The death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement came at a time of transition between the arrival of Covid and its establishment as the way of things to come.
News items have become filled less with the numbers of people affected or dying, tests or treatments, instead focusing on inequalities and injustices within and around us.
I won’t quote statistics as they aren’t my thing, suffice it to say that whenever you find high rates of disadvantage, premature death, infection, mental health and so on you will find a strong correlation with poverty and ethnicity.
The picture is complex, ranging from the inner city to the suburbs of our larger towns.
I am no expert.
All of this had me thinking, following a discussion last night with Anne.
BAME – it is Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic; me, arguing it’s Black and Minority Ethnic… I woke at 1am and checked Google; it transpires she was right. The former is true – the latter, my interpretation is BME;
It’s all a play on words and can risk us missing the point, a little like toppling statues, which I support although perceiving this as being the goal is falling short of acknowledging the enormity.
During my night-waking period I also checked as to whether I fit with BAME or BME.
You see, it is not necessarily the colour of your skin, which when discussed always makes me think of Steve Biko and his description of white people as pink when challenged about his self-descriptor.
Me, I don’t know, it depends on the time of year.
Shifting to whether it is ethnicity, or religion, I do fit in.
I have been listening recently to George The Poet’s Podcast – I highly recommend; and he has had me thinking along these racial lines.
Sure, no one has called me out for being ‘the Jew’ in a long time, although it was fairly common practice as a boy for the playground banter to alight on ‘Jew Bug’ – a game of sorts, like tag (tig in Scottish), where you would pass-it-on, or the references to me being Chocolate or Jobby Boy; I can remember my parents always being more upset that me at these descriptors.
There were the issues of name mispronunciation or spelling, which continues to this day – again, when I was small that was perceived as a flagrant distortion of my Semitic heritage. I don’t know.
As a lad I attended Jewish Class with Mrs Ramzu. When the other children would assemble to sing about Jesus we would sit together (10 or so of us, I recall) and listen to our teacher drone in her, I seem to remember Manchester accent, which in itself was an anomaly in 1980’s Glasgow.
I suspect I have forgotten more than I remember; our brains help us out in that way.
The topic is so broad it is impossible to cover in the limited space and focus of one of my blogs – where do you go? Is it isolation, segregation, poverty or disadvantage?
I’ve certainly mostly been lucky on these accounts.
Yet, even recently when I caught someone alluding to our approach being from a similar, if not the same hymn sheet, it was present.
It is the subtleties that perhaps erode.
In life, I seem to get-on with most people; I like it that way. Yet, there are those who touch a nerve.
And, reflecting on my progress, my movement through a career that has been odd; up and down, rocked by frustration as much as elation, there is the question to whether those outcomes, the factors that have influenced my promotion, demotion or stagnation are the product of me – my weaknesses, flaws, inability to perform at interview or, whether there is something else at play.
When I lived in Israel, the notion that I was being picked or not for the basketball team was not an issue of religion or ethnicity, it was my speed of movement and lack of talent that left me last in the line; I don’t think I was ever selected or not on the basis of my Scottishness.
If you are going to be Jewish in the diaspora, surely, Scottish is the identity to own – I mean, who likes the English?
It is hard, if not impossible to see ourselves as others see us; even our reflection in the mirror is reversed.
Who are we?
What factors influence the ups and downs of our fate?
I am picked or not on the basis of factors that are often beyond my ken.
Funny how some people can score 100% in blinded exams yet fail at interview or even the selection.
I know some people, a couple of former Iraqis who, in the 70’s upon arrival in the UK changed their names – it is harder to pass on ‘George Cooper’ than Mustafa Ali-Abdul, for example.
Rod Kersh or Reuben Drozynski?
We are all battering like moths in nightly frenzy.
And, does it matter?
My obsession with Person-Centred Care is a translation of my earlier take on Humanism.
It is all stripping away the outside and delving deep into the heart; the soul, what lies beneath.
The colour of our skin is various, the shape of our face, head and hair, yet, our eyes, seem a constant.
He has brown eyes doesn’t mean a thing.
If you take a step backwards, towards etymology, something else I used to like was the interpretation of my Hebrew name;
You see, every good Jewish boy or girl has either a Hebrew and an English name or one or the other.
My parents chose Reuben in Orthodox tradition after my Grandmother Rebecca.
And, I know this is some sort of subjugation, it was also a canny attempt of my parent’s generation to have their kids blend-in. Although the blending was, as I say, tricky when everyone else in my primary school class was fair of skin, and I, mid-June was quite dark.
Anyway, the point I intend, of the Reuben is, if you read the Old Testament (this, Jacob’s oldest son, the name means ‘see in my eyes’) – something I enjoyed growing-up.
I go back to the beginning; BAME, BME, Jew, Yid or whatever.
The same language is applied in healthcare – ‘aggressive demented old man’ taking the diagnosis as the identity is as bad, as limiting as the skin-colour or ethnicity.
We are more than our pigments; we are more than the diagnostic label wrongly or rightly applied by a doctor;
Changing the name is perhaps a first step, it is however changing how people see that is critical.
Look at me, the poem goes, I am not just an x, y or z.
I am me.
All this again loops back to an earlier theme – evolution; our movement up or down the spiral of understanding, or seeing, perceiving.
We continue to fight; we continue to call-out those who see in monochrome.