishness and ignorance the rest of us have to suffer the stereotype for.

The sketch divided black people. Rather than being owned as an experience of most black people in distancing ourselves from negative stereotypes, some viewed it as airing our dirty laundry in public. Did those people not think it was bit late to be concerned with that given those stereotypes were already in the mainstream?

The fact is, every ethnicity has those bad-minded few that don’t reflect the masses but do push negative stereotypes. Yet rather than acknowledge the very home truths that we need to face and address in order to progress, we’re failing to reflect and act.

In countries where the black diaspora can be found, we make up a shockingly disproportionate amount of the prison population and are subject to disproportionate racial profiling by police. The US is another kettle of fish with not only institutionally racist police forces but that being accompanied by well documented police brutality that’s encouraged by the douchebag-in-chief. In the UK, the racial profiling similarly exists against a history of tension between the police and the black community.

Racial profiling by police in the UK can’t be denied. Like most black males, I’ve been stopped by the police (something many non-blacks have never experienced). Furthermore, if they’re looking for a suspect, surely we don’t all look the same. Yet what we also can’t deny is that violent crime occurring within the black community seemingly isn’t going away. And if the police wanted an excuse for their racial profiling, that’s given it right to them.

Again, it’s a minority of black people responsible. Nevertheless, it’s enough to warrant acknowledgement and urgent addressing when black youths killing other black youths happens to the extent that it is. White youths kill each other too in the same sad circumstances that are also against a backdrop of deprivation and a lack of education. But when you make up around 3% of the population, as black people in the UK do, it becomes a much alarming reality.

I’ve previously written about the legacy of slavery on the black diaspora and the aforementioned can clearly be traced back to this. Centuries of being dehumanised and perceiving ourselves as inferior has permeated the black psyche to an extent that even today, we’ve been programmed to see the price of our own black lives as cheap (while the establishment continues to push that narrative for us and everyone else). This isn’t said to justify crime within the black community but rather to explore its deep rooted causes that have worsened with deprivation. Nonetheless, this is a problem that exists now and needs to be addressed.

Sky Sports boxing pundit and boxing historian, Spencer Fearon, tweeted his support for stop and search as a tool to address the rising gun and knife crime within the black community. That’s despite black people being eight times more likely to be targeted than white people. However, his comments came following him attending two funerals of black youths in the past month, both due to gun crime.

The disproportionate targeting of black people being stopped and searched is a clear indicator of racial profiling by the police. Although in the context of violent crime in sections of the black community, Spencer Fearon acknowledges a pressing issue that can’t be ignored. Whether or not you agree with him, it’s a necessary conversation that we aren’t having and to the detriment of our community. Meanwhile, black youths are succumbing to our inactivity on the matter while bad apples are allowed to have such an adverse effect on the community.

The experience of the black diaspora around the world is similar. We aren’t having the difficult conversations necessary to progress as a community. We have successes to celebrate which we need to build upon but we also have to address the challenges that we face. Unlike other communities, our difficulties are already in the public domain which exacerbates how negative we look to others when we fail to address them.

Acknowledgment, dialogue, cooperation and action need to be forthcoming within the diaspora. Otherwise, we’ll remain stagnant as a people and continue to succumb to the actions of the minority. Every community has them, ours are just out in the open making it that bit worse for the rest of us.
© iamalaw

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