Alexandra Dobreva | Ignoring the Issues that Make Us Uncomfortable

Since starting in Cambridge, I have had several discussions with other (white) students on the topic of race. Most are quick to condemn racism and identify themselves as an ally of marginalised groups. Perhaps naively, I had never doubted that if I or anyone else experienced racism in Cambridge, others would be quick to call them out on it. At the end of Lent, at an informal gathering, a male student began discussing the issue of racism with me. (White, cisgender, heterosexual. Clearly an expert on the oppression of minority groups). This quickly became incredibly racially insensitive, and ultimately escalated into a racist verbal attack. My lived experiences of racism were scrutinised and swiftly denied. I was told that my experience of racism was no more valid than his – a man who has never experienced racism, nor any kind of structural oppression, in his life. Any hopes I had of a rational discussion disappeared when this individual used outright lies to argue his non-points, such as the ‘fact’ that “historically, white people have been oppressed by black and Asian people”.

For those privileged enough to have never had your lived experiences denied, let me explain. The initial disbelief quickly gives way to a combination of anger and upset. It doesn’t quite sink in that this person with whom you have just shared a personal negative experience, refuses to believe you. They might as well have taken a fundamental part of you, and crushed it. By denying someone’s lived experiences because you haven’t personally experienced it, not only do you insult their intelligence, but you also deny their very personhood. This kind of denial is tiring. It is tiring because it not an isolated incident; it is a scenario that marginalised groups like people of colour (POC) deal with frequently. You don’t need to be a POC to recognise when another is being racist or racially insensitive. So when it crosses your path – say something. Call it out. Don’t leave someone in the position of having to defend themselves, yet again.

Most alienating was the reaction of others – or rather, the absence of any real reaction. There was never an apology. And yet, most of my friends and acquaintances continue to be his friends. Many prefer to pretend it never happened. This way, despite their proclamations that racism is A Bad Thing, they can remain friends with a racist. People downplaying the event is almost ubiquitous. It is dismissed as a mere “falling out”. Despite being self-proclaimed denouncers of racism, no one has made him reconsider his opinions enough to apologise. Instead, I am the one asked questions, usually “if I will forgive him”. Months later, the elephant in the room is my refusal to pretend it never happened.

This is my problem with many white people who claim to condemn racism. It’s “disgusting” when it is an abstract concept in the outside world – as though it couldn’t possibly exist within the hallowed walls of our university. The thought that it resides amongst us is so abysmal that it is never entertained. Racism is something that exists amongst people such as Nigel Farage, the EDL, Katie Hopkins. Not among our student population. However, when racism happens in front you, it is ignored. To you, he is still good old so-and-so. To you, I’m difficult because I won’t overlook it. And according to yourself, you are still a fierce denouncer of racism.

So let me say this: I don’t want your verbal condemnations of racism. I don’t want to hear about how you are an ally of the anti-racism movement, because you clearly are not. Actions speak far louder than words, so if you are not willing to call out racism when it crosses your path, keep your proclamations to yourself. Quite frankly, I find them offensive.

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7 thoughts on “Alexandra Dobreva | Ignoring the Issues that Make Us Uncomfortable

  1. I personally would never have thought that racism could be that frequent, I’m sorry that your experiences of this has been dismissed so many times. As I’m not a “person of colour”, then maybe it requires to be one in order for the sound waves of such prejudice to reach the ears. I have been so many times around “people of colour” and don’t remember any of them being racially attacked. If I was in this situation I think I would probably note down what the offender says along with the date, because maybe the offender would do the same to others? That way I would be able to unite with other victims and report everything.
    I’m especially surprised that racism could “exist within the hallowed walls of” Cambridge. Are students there not educated well enough to realize the evil and stupidity behind racism?
    I will be frank by saying that this post didn’t make me ashamed of being “white”. Being white doesn’t really mean anything special, as you may be aware it only means that one inherits genes that has developed generation after generation within Europe. According to the history of Caucasian people, we have roots from Egyptians and Canaanites, so for us to be racist to others is very ironic.
    It just really happened by chance that Europeans progressed quick enough in technology to mess around with other continents which gave terrible reputation to later generations. I personally refuse to take any blame from something that morons from back then did. At the end of the day we are all humans.

    Like

  2. I personally would never have thought that racism could be that frequent, I’m sorry that your experiences of this has been dismissed so many times. As I’m not a “person of colour”, then maybe it requires to be one in order for the sound waves of such prejudice to reach the ears. I have been so many times around “people of colour” and don’t remember any of them being racially attacked. If I was in this situation I think I would probably note down what the offender says along with the date, because maybe the offender would do the same to others? That way I would be able to unite with other victims and report everything.
    I’m especially surprised that racism could “exist within the hallowed walls of” Cambridge. Are students there not educated well enough to realize the evil and stupidity behind racism?
    I will be frank by saying that this post didn’t make me ashamed of being “white”. Being white doesn’t really mean anything special, as you may be aware it only means that one inherits genes that has developed generation after generation within Europe. According to the history of Caucasian people, we have roots from Egyptians and Canaanites, so for us to be racist to others is very ironic.
    It just really happened by chance that Europeans progressed quick enough in technology to mess around with other continents which gave terrible reputation to later generations. I personally refuse to take any blame from something that morons from back then did. At the end of the day we are all human.

    Like

  3. I’m not sure if you mean documentary as in links that were given to me from the previous post, or this post? I didn’t see anything to do with any documentaries in this post?

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