Black People Always Carry The Burden When They Shouldn’t Have To

Words: Danielle Dash
Photography: Daniel Cheetham

You know, when I sat down to write this column, I learned a new word: aporophobia. Coined by Adela Cortina, Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy at the University of Valencia in the 1990s, aporophobia is “the disgust and hostility toward poor people, [those] without resources or who are helpless.” Boris Johnson, our current Prime Minister, led the British government to be openly and violently aporophobic—their hostility towards poor people is naked for everyone to see. You know how we know this? School children who qualify for free school meals, and their families, are going hungry. During a pandemic. As you read this! And the only person with power who’s actively doing anything to fight back against the inhumanity is Labour leader Keir Starmer. LOL. Nah, I’m playing: it’s Marcus Rashford, the 23-year-old Black Manchester United football player.

Imagine the cold shame that must crawl up your back as you lay down at night knowing that someone born the same year Eternal (sans Louise) released “I Wanna Be The Only One” with Bebe Winans is doing better than you at your own job: holding the governing Conservative party to account. I simply do not believe Starmer gives an onion-pickled-fuck about children starving in this country. Noble, selfless Black people often choose to step into the gaps between those in power not caring and the needs of everyday people. The work they do to highlight and upend structural and societal inequality serves not only Black people in need, but all people who share their plight.

Just before Lockdown Season 2: The Lockening, Rashford chose to set up the Child Food Poverty Task Force to help end child poverty. As well as being a full-time Premier League footballer, he worked with food shops and charities to continue ensuring three million children never go to bed hungry again. In the BBC documentary Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain’s Children, Rashford’s mother Melanie spoke of working three jobs to provide for her three children and stay afloat, oftentimes telling her sons she had eaten when she hadn’t. It is here in Melanie’s situation and the Conservative government’s response to Rashford’s ongoing campaign that we see how their choice to be aporophobic manifests. Instead of questioning why someone working for minimum wage cannot afford to feed their family, the government and sections of the British public choose to shame the working poor for being poor in the first place. As if being that poor on this godforsaken rock shouldn’t be anathema to all that this supposedly wealthy, ‘Great’ country proposes to be.

Listen, I clocked long ago that inequality—whether it be inter or intra racial, geographic, financial, or gender based—are choices. The choice to uphold inequality benefits the rich and/or those in power, then that choice is presented to people without power as that’s the way things have to be, the only way things can ever be. But make no mistake, friend: in 2021, to be racist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, biphobic, anti-semitic, xenophobic and/or aporophobic are not mental illnesses—they are wilful, informed, choices. And what I love about Black people and other marginalised groups is that, across the world, we have roundly and loudly made the collective choice to reject these prejudices and those who hold them in whichever way we can.

2020 (I was gonna have to talk about it sometime) was a hard, unrelenting year. The pandemic shone a spotlight on racism and state violence like never before. It was like, because everyone had nowhere to go and nothing to do, the world finally made time to listen to our calls to End SARS, and that Black Lives Matter. And while eventually the world moved onto fighting second and third waves of the coronavirus, we lived with the memories of those who didn’t survive; Oluwatoyin Salau, Belly Mujinga, Scott/Scottlyn Devore, Bibba Henry, Nicole Smallman, Breonna Taylor, Monica Diamond, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and so many more. I’m sorry to say this list of Black cis, trans, and non-binary people taken from us too soon is inexhaustible.

For Black people, the racial unrest of 2020 wasn’t a moment or a talking point, it was the continuation of years of struggle for equality and the fight is far from over. While Black people are tired—tired of the racism, the misogynoir, tired of being tired, tired of having to be resilient in the face of non-Black people of colour and white people’s choice to be anti-Black—we have made so much progress and while we must rest, we can’t afford to give up now. Not when we’re closer than we have ever been.

You see, the choice to justify inequity, or, in Keir Starmer’s case, his to choice to claim to stand against it but actually do next to nothing to see its undoing, ain’t gonna cut it no more. We all watched in amazement as white supremacist terrorists stormed the United States Capitol, incited by their loser sentient-mayonnaise-dispenser president. During this violent riot, five people, including a police officer, died or were killed. If we’re honest and really scrutinise the decisions that led to the failed insurrection, at their root, we will find the choices made by people who consider themselves to be fair and moral to ignore the warnings of marginalised voices who identified the clear and present danger that man always posed. After all, it is easy to ignore social issues until they affect you.

But maybe just in time, as western democracy is on its knees, you will hear the cry of the disenfranchised. Maybe now, with broken windows in the Capitol Building, they will understand that the choice to passively allow racists and bigots to move through society with impunity isn’t only a threat to those their prejudice targets, it rots global communities from the inside out. We have a lot of choices ahead of us. I am not so naïve that I’d think the work of the most vulnerable and marginalised among us having to survive a post-Brexit UK will be easy.

But you know what I do know? There are so many wonderful people who have Marcus Rashford’s heart but might not necessarily have his platform or resources but are still choosing to fight and advocate for those less fortunate than themselves. As a queer Black woman, who survived one of the most challenging years of my life in 2020, I am choosing to do my own little bit in my own little way to upend societal structures that exclude and disenfranchise. And guess what, friend? In 2021, you have choices too. Let’s all choose to be part of the next wave of positive change.

Posted on January 18, 2021