I want to preface this by making it clear that this is not an official statement of any kind, but merely a reflective exploration and decanting of my thoughts and feelings during this time. I feel it’s important for me to process what’s been happening of late, and where better to do it but on here? My little corner of the internet which houses many of my thoughts, feelings, emotions and declarations.
Over the last couple of weeks, I feel like I haven’t had a voice, and so for me, this post is about reflecting and being able to process everything.
There has understandably been a lot of upset and anger over the last couple of weeks, some of which has been unjustified (I speak of the share of people using this as an opportunity to send me racist, fatphobic abuse). I take full accountability, I’m reflecting, I’m learning and I’m moving forward.
What happened then.
A section I believe, that should be discussed in two parts (back in 2011 and then early 2020) as there are a couple of things I’d like to clear up:
2011ish: I’ve been active on Twitter for a very long time. Over 10 years -in fact – and used the platform predominantly to either talk about beauty and skincare or talk about TV shows and other things, which I would live-tweet. As a teenager, I was a bit of a knobhead when it came to the TV shows I found funny and would often quote/retweet them on Twitter. I found a lot of blue/savage/offensive humour in TV shows amusing. I wasn’t as woke or as socially aware as I am today. I was immature.
A couple of weeks ago, a publication published the above mentioned insensitive tweets from 2011 which referenced members of the Jewish communities.
The publication also linked me to a horribly offensive tweet (which can still be found under the original tweeter in 2011). I think it’s important to re-clarify that the tweet was not mine, nor did I engage in it. That reporting was misinformed and I need to correct that. The only connection to myself and that tweet is that I used to follow the user, who was a fellow beauty blogger at the time.
January 2020: The publication also mentioned other tweets, from a thread and exchange with other people in January that centred around talking about the Holocaust. The tweet mentioned that the Holocaust was the ‘worst thing to happen in human history’, which I quote-tweeted and added ‘I think there have been worst things that have happened in history, but due to them happening to black and brown people, we do not get the visibility needed.’
I tweeted this during a tumultuous time politically, especially online. It had been a couple of weeks after the UK general election, and tensions were rife.
Some members of the black community were being called antisemitic for voting Labour, everyone else was being called anti-black for voting Tory…it was an absolute state. The day before my tweet, I was sent messages from people on Twitter who told me that “it would be in my best interests to vote Tory next time”, as black trauma and pain isn’t as monumental as what the Jewish community goes through. I ignored these tweets, however, the anger and frustration over repeatedly being told that black trauma was irrelevant, stayed on my mind.
The next day, I saw the tweet regarding the Holocaust drift down the timeline, and in a state of high emotion and frustration, I tweeted. The tweet spawned a short thread, with people also sharing their opinions before I was aware of the insensitivity of my tweet and how it was phrased.
Where I am today.
This then brings us back to today. I wanted to provide clarity on the tweets because they were misrepresenting me and what happened over the last 10 years.
I’ve taken time to reflect on what’s happened, my intention was never to harm, or hurt anyone. As someone who is prevalent in the activism scene, especially as part of a marginalised community, I know better than anyone how important it is to hold people to account when they say something racist, hurtful or harmful. I have been in situations where I’ve held people to account, due to racist/fatphobic comments and I think it’s incredibly important to know when you’ve said and done something wrong. To acknowledge it, own it, apologise for it, use the moment as a way to educate yourself and others, and grow from it.
I feel so strongly about the way in which black and brown bodies are seen as disposable when it comes to anything social justice-related. Our struggles, our trauma, our pain isn’t given as much visibility in general, and is instead seems to be relegated to one month a year.
Every day, we are told and made aware that black bodies do not matter. That our pain is irrelevant. That our struggles aren’t as important and in that moment of trying to open a conversation about the traumas of black and brown bodies.
In school, I was rarely taught about black history and in fact, had ‘ethnic minority month’ instead of black history month. Our History teachers’ idea of teaching us black history was to put on random episodes of the TV show ‘Roots’, and leave the room. I cannot speak for other students back then, but I didn’t even fully know the history of the Transatlantic slave trade and other such African genocides and traumas within my history until around 20, and that was due to my own research and good old YouTube.
In my effort to discuss the lack of visibility within my community, I ended up minimising the pain and trauma of Jewish communities as well as erasing the black, Ethiopian and Middle Eastern/Northern African Jewish communities from the conversation, who also suffered at the hands of the Holocaust. Without taking into account the date, or the fact that I was engaging in an ‘all lives matter’ discourse, I tweeted emotionally and from a place of ignorance, and that was never my intention. I am not someone who holds hate in my heart for anyone, of any colour or any community, and to know that so many people have been hurt by comments, makes me feel terrible. I apologise, from the bottom of my heart.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading various resources kindly given to me by peers and friends regarding Jewish history, culture and traditions. I’ve particularly been reading ‘Unwhitewashed’ by @Yasmine.dreamz // @Ethnically.Jewish on Instagram, which delves into the history and timeline of Jewish persecution (stemming back all the way to around 500BC! This makes for a very surprising and heartbreaking read, as I had always assumed that the persecution of the Jewish community was something relatively recent, in the last 100 years or so), differentiating the sub-communities within the Jewish community, such as Mizrahi, Sephardi, Ashkanazim, Beta Israel etc but also establishing the meaning of Antisemitism.
I always associated Antisemitism as another type of racism and so have always associated it with overt, violent hatred, microaggressions, tropes and other forms in which racism manifests itself normally. This week I learned that Antisemitism is something entirely different. Yasmine explains the differences in her book clearly:
“Racism argues that non-white people are subhuman. Antisemitism actually argues exactly the opposite: that Jews are super-human, somehow able to control everything from the world’s wealth to even the weather”
In both instances, the binding thread here is that they are dehumanising. In my January tweets on the day they were published, I’ll be honest in saying that while extremely clumsily written, it took me a couple of hours to finally understand why it may have appeared antisemitic, as I believed I hadn’t used a slur or said anything inherently or overtly violent or directly ‘racist’ in my tweet. But that’s because I was looking through the lens of anti-black racism, not Antisemitism.
I realised that there is a huge sense of fear and eggshell walking within both black and Jewish communities too, which often leads to misunderstanding, and the intentional and unintentional racism, anti-blackness and antisemitism as a result. I think a lot of it stems from a lack of education, on both sides. This incident has taught me how much I do not know about the long history of the Jewish community (and the histories of the sub-communities) and being able to educate myself using the resources given, speaking to amazing activists, friends writers and leaders in the community such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Deborah Joseph, Jess Morgan, my friend Alyson and the incredible Hen Mazzig to name a few, and reaching out to friends, peers and writers within the community has taught me so much. I would love to use this as an opportunity to help lessen the gap between both our communities, as we have so much to learn from one another.
I’m planning to help organise a roundtable event with Deborah where people from all the communities can just….sit and CHAT. A safe space for us to ask questions without being seen as offensive. A place for us to realise that we are more alike than we are different. Something I’m very much looking forward to. At the end of the day, with the two communities in conflict, the only thing that wins here is white supremacy. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
My tweets at the time were the result of pure, 100% ignorance. Not of malice or hate.
I’m a human being who makes mistakes. I want to use this moment as a way to become a stronger ally, more knowledgeable, and pass on all the things I’ve learned and will continue to learn, to my community. I believe that people can – if given the space – have the opportunity to change and learn and be better.
If you’ve read this far, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to give this a read.
(As a side note – I’m going to try and focus on this blog a lot more moving forward as it’s been really helpful in me being able to process things externally.)