Skin In The Game

One of the things I found hardest during our Indiegogo Campaign was seeing the apathy of many white people towards anti-racism work.

In our team, this led to discussions about how best to reach white people, how to ‘encourage’ them to see their part in upholding white supremacy, to put their money where their mouths are and, ultimately, to take action. 

Having ‘Skin In The Game’ Influences How Actively Anti-Racist We Are…

Observing the pattern of who was consistently liking and supporting many of our anti-racism posts, what became clear was that those people who had ‘skin in the game’ were the ones who showed up the most actively.

For these people, racism isn’t ‘something out there’ happening to an amorphous other. It's personal. So, for example, lots of Global Majority people supported the campaign; as people directly impacted daily by racism they know only too well how insidious and harmful it is.

People who also experienced discrimination and othering themselves tended to be supportive too, because while not experiencing racism they experienced other ‘-isms’ that helped them recognise how this exclusion and harm can feel.

Other people who showed up regularly were those who were in relationship with someone of the Global Majority, whether that was a family member, intimate partner or child, these people had direct personal contact with someone experiencing that discrimination. Skin in the game.

In my own life the times I have been most impacted to address my own biases and have felt most compelled to take action have always been when I have had personal experience of the discrimination myself or direct interpersonal connections with people experiencing discrimination. Skin in the game.

Skin In The Patriarchal Game

As a woman and having grown up in a feminist family where the numerous ways in which women were treated differently was highlighted and talked about, I was very aware of the discrimination that women faced and this led to my choice to pursue Gender Studies at University and take action against things that upheld patriarchy. Skin in the game.

Skin In The Ageist Game

When growing up my mother fought hard to change stereotypes around growing older and to support older people to retain independence in their lives. She worked in an Older Person’s Home that did it differently; front doors that staff had to knock on for each ‘street’ and a High St with regular shops and a pub. Staff were there to assist, not to ‘care for’. As a child I got to know many of these people and cared about them…not as stereotypes, frozen in one moment of their lives, but as whole people. That left a lasting imprint about ageism. Skin in the game.

Skin In The Ableist Game

While working for Liz Carr, the Disability activist and later actor, I became acutely aware of the discrimination faced by Disabled people. I saw weekly how people treated her - and because I knew her so differently to the typical stereotypes of a Disabled person…of a helpless, meek, dependent person with little expectation to be educated let alone smart, funny or sexy with a good job - it mattered to me not to enact those stereotypes myself and to actively challenge them. Skin in the game.

Realising You Have Skin In The Game…

When Lea and I met she hadn’t consciously integrated her experiences of racism and we conducted our relationship almost ‘colour blindly’. Her experience of having been adopted at birth by white parents meant she had necessarily absorbed whiteness to fit in and belong. The discrimination we faced as a couple we tended to attribute to homophobia.

As a white person I didn’t have to confront the racism she experienced daily, or my own part in that. Obviously over time this changed massively, 2020 being what it was. As she, and consequently I, began to reflect on her experiences of racism and growing up under white supremacy, we both began to realise our own skin in the game. 

Not Wanting To Realise You Have Skin In The Game

This wasn’t true for LGBTQIA2S+ discrimination however! Seeing my two gay teachers experience gossip and homophobia at school did not lead me to action. I had my own skin in that game but I was nowhere near ready to admit it. I could keep my gayness hidden. Skin not ready to be in the game. (A privilege in itself).

The Only Skin In The Game

So how do we get more white people to have their pale fragile little skins in the anti-racism game? Aside from stopping white people from procreating together…which to my mind would be no bad thing but places a rather large burden on Global Majority peeps!!!

Oooooh, I can hear the rustle of a white cloak or two at the mere mention of white extinction. Let’s not forget, for some white supremacists, the Nazi’s construct of an Aryan race didn’t go far enough: They wanted theirs to be the ONLY skin in the game.

Just Like Me-ness

As white people, we have all grown up with different experiences and therefore arrive at our aspiring allyship with different levels of understanding. For me, having grown up in a very white rural community I had very little understanding of the experience of anyone who wasn’t white, christian (although I don’t identify as this, I grew up with the christian faith all around me) and largely, just like me. 

And despite having travelled and studied, including learning about structural racism and colonialism, there is still a pull to be with ‘people like me’. Why? Because it’s safe, comfortable, familiar, less challenging? Because let’s face it, it’s risky being with people who are unfamiliar to us. What if we fuck up? What if we embarrass ourselves? Upset this strange unfamiliar other? Harm them? 

All valid concerns and yet…when we don’t take the risks, we stay in our little corner of the world, rarely venturing out and never learning or growing. Never having to sit with those uncomfortable feelings of not knowing, of worrying about if we look a tit and having to think, double think and triple think about what leaves our mouth in case we harm someone with our words.

Our more global work environment, especially with the move to more of us working remotely, has meant that we are experiencing working with a much more diverse range of people.

No longer in our safe little white enclaves in a physical office we are necessarily having to show up and get comfortable being uncomfortable. For many of us it is a painful journey (nowhere near as painful as racism).

But as we become colleagues and friends with more people not like us, more of us will have skin in the game, more of us will care about all of our skin colours - not just the pale variety - and more of us will be driven to take action.

Because anti-racism isn’t a game, it is life or death when some skin literally has more value placed on it than others.

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