LOUD, HOT, RAW & PROUD; BlacAngst PT 2 - The Uppity Negress (sound, word and dance art)

 Intent versus impact

My father was an abusive and violent man. One of the ways I've dealt with that trauma, part of my own self healing, has been to aim to understand why and how. People are generally not born bad, violent, abusive. They become that because of, well, a mixture of nature and nurture but personally I lean more towards nurture. He moved over to the UK from St Lucia in 1965 with his family. I gather he himself never wanted to come but was persuaded - forced - by his father; who by all accounts was an incredibly tyrannical and viscous character. He came here because he was forced to and then had to endure the out and out racism that all who came over in the Windrush did.

He then met, fell in love with and married my 16 year old and pregnant mother. They were both so young, too young really.

They went on to have 4 kids, me and my siblings. One thing I know myself from the journey of parenting is that it is fucking hard, especially in those early years. Not just hard practically but hard on your soul. Under pressure your less favourable traits come to the surface, mistakes (of your own parents) you had not thought you were capable of repeating loom heavy. It takes a lot of strength and self awareness to become the parent you want to be, to fight the past. Perhaps my father was just too young and the traumas he had suffered (moving to the UK, having an abusive father himself and the severe racism he had had to endure) were still too raw for him to objectively and comprehensively work through. Instead, he became a blueprint of his own father. Violent, emotionally distant, mentally abusive, to my mother, me and my siblings.

It has helped me, understanding this, to not be caught up in anger and bitterness. Unfortunately, it would appear he is not any different (from what I hear on the grapevine) and will not accept any responsibility. I have contacted him on a few occasions throughout my life to give him that chance. So, my understanding does not involve forgiving and forgetting. He is my biological father but he is not a part of my life, mine or my siblings, or mother. Basically, I understand that it was not his intention to cause me, my mother and siblings harm. But that does not alter the impact he made on our lives. It has shaped the woman I am in so many ways.

Intent versus impact. That can be applied to a multitude of scenarios. When we look at misogyny for example. A man may not have intended to make a woman feel uncomfortable by making a comment about her breasts, her weight, the size of her ass or the fact that she isn't smiling, but that doesn't alter the impact. He might even, in some ways, be excused or understood because this is the world we live in. Where 'boys will be boys' and men, well, men are surrounded by so many images and messages about women, womanhood, that are reductive and objectifying and also about the supposed superiority of their own manhood, that they almost can't help it. Hardwiring. Socialisation. Poor wee lambs. Doesn't change the fact that their actions and words essentially help to create and maintain a system that oppresses and controls women. These reasons for their behaviour do not lessen the impact though. Intent therefore is a little meaningless.

In the light of current debates and discussions around the BLM movement I want to discuss, look at, the idea of intent versus impact here too. Because it is hyper relevant. In the good old days, when I were a lad (80's), when British folk would refer to the Indian corner shop as the P*ki shop, it was often just accepted as simply common parlance. I've heard justifications such as 'P*ki, it's a descriptive word, it's short for Pakistan, it's not racist'... To...'my mate Assim uses the word P*ki all the time' to 'its only a word'... The idea being, in the minds of white folk who used that word, they were not intending to be offensive, let alone racist. So therefore it wasn't...and ultimately wasn't a problem. Issue is, that it was/is a racist term and a problem. It was used to denigrate and abuse Asian people in the UK, in particular by the National Front, and using language like that casually, created an atmosphere of other and fear. Intent ergo was simply a weak justification for not wanting to address ideas of equality and fairness. For not wanting the stigma of racist but equally not being prepared to think about the language they were using.

Nowadays, racism exists on a very different platform. Yes, there are indeed still many forms and incidents of direct, abusive and violent racism towards POC, here in the UK as well as the US, but the new, more contemporary forms are so much harder to spot, let alone discuss...and I feel in some ways this is where we are at currently. Most of my life I have ignored the subtle comments that have bristled, made me feel uncomfortable because, although they were not outwardly racist, they are deeply insensitive, racially insensitive, biased even, and come from people who are so hardwired with their own privilege and entitlement that they are unable to see it.

White fragility. Eesh...ugly and terrifying words to most white folk currently, I'm sure. This is not racism but does come from having spent years, centuries really, existing in an identity that is privileged and the sudden realisation and understanding of what that might mean. It must be a deeply unpleasant journey. I accept that. But really, it's small fry compared to being systematically devalued and degraded for centuries. Being born into that legacy and knowing that you have to express yourself gently for fear of ruffling the delicate white feathers of those who on the one hand want to listen, want to know, but are not quite there in regards being told they might be wrong.

