Grace Campbell, writer, comedian and activist, is one of my oldest friends who happens to be very funny, abundantly outrageous, and infinitely driven. Grace, who openly admits that so-called “disgraceful-ness” threads through her work, life, and self, is also undeniably – I would argue – ‘Graceful’ in that she fulfils and spills what it is to be full of energy, drive and passion. Graceful in platforming of women comedians, and constantly questioning her own privilege – first and foremost.
She stares down the phone, well, not at me, but at herself, and decides to turn off her camera. We couldn’t get Zoom to work because of this untimely update which is long af, so we resort to an old-fashioned WhatsApp call. Also deciding to turn off my camera, that Monday glaze got me good.
So, I’m going to jump straight in. Recently you published an honest and powerful post, in homage to George Floyd, in solidarity and as an ally with black people and people of colour at the absolute critical need for white people to take full responsibility. To not just ‘share’ ‘like’ and ‘say’ but ‘to do’. To act, and to act Now. And to not stop “just because the news stops”.
Racism is society, it is deepset and festers in UK schools to Parliament, to a white mother’s own bias teaching, and you wrote in your post the need to actively “unlearn”, to “put your money where your mouth is”
“by supporting black led movements, donating to causes such as Minnesota Freedom Fund , and George Floyd’s official memorial Fund, supporting black independent businesses , becoming a member of gal-dem to support the important work they are doing right now. Listen and to not get defensive. To be conscious, read widely, diversify your feed.”
“white people we have work to do and we have to do it ourselves”.
Grace, a particular segment of your post stood out to me. (And I quote)
“If you’re white and call yourself a feminist but you’re not doing the work on yourself to be intersectional, not just for show, but truly unpicking the internalised racism that you have as a white person, you aren’t a feminist”.
I agree with this. And I would like you to elaborate, if you can.
Grace clears her throat, “well, yes, so, I felt like I had to say something, but not just for me, I don’t want to be another white person saying their part, but at the same time the more people who do say these truths, the better. It’s so important to recognise and actively admit that white feminists need to unlearn – and at the same time learn more about their privilege. By being born white, we are complicit and benefitting from a system built for white people. So we have to change that system”.
I nod my head in agreement. It’s true, to be an ally to help black people and people of colour, white people have a lot of work to do, a life time, and it is encouraging, also as a white women, to see the spoken truth of privilege, and to see more and more people unpicking it.
Grace continues. “After I posted, I did get a dm from a woman who said that ‘while she welcomed the post and the sentiment’, she questioned how I opened taling ‘my privilege’. Should I have started with the issue at hand – the fact the George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by white policemen and now the world is fighting back? Yes, she was right, and I suppose I did initially start with “I” because I was going to talk about how we (as white people) need to unpick our privilege, so I wanted to admit my own. But I then welcomed this criticism because I think she had a point, and it’s vital for us white people to always admit when we don’t get it right, which we don’t, often. If more white people unpicked their privilege and admitted it, understood it and did something with it, to give back – make positive change, society wouldn’t be so fucked up.
Imagine if more white people unpicked their privilege and admitted that they were the problem as to why the world is as racist and backwards as it is today. Imagine if Trump admitted he was the epitome of privilege.
Imagine if Boris Johnson woke up one morning and admitted to the nation that he wouldn’t be Prime Minister if it wasn’t for private schooling, going to Oxford, being a white cisgendered man, being the son of a Conservative MP and spoke about his path to power through privilege.”
Suddenly the line goes flat. Grace has accidentally hung up on me. She calls me back, we restart the conversation.
So, Grace, if we are to reach this eventual state of feminism, of intersectional feminism where peace and power sit hand in hand, to you, what is the single most important obstacle to overcome in order to reach that feminist state?
“Ahhh”. There’s a pause. “Nina..!” Even though our cameras are switched off I know her face is perplexed at this stupidly generalised question on resistance “…You know there’s more than one issue, how can I answer that!” She begins to list all the issues in the UK, particularly relevant today (to name a few) “The Domestic Abuse Bill going through parliament, at its second stage! It is so important it includes everything needed to help women, and balances intersectionality, because right now the Bill is not intersectional. It does not help migrant women who currently have no recourse to public funds.
“And of course number one, and ongoing is to act in solidarity and ally with Black Lives Matter and all organisations actively working to hold the police, Governments, institutions, schools, States to account on systemic racism which is killing black people and people of colour”.
Our conversation comes to an abrupt close as Grace tells me frankly that she has to drive her boyfriend back to Brixton, to then get back home to work (she’s writing a book on feminism nonetheless). I quickly squeeze in one last question.
Grace, what would you say to fellow intersectional feminists “you aren’t a feminist if you aren’t intersectional, you cannot be an intersectional feminist without actively unpicking your own privilege and understanding the fights you need to be fighting for other people, not just yourself”.