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  • Aaliyah Iona

Ignorance is never bliss

In my honest opinion, I cannot stand the concept of "ignorance is bliss". I think a poor excuse to not concern yourself with things that neither directly or indirectly ever affect you. As I’ve grown older and gained a deeper understanding of the woman I am and the expectations I have of people around me, I’ve realised that there are a considerably large number of people in this world that are happy to remain blind to others injustices and benefit from their privileges. As a result, people say the rudest and crudest things without batting an eyelash. It is the same people that boldly ask, “Why isn’t there a straight Pride?” And can’t comprehend the need for hashtags such as #BlackLiveatter or #BlackGirlMagic. Said people, I have no time for. I think unless you’ve been in a position where you have felt injustice and blatant mistreatment based on factors beyond your control such as gender, your sexual identity or racial identity you have no place to question parades or movements built to uplift those who have. Consider this, why would someone choose to be born part of a minor and unrepresented group of individuals who experience hostility, and discrimination merely for existing. I’ll tell you who, none of us.

Just recently, I experienced the most blatant fetishism and racism, and it shook me to my core. I’m now at a crossroads with the best way to deal with embedded ignorance: do you educate people and hope to highlight their error in their thought process? Or are you better rolling your eyes and considering them a “write-off”?

 To set the scene, I was filming for an upcoming tv series so you can imagine my frustration as I felt obligated to remain "professional". I sat uncomfortably as men and women stared as my hair was styled during hair and make-up. I had a few men inform myself and two other black women that we looked like sisters, one said felt he needed to pretend he wasn't drooling over us, and another asked where I was from as I looked "extremely exotic". Finally, another male thought it would be appropriate to suggest that one of the women I was with resembled a female in a scene of a film where “she had been in a field all day”. Yes, he described a black woman, in front of two other black women, as resembling a cotton field worker. I couldn't catch my breath. Not that it is relevant, but we were filming a scene from an Opera theatre, no fields insight. I feel that should a black woman being exhausted immediately remind you of a cotton worker, something is seriously wrong with you. He immediately started backtracking and fumbled over his words when asked by one of us, “What, like a cotton field?” to which he could stupidly only reply, “Sorry, no I got that wrong. You are not as poor, as we are all dressed for the Opera”. I was so shocked, I left.

These men were at least forty years of age, and it was telling. Their ability to see nothing other than our skin tone and us as the "other" meant that in a predominantly white space, they were more than comfortable to behave so vulgar. To conclude, it is neither my job or anyone else's, to educate the ignorant and weak-minded. With so many resources available and open discussions being had, you can educate yourself. Sadly, people can't be bothered to empathise or internalise how their actions might affect others. In retrospect, I should have addressed my issues with production, but I felt I couldn't. The lack of capable hairstylist to style mine or other curly hair actresses was telling. I knew their response wouldn't be satisfactory.

I watched women arrive after me the morning of our filming, and they were all beckoned without any hesitation given their hair fell long and silky over their shoulders. It was only myself and other black or biracial women who had to wait before someone felt confident enough to attempt to style our hair. It’s pathetic. The lack of inclusivity on set is exactly why those men felt comfortable enough to say and do whatever they want. Equally, it is the reason why movements like MeToo exist because people for various reasons feel unable to speak up and be supported.

To this day I’m still asked, “Can I touch your hair?” when people see my natural hair. I am neither an animal in a Zoo or your family pet. If you wouldn’t ask to touch your friend’s newly straightened hair then why would you think it’s appropriate to ask me? I understand there are pockets of the world that have never seen a Black person in their life, but, there was once upon a time I too had never seen an Asian person or an Albino, and I did not feel the need to touch their hair or grab my phone to take a picture. It’s disgusting and dehumanising. Equally disgusting, and contrary to popular belief, (I say with an eye-roll so hard, I might have brought on a headache) no black person ever wants to hear someone non-black describe their tan as “dark as you”. The fact is, we do not share the same amount of melanin, therefore it truly is impossible you would ever be as dark as me. I remember becoming so irritated with the comparison that during winter, I’d make a point of telling my white peers at school that I felt “as pale” as them. Ironically, they were not impressed.

The answer to my earlier question I don’t think there is the best way to deal with people. I have decided that I will try once, and if they show no desire to see the error in their thought process, then I want nothing to do with them. In big 2019 there are more than enough resources available for people to educate themselves. By no means do I think everyone should attend LGBT Prides because “it’s the right thing to do”, but you can appreciate the importance of its existence. Equally, you can be white and acknowledge the injustice served towards the high percentage of black people who have died during or shortly after contact with Police. I’d love to have not feel compelled to write this blog, and for Yewande from Love Island to not be taunted by trolls for being “too dark”, however, it seems ignorance is an illness some do not wish to beat.

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