Again intent versus impact brings this all into sharp focus. Just because the intention behind your words and actions, white allies, are good, does not mean they will always land well. You need to be open to being taught. So for example, Boris Johnson, when he did his infamous article in the Telegraph, where he referred to Muslim women as looking like bankrobbers and letterboxes. His defense (and reason for not apologising) was that he did not intend any harm. On the contrary, his intention with that article was to discuss how Muslim women should be free to wear a hijab, regardless of whether they looked like... Yes... I think we all know what level of bullshit reframing that was. Not the greatest example perhaps because the vast majority I see of this kind of thing is simply an error. Like when I was asked last year by a woman at an Extinction Rebellion fundraising event, to describe some of my experiences with racism and qualified that question by stating 'I'm not saying you're lying, it's just I've never witnessed any racism...but from what you say it's everywhere...' This was after she had asked me to explain (talk on behalf of ALL POC) why there were so few POC involved in XR stuff. To which I replied, perhaps it's got something to do with having their/our energies depleted by constantly having to battle being othered or other forms of more explicit racism... No, this young, white, middle class woman had no intention to be racist or cause offense but ignorance is no longer a valid excuse. She was totally ignorant of any ideas of race politics or structural racism, or even her position of entitlement and privilege. I did suggest a book for her to read; Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race, which is not a book about NOT engaging white folk in conversations about race, it's mainly about how and why it CAN be so hard and yes, draining... She didn't seem to like the suggestion and said that it was enough for her to ask me and besides, her time was taken up doing good stuff within the climate change movement, going on to talk about how this should actually be everyone's priority, cause you know, it affects us all. Implicit being so deeply explicit here. Racism. Equality. Privilege, etc were not important topics for her and it ruffled her delicate white feathers having it pointed out that perhaps she should be trying harder. That she was being a little offensive.

So...for anyone that has gotten to the end (well done, I know, I talk A LOT!) To tie all of this together, is my video piece... Sometimes art expresses my inner whirl far more succinctly than a 1000 or even 3000 words ever could. I am tired of being constricted by the fragility of people who are more concerned with the intent of their actions/words, than the impact. I will no longer turn myself off, down or aim to sugar coat my feelings, my expressions, for the sake of that hallowed fragility.

I realise that the intent of my work, my words and art may be very, very different to the impact. I often cause offense and discomfort, but art is supposed to disturb the comfortable maybe, in part, that is my intention. Whether the impact is introspection, thought and change is entirely a different matter...

Yes, yes, I bang on and on about race, politics, what it means to be a woman of colour living in a white, male, middle class centric world, white fragility - constantly... I know, and I would apologise but, truth is - I'm not in the least bit sorry.

The poem (below) that I am reading in the video is an old one, one that I drag out every now & again to make a point. I wrote it as an ode to the Marvellous Maya Angelou, in particular in reference to Phenomenal Woman... Because, you know what... Loving yourself amidst the furore of othering, microaggressions, out and out racism and just general elitist us & them bullshit, IS A REVOLUTIONARY ACT! It is a form of protest...and this poem is simply about that... Currently, in the face of all this white fragility whipping round my derriere, it is about not just loving but also staying true to myself amidst...

Is it too loud for you?
I am sorry
I shall attempt to turn it down -
Express my passions
More discreetly
Put away my self-made crown.
Swing my hips
A little less brightly
Form my words
A little less clear
Laugh my laugh
A little less
Lest the noise
Ignites your fear.
Is it too hot for you?
I do apologise
Let me dampen down the flames
Let the steam compress
Your anguish
Let the chill
Disperse your pain
Let the dark
Give you a handle
Where the light
Was too oblique
Eschew pursuit
Of truth and wisdom
In shame and bigotry.
Is it too raw for you?
Come let me cook it
Fry it up and make it soft
Cut it up
And make it presentable
Make it palatable
Add some salt
You need it sugar coated?
Why, of course you do
Boil it down
Condense it
Can't have the bitterness
Of your reflection
Taken whole
Swallowed neat.
Am I too proud for you?
I won't say sorry
I will not turn that off or down
Bring it low enough
Until I’m silenced
Metaphorically gagged and bound
I will not pander
To your requirements
That I prop you up and
Duly play
The reflection of your panic
As you sense you’ve lost the game…


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(S)llew la Wulf
(S)llew la Wulf

Yet another artist screaming (colourfully) into the void. I like to dance. I write. I do self portraiture and i draw... I cover topics ranging from racial bias to female sexuality to capitalism to rape culture and of course, love ❤️


Some of my more political writing and art...

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