Commuting to work as a black man in London can be an extreme sport.
Whether you drive or jump on the tube, there are several things to consider when travelling to your workplace so I’ve compiled a list of 6 survival tips to help you or someone you know with this challenging experience.
1. Always have your phone charged with storage space to record for at least 10 minutes.
Unfortunately we live and manoeuvre in a society where black men in white spaces are often automatically guilty until proven innocent.
Having your phone charged will aid you in terms of recording any unexpected incidents that may arise on your journey protecting yourself and any others involved.
Having little to no evidence to present to the police will not help you in the slightest so you don’t want to be left kicking yourself thinking “if only I had my phone charged”, or fumbling to through your camera roll deleting selfies and backed up photos to make more space for a recording in the heat of the moment.
I’ve had police follow me on numerous occasions and even stop me right outside of a studio I was working at because I was driving in an area where there was a lot of car thefts. I told the police who stopped me how embarrassing this ordeal was but they did not care. I still had to start my working day with a smile on face as if nothing happened greeting the client looking bubbly in spirit even though I was fuming inside.
Thankfully I was able to record the stop to not only protect myself but if the client asked why I was late I could show them what happened.
2. Give yourself an extra 30 minutes incase you get stopped and searched.
According to the official website for the UK Government the latest data shows that there were 27.2 stop and searches for every 1,000 black people, compared with 5.6 for every 1,000 white people meaning you are almost 5x likely to be stopped and searched if you are black.
Even though this is a crazy stat, this is down year on year as seen below:
With this being said, if you have an interview or an important meeting, it’s always wise to give yourself extra time incase you are stopped by the police for being black in a white space.
It’s extremely annoying but it has to be done.
I will write a piece on what to do if you get stopped an searched so be sure to subscribe/follow me for updates.
3. Think of yourself, outside of yourself: Be hyper-aware of your position within your current surroundings.
It’s so easy to slip in your own world the majority of the time, we all do it.
However the reality is, we are also in each others world without even knowing it at times. When travelling within a confined space, people tend to observe and move with caution and as should you.
One thing I practice (and will always promote) is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Although you might be crammed on a steaming hot central line train, you can still the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Try moving your focus from your right foot, traveling up your body from your right ankle, to your shin, to your knee, to your thigh, to your groin, to your bum, to your hip, to your stomach, to your chest, to your right shoulder, to your right elbow, to your right forearm to your palm, to your fingers and so on…
This heightens your awareness, puts you in touch with the present and your presence within that. You also tune out of the noise and what may irritate you and allows your to be comfortable in the skin you are in.
There are several other practical tips I could share for optimal wellbeing, however mindfulness is a major key/foundation for it all.
4. Enjoy the space that people leave to avoid sitting next to you.
At any point in time when I commute to work or a night out, I am the last person anyone wants to sit next to on a train. It’s not a nice feeling but it’s got to a point where I laugh about it now.
When I first began to notice this on my commutes to work, I used to be offended and come up with of a plethora of reasons why people would rather stand up than sit next to me.
What is it about me that they do not like?
Is it my skin, is it my hair, is it the way I dress, is it all 3?
Now I actually enjoy the space that remains both sides of me for several stops until the train gets super busy and people run to grab any seat that is available.
I accept that this is just how society is and in a post covid era, I prefer people to give me that space away from their dutty selves (something I say in my head in my Jamaican narrators voice), even if it for a negative reason they follow instinctively.
5. Don’t bite the bait — stay out of issues that don’t concern you.
This action combines a few of the points raised above. Skepta is one of my favourite artists and biggest inspirