BABEWORLD3000 Reading Group: Intro to “Taking Up Space”

TAKING UP SPACE EXCERPT

Notes made during the second BABEWORLD3000 reading group, reading the introduction to Taking Up Space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi

  • the expectations placed on minorities- remembering where you come from, but not allowing yourself to be tokenised
  • the pressure to succeed that others who are not marginalised will not experience, or at least not to the same degree
  • being black and British as a unique experience
  • “For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the fact that no one could pin down my identity. I never wanted to have one defining characteristic. I wanted people to see that I could be all of them at once. I wanted to be complex, be able to change my mind, have opinions and interests that didn’t necessarily make sense all the time. My identity was never just me: it was perfect distillation of everyone around me.” 
  • the quote above particularly spoke to me as I have Borderline Personality Disorder- I find my personality becoming defined by different aspects of my identity, because I don’t know what else “I” am, and it often feels like my personality is made up of bits I have stolen from other people- certain opinions, likes, dislikes, that belong to people I know, rather than being my own
  • already exhausted by microaggressions and you then have to educate your peers every time your marginalised group is mentioned or discussed
  • reductive- reducing people down to one single aspect of their identity- i.e. being black, or working class, or disabled- you are a “black artist”, or “disabled artist”, ect- you become an involuntary spokesperson for that whole group of people
  • a lot of us talking about how to our families and friends we sound “posh” or “well spoken” but in the art world we never feel good enough, people point out our accents, ask where we are from, we have to change parts of ourselves to fit in, dilute our identities and break ourselves down into bite-size digestible chunks
  • maintaining the effort of being “presentable”
  • discussing how in the media black British people are rarely called British, despite being born here or having spent the majority of their lives here- for example the recent thing with the Windrush Generation, compare this to African Americans who are considered “American”. Also discussing the COVID19 pandemic currently happening and how the media is reporting the fact that British people of colour are dying at higher rates but skirting round the reasons why this is happening- institutionalised racism- and still refusing to call these people British. One example is a BBC News headline from a few days ago: “Coronavirus: Black African deaths three times higher than white Britons- study” – Why is it worded this way, as if to imply that they are not British?
  • having to hide disabilities and mental health issues to get into these institutions
  • people who have privilege often don’t want to acknowledge that they have privilege
  • “It would soon become my most defining characteristic, in a place in which I had thought I would have licence to explore every facet of my identity.” Obviously the author is talking about being black at uni, but for me it relates to being reduced to a few parts of my identity- i.e. being working class, fat, LGBTQ+ (when I eventually came out) and mentally ill. It felt like the only acceptable bit of identity that I could explore during my degree at uni was being queer, the other things were not seen as acceptable- I shouldn’t flaunt my fatness, or my mental illness, or be “too working class” whatever that means. Even in LGBTQ+ circles though, particularly in the LGBTQ+ society at my uni I was made to feel not “queer enough”- I hadn’t yet dated a woman or other genders apart from cisgender men, and I didn’t and still don’t look stereotypically “non-binary” (i.e. skinny, shaved head, masc clothes, wearing a binder to change my chest)
  • I made a conscious decision on my MA to be loud and outspoken about all aspects of my identity, but it is exhausting to always have to be that token person to bring up accessibility, classism, racism, ect
  • “As a minority in a predominantly white space, to take up space itself an act of resistance.”

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