Book of the Month: So, About That… A Year Of Contemporary Essays on Race and Pop Culture
Author: Seren Sensei
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Page Numbers: 202
“So About That…” is a collection of contemporary essays on the various effects of pop culture in 2015 on race. I was already aware of Seren Sensei through her YouTube channel, where she not only discusses racial topics in addition to those included in the book but has a variety of reviews (my favourite being A Seat at the Table and Moonlight!) and other miscellaneous topics for conversation. With 50 essays, Seren divulges into the many factors in society that not only contribute to racism but also sexism, amongst other marginalisation.
Privilege, particularly white privileged, is discussed, and what caught my intention particularly was her opinion of white allies – they’re welcome, however not needed, unless they don’t ‘preach’ to converted (i.e. Black people who should already have an idea about the oppression they face in today’s society) and actually practice their knowledge, by calling out their racial counterparts (especially family and friends) on their internalised racism; which I believe in difficult for some, and, admittedly, has even been a challenge for me in the past.
Two new concepts that I was aware of but didn’t have knowledge about its actual term were black elitism and ‘racism without racists’. Without going into detail (she does this very much in this book), I understood black elitism to be the idea of black people deeming prosperity to being approximate to white people – wanting a ‘seat at the table’. Whether this is of the schools you choose to attend based on the demographics in the location, or the prominent race of people in your friendship group. Another concept I gained an understanding of was ‘racism without racists’ – a term first coined by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva in 2004, in his book ‘Racism Without Racists – Colour-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States‘ (definitely added to my reading list!). In today’s society, it is very clear that racism is still deemed to be someone explicitly discriminating another person on the basis of their skin colour. This leads to many examples of people in society who claim not be ‘racists’, whilst still demonstrating racist behaviour – Giuliana Rancic immediately comes to mind.
My favourite essay from the book was definitely the one that discussed the problems integration in the 60s had – in essence; it was a ‘trap’. Whilst she was specifically exploring ‘integration’ in the United States, I could see the parallels between that time and the integration of immigrants in white culture of the UK. Assuming white culture is the clothes, straight hair, and the English language immigrants have had to integrate into a totally different culture from their own. A somewhat personal example I can use is the migration of Nigerians from their home to the UK from the 1960s, due to the political unrest during the civil war. Additionally, an increase in Nigerian migrants was evident during the 1980s, due to the collapse of the petroleum boom resulting in more Nigerians employment elsewhere. As you can imagine, integrating into a foreign society, where racial tensions were high, meant Nigerians had to assimilate in order not to be targeted, not only by hate groups but potentially by every white person they encountered – whether on the street, at the workplace or in schools. According to Google, to ‘assimilate’ is to absorb and integrate (people, ideas, or culture) into a wider society or culture.
In the context of migration, this would indicate that white society was the dominant presence (being in a prominently white country, where by 1981, approximately 80,000 Africans populated Britain, compared to the estimated 51,000,000 white people). Therefore the Nigerian immigrants had to ‘fit in’ by assimilating to ‘white culture’ – wearing less Ankara, straightening their natural hair or wearing weaves/wigs (although recently these are being worn as protective styles and to look flawless; more than anything else) and learning the language, although accents were still thick, and therefore an object of ridicule.
Before I go off on a tangent too much, Seren and I agree with the focus of racial equality being outdated – yes, black lives matter and a way of expressing this fact (in addition to believing we’re equal to our racial counterparts and black pride) is by black unification – something I explain more in the recent article I wrote for Maarifa Circle. Additionally, Seren draws attention to the interview with Malcolm X from Louis Lomax in 1963, discussing his views on integration in the US, and the inferior position of the black population despite achieving ‘equality’ through integration.
Overall, this book was a very interesting read, which made me yell ‘preach!’ in some areas and grudgingly nod in agreement for others. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to seek a black woman’s perspective on racial and gender matters that revolve around our society today, and you can check out more of her content here!
Silence is consent. And it kills.
If you have any recommendations for us to read, then let us know! Comment below, and we’ll check it out!