There is no such thing as colour

When you’ve worn the coat of oppression or superiority as an identity, how can you simply shake it off: the suit makes the man doesn’t it?

What does Black History Month mean in the modern, Western world? People don’t practice racism. The colour of your skin doesn’t affect your career opportunities. Interracial marriage is universally acceptable. People, regardless of their skin, have access to education. It sounds so easy, forcing the image of democracy and freedom over inequality in the world. It is a comforting image; it allows us to function without guilt, but sometimes reality reminds us of the falseness of this image. The idea of democracy, freedom, and equality, now function as ideologies that don’t allow us to question the actual state of people. Sure I’m free, yes everyone is equal and colour doesn’t matter. If we think there is no racism, we’ll be blinded by blatant acts of it. Black History Month, among other things, reminds us that some features of our society (people, institutions, law), are still coloured by prejudices. I believe there is racism is the world, not because I go looking for it, but because the media lays the pickings at my feet.

Is race never an issue? To that I answer by asking: when you’ve worn the coat of oppression or superiority as an identity, how can you simply shake it off: the suit makes the man doesn’t it? Changing dominant views, societal conditions and prejudices towards people of colour isn’t something that occurred alongside freedom. Being a free black person did not mean that you were a living human being. Human recognition had to be earned by devoted people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and others who took up the cause against racism. Freedom doesn’t equal equality, respect and love.

Great black people fought, made art and invented things so we commemorate them in February. A single month, out of the entire year dedicated to their achievements. People don’t have to think about racism, slavery and lynching in any other month, only in February. Are you witnessing something racist in your culture? Wait until February, that’s the appropriate time to bring it up. Just like there’s an app for that, there’s a month for thinking empathetically.

On Martin Luther King Day I read posts and heard rants from people saying that it doesn’t make sense for them to go to work. However, the argument I heard these people make was that Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man therefore it doesn’t make sense for them to go to work on a day dedicated to his greatness. Those two things – work and Martin Luther King – are unrelated. If you want a day off from work, that’s fine, but don’t use the pretense of a great man to get that. That’s not what the day should be about. What if we all demanded the day off because racism against people of colour is still prevalent; black men are stereotyped as stupid, dead beet fathers; black women are painted as loud, obnoxious, uneducated, ghetto characters; black people are asked to tailor their hair to Eurocentric ideals; inner-racism exists in cultures of colour; and sexism, homophobia and racism still exist even though they are rooted in biological occurrences that are under no one’s control? What if we demanded that we will neither participate in nor contribute to a society in which not all members are treated equally? Why don’t we talk about that, instead of using the sufferance of people for our own benefit?

They told me nothing

You took me to your favourite place

To see the tree they cut down ten years before your birth.

Our fingers traced its history

We brushed our hands back in time through centuries

Memories are mapped out by lines we’ll trace;

Ashen faces in cold breeze

Tell me a piece of your history.

Speak in words you’ve picked up

As you walked through life alone

Shrugging off the dust and memory,

You ran out into the night

To see what it means to be free

Of the shackles and the dreams.

Summer evening breeze blew –

They will come for you

Standing on the cliff face

We are the last people.

At the end of the night,

In the cold morning light

They will come

The birds are mocking me, calling out your name

They pull me back.

All of your flaws lie hand in hand deep beneath the ground

Dig them up, leave a path to trace

I see in the shapes of the morning we’ve cast out

I see them sinking in, it crept up on you, crawling underneath your skin.

Oh, I hear you calling, but what is there to gain?

I won’t show my face.

They licked the walls, all that we’ve amassed – stubs, tops, backs, diaries –

Shattered into ash.

Tenderly, they turned to dust all that I adore

Many days fell away with nothing to show,

It’s been cold for years.

Oh, I read the words you used.

They told me nothing.

I wrote this poem using someone else’s words. Not one word was thought up by me. What I did do was take the lyrics from Bastille‘s album Bad Blood and rearrange the words to make this poem. There is at least one line from every song on the album in this poem. I thought it would be cool to reconfigure Bastille’s songs into a poetic narrative poem. Really, I’m just highlighting the creativity and lyricism already present in the songs. I wonder what it would sound like played…

I’m thinking about making this a feature on my blog. You should check out the album. My favourites are:

Daniel In The Den

Oblivion

Things We Lost In The Fire

and Overjoyed (I prefer the a cappella version)

The Drowned

I saw you but you went away.

I pulled, stretched, reached for you but you slipped into the fuzzy, uncertainty of memory.

I called, and you faded, threatening.

You hint in the corners of my mind, suggesting your presence.

An image distorted in water, your form an inconsistency, I never really knew you.

Only a thought, not yet developed,

So I let you bathe in the water,

To swim and fleshen form.

Yet when I reached for your submerged body I found your remnants;

Washed away, into forgotten tides

I saw you when you died.

My Music Picks: Peaky Blinders

If a picture paints a thousand words, a lyric evokes a thousand images.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand

The acting and dialogue make the show, but the poetic tunes in Peaky Blinders deserve some credit too. The theme song by Nick Cave &The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand, is not what I expected the theme song to be. I anticipated a sadder tune, something more reminiscent of the horrors of the war, but I was wrong; this definitely works. Picture Tommy Shelby walking slowly through the streets of Birmingham, cold eyes lifeless and unfocussed, while wild eyes stare in fear from dumpsters, street corners and windows. The images that the lyrics suggest are so forceful that I can’t help but associate them with Tommy in his flat cap, crisp collar and black slicked shoes. Though only the first two minutes or so of the song are used, they are distinct and memorable.

Jack White – Love is Blindness

Not again. We’ve all heard this song used in a trailer, show or movie at some point, and it may seem overused, but that’s a testament to the greatness and versatility of this song. If a picture paints a thousand words, a lyric evokes a thousand images, precisely why this song suits so many different texts. Easily recognizable after the first few notes, the electric, new rock sound compliments the exciting season finale perfectly.

Some Other Great Peaky Blinders Tunes:

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Martha’s Dream

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Abattoir Blues

The White Stripes – St. James Infirmary Blues

The White Stripes – I Fought Piranhas

The Raconteurs – Blue Veins

Tom Waits – Time

Dan Auerbach – The Prowl

Final Thoughts: I could write a novel on each song, but I won’t, this post would never get published. You need to check out the entire soundtrack, for you will thank me when you do. You’re welcome. Head to BBC, they have all the tracks listed by the episodes they appear in.

What are your favourite tracks from the show? Does it annoy you when you hear different sources using the same tunes? Do you automatically compare the succeeding uses to the first time you heard the tune used in a text?