'I may not be able to change the world, but I can certainly change the way I see it'

Lizzie Gore-Grimes, Editor-in-Chief of IMAGE Media, reflects on her own feelings about race and pledges to open her eyes and add her voice to the roar.


Am I racist? It’s so easy to answer that question with a knee-jerk, of course I’m not. I’m educated, I’m open-minded, I’m a good person. I’m Irish, for god’s sake, of course I’m not racist. But what if you start from the much more uncomfortable position of really asking yourself… what if I am?

When everyone was posting black squares on their social media, I didn’t. I find it hard to explain why. It is certainly not because I thought Black lives didn’t matter. I think I felt that as I had never posted anything about racial inequality before, I felt it would be disingenuous of me only to do so when caught up in a current.

I regretted it the following day and the following week, as others lent their voice and support and I admired them greatly for doing so. Why did I feel disingenuous? This was the discomfort I wanted to press on.

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In the last few weeks, I have had conversations about race with friends, family and strangers that I have never had before. I have asked questions that, in forty-four years, I have never asked before.

There’s an easy complacency when you assume the starting point of “I am not a racist”. Because you think that’s enough. In the safety and security of that premise, as a white person – and I speak only for and about myself here – you can feel that you don’t need to “do” anything more.

Only, now, after talking to Ciara have I updated the reading material beside my bed, only after talking to Emily have I counted the number of Black toys my daughter has in her room (2), only after talking to Ebun have I realised that I have done so little to support anyone ethnically marginalised during my career.

Only now have I listened, properly, to a very good friend when he talked about the fact that he doesn’t cross the road at traffic lights because, for his entire mixed race childhood, every time he did, a window would roll down and some cheap gag would be thrown. We’ve known each other for more than 10 years and I never knew that. What rock have I been living under?

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect. – Mark Twain

 

Sometimes when faced with something so vast and so broken you can feel completely overwhelmed. You might think that your voice is weak, and your right to speak out small because you’ve never had to think about where you cross the street. You’ve coasted along thanks to the skin and street you were born into, but as Ebun Joseph so powerfully put it: “You inherited your skin colour in the same way I inherited mine. Don’t feel guilty for being white. You can’t do anything about the colour of the skin you were born into – but what you choose to do with that inheritance is very much up to you.”

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Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi

 

I may not be able to change the world, but I can certainly change the way I see it and I can change myself. I can open my eyes and add my voice to the roar.

Am I a racist? I certainly hope not. Can I do better? Absolutely.


Read more: 'The past few weeks have dredged up difficult memories'– growing up as Irish-Nigerian in Ireland

Read more: 'I am privileged to walk freely in white skin but my children are not': raising children of colour in Ireland

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