I HAVE been hit hard by the events that have taken place in America.

Yet again a black man, George Floyd, has been killed at the hands of a white police officer.

As a young black woman who has family in both the US and the UK, I can’t help but think of the fact that this could have happened to any one of them simply because of the colour of their skin.

Racism still exists and those who believe it doesn’t are blinded by ignorance or white privilege.

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You may have come across the term ‘white privilege’ in the past couple of weeks and it’s really very simple.

It’s when a white person thinks something isn’t a problem because they aren’t personally affected.

It doesn’t mean that you haven’t faced struggles, it means that you haven’t been put at a disadvantage in life or faced prejudice because of the colour of your skin.

A lot of people say racism doesn’t exist in the UK and, although in my opinion the US is a lot worse when it comes to police brutality against black people, the UK is not innocent.

Racism comes in many different forms – not just explicitly.

I was born and raised in Oxfordshire, a predominantly white area, and I’ve had experiences where I’ve been treated differently because of the fact that I’m black.

The main form of racism that I’ve experienced is micro-aggressions. These are things that people say or do which ‘put-down’ black people or make us feel ‘less than’.

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An example of this is when I worked as a waitress and would often talk to customers who would say ‘you’re so articulate’ or ‘you’re so well spoken’ as though it’s unusual for someone who looks like me to be intelligent. The message sent here is that black people aren’t intelligent or can’t speak proper English. This is false.

Another experience I’ve had is when people ask me where I’m from and even though I say Oxfordshire they say ‘no, where were you born?’ as though because I’m black, I can’t possibly have been born in England. The message sent here is that I’m not British, I’m a foreigner. This is false.

I’ve also experienced white men saying ‘you’re really pretty for a black girl’ as though because I’m black, I can’t be beautiful. The message sent here is that people who look like me aren’t attractive – and yes, this is false too.

Growing up in a white area, going to school where I was one out of about six black pupils and in my sixth form school the only black person out of about 700 pupils, I did struggle with my identity.

Oxford Mail:

I looked different to everyone else and I wanted to fit in with them. The main thing I was very self-conscious about was my hair. People including adults, would ask to touch it – which I always found strange – and which, looking back, is something that really isn’t acceptable.

Luckily I haven’t experienced any serious racial abuse but there are many people – including friends and family – who have had it a lot worse than I, with constant stop-and-searches by the police, unfair treatment in customer service and verbal abuse.

So yes, unfortunately the UK still has a racism problem and it needs to change now.

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The Black Lives Matter protests that have happened in the US and in the UK are necessary. They have brought a great amount of awareness to the problem and are a tool used to bring pressure on those who are in power.

I had the opportunity to go to a protest at the weekend and the sense of unity I felt there was so strong and instilled so much hope.

Standing by other black people – at a safe distance – who have experienced perhaps the same things that I have, also reminded me that I’m not alone, which when you’re living in a predominantly white area, can sometimes feel like.

Now I’ve seen a lot of people saying that Black Lives Matter isn’t right or fair and that ‘white lives matter’ and ‘all lives matter’.

Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives aren’t important. We know that non-black lives matter too, but the worth of white lives has never been questioned.

Ask yourself, do you wish you were a black person right now? If the answer is no, then clearly there’s a problem and there’s a need to acknowledge the ways that black lives are considered 'less than'.

Black lives are in danger so right now, Black Lives Matter.

Then there’s people who say rioting and protesting won’t solve the problem and is not the right way to create change.

Well, people aren’t just reacting in this way because of the brutal murder of George Floyd, they are frustrated with the constant persecution, injustice and oppression that black people have had to face over hundreds of years.

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My ancestors were taken from their homes in Africa, stripped of their dignity, their culture, their name, their language and their freedom. They were forced to work for nothing as slaves for the economic benefit of America and Britain.

But despite the fact that this is over and black people now have civil rights, have contributed to society in many forms like music, science, sport, food, etc. we are still being treated unequally in institutions and systems.

So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that people are rioting and protesting after witnessing a black man being murdered in broad daylight by someone who is supposed to protect all people.

As Martin Luther King Jr said ‘a riot is the language of the unheard’.

I’ve also seen people say protesting during a pandemic is stupid and dangerous.

Oxford Mail:

Yes, we know there’s a pandemic going on, but the fact that black people are still willing to protest, despite the virus disproportionately affecting them, just shows how much this means to them.

Maybe people should question why what they are fighting for is so important that they’d risk their health, rather than looking forward to blaming them for a second coronavirus peak.

What I think is one of the ways to stop racism in the UK is education. Education is so important.

History lessons at school covered topics such as the Tudors, the Romans, the Vikings, The Great War, World War 2, Florence Nightingale etc.

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Although these are all part of British history and I’m sure have had an impact on the lives that we live now, slavery and the British Empire is something that is not taught enough.

We tend to skim over slavery or make it sound as though it was just an American problem, but it wasn’t. It was a British one too and perhaps the toppling of the statue of 17th century slaver and merchant Edward Colston in Bristol at the weekend has opened some people's eyes to this.

The more non-black people learn about what actually happened, the more they will understand us and the reason why we are still fighting for justice and equality today.

It's 2020 and we have resources at our fingertips to educate ourselves on absolutely anything.

It's not enough to say that we aren't racist. We have to speak up and call out when we see an injustice taking place in order to create change.