#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 101

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 101

Day 101

Sitting on the sofa, hooked to the TV, I am watching Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga. Having been raised in France, I know little of British history. What I have learned about it is entirely white and this program is opening my eyes to a whole other side of history I am ignorant of.

It makes me wonder what I haven’t been taught at school about French history. I remember talking about the slave trade, a maritime triangle drawn over an expanse of blue. I remember being told about colonisation and decolonisation. Neither of those topics occupied more than a handful of lessons. Neither of those topics really talked about history from a non-white perspective, and neither of those topics needed to be studied to pass an exam.

Early on during lockdown, I discovered the work of Adeline Rapon. My eyes opened then to a sliver of what I wasn’t taught but more importantly I realised I had not ever considered this gap in history. Of course, I have know that the history I had to learn at school was white and selected. We never spoke about our neighbouring countries unless a war was involved, so anything further afield is vague at best in my mind. But as David Olusoga mentions in his programme, the history of white Europe and BIPOC is intertwined. You cannot narrate one without the other. But we do and I have.

I think of the book laying on my bedside table too, filled with myths and legends of Nigeria. I am devouring it, turning to Google at least once every chapter to read more about what I am learning. I question why I have never been curious about those myths. Not just Nigeria but further afield too. I have read widely about Western myths and legends, from Greece, from Rome, from France, from Ireland, from Nordic countries, from Russia and more. I have glanced at myths and legends from the Americas, China, Japan, and even Australia. But I know nothing of Africa. It is a blank slate, one I cannot explain. I rack my brain for why this gap exist in my knowledge. Myths and legends is a thing I like so why have I ignored all of Africa for so long. It is an easy answer. I have not looked very hard. Most of my learning has come from lessons, books, exhibitions, and television programs. Algorithms and human bias have offered me a truncated view of the world, one I didn’t question much until recently.

I think of the conversation I had with a friend recently who told me the lives of BIPOC is not as bad in France as it is in the USA. I am not convinced. If part of your identity is constantly buried under the noise of white society, how can you truly be? If society sees you as a threat, as someone who is other all the time, how can you truly be? I cannot imagine how it must feel but I can perceive glimpses of what it might be like from being a lesbian. I used to be ill at ease in France, homophobic language casually thrown about without a second thought, society sending me images of what a couple should be like and it wasn’t me. But I have always been safe. I was often asked for my ID card in border trains, the police checking for illegal travellers, but they barely glanced at my plastic card. How could I be a threat? Me, this young white female quietly reading a book in a corner of the train carriage? I will never understand what it feels like. And this is okay. But I have run out of excuses not to question my world view, my daily life, and my actions.

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