Silence is Privilege

Mercy Sang is a black woman, born in Kenya and now living in Melbourne, Australia. She is a model, has a sharply honed aesthetic and founded the platform POCC (People of Colour Collective) Magazine in 2018 to champion and showcase the talents of POC in the creative industries. INPRINT asked her for her thoughts and feelings at this time.

Silence is Privilege
Photo courtesy Mercy Sang

"It is not the black individual’s role to educate, and by taking on the learning yourself you are doing your part."

The brutal murder of George Floyd by police last week in the United States has served as another tragic flashpoint in history for the systematic abuse, oppression and inequality black people endure daily in America and indeed all over the world. How are you feeling at this time as a black woman?

A series of emotions. It began with sadness after viewing the video of the incident, then sadness turned into anger. I am feeling overwhelmed but that is nothing compared to the people currently in the front line fighting for justice. The black experience is like no other. We are continuously shown the cracks within our system but the anger and outrage displayed shows that we have reached our limit, and we have been here for a while.

In our dialogue via social media this week you stressed that 'information sharing is vital'. How can people, businesses, content creators, influencers, humans do better both right now and importantly offline too, in your opinion?

Valid information sharing is vital. It is a form of educating others who by chance might not have had access, that is progress. Research. We have access to many avenues and sources of credible information therefore there is no excuse. It is not the black individual’s role to educate, and by taking on the learning yourself you are doing your part. Speak to those around you, your friends, family, colleagues. We must be constantly questioning the practices within our organisations and communities to ensure that we are working towards fighting against inequality and oppression. We all have a responsibility to choose how we use our platforms. Donate, sign petitions, listen to learn and not to respond. Remaining silent on these issues exhibits your privilege, and many like myself don't have that privilege.

Are there any stories about your experience as a black woman in Australia you would like to share?

I, unfortunately, have had a few, I have been harassed in public spaces and had no one around me speak up. I have had my car vandalised for parking outside my house, by my neighbour, I have also faced numerous indirect prejudices of course. As a black individual you are trained to tackle these situations from an extremely young age, you come to the realisation that you will always be treated differently thus you adapt and learn by developing ‘survival tactics’ such as policing yourself in public. But this only makes things worse. And we should never have had to do that in the first place because of our skin. No one should ever have to go through that. Let alone develop survival tactics to battle the abuses that happen, from people who make us feel like we don’t belong.

Tell me about POCC Magazine?

People of Colour Collective (POCC) Magazine was born with its aim to champion people of colour's talent and authenticity. A celebration of both heritage and community. Our aim is to ensure that we have representation and diversity across all spectrums within the creative industry.

What are your thoughts on the fashion industry and those within it, on addressing diversity, inclusivity and tokenism in a meaningful way?

We have a long way to go, we must ensure that we are hiring black individuals behind the scenes, this is why we endure issues such as tokenism. We must continue to create spaces for POC and ensure that we are creating platforms that uplift and champions them. The work should also be behind the scenes, choosing a POC model is simply not enough.

What would you like to express to your community or the world right in general at this time?

We must continue to raise our voices against the injustices against the black community, no matter how small an individual's platform may seem. Solidarity is key in dismantling the racism within our communities. By choosing to be neutral you are choosing the side of the oppressor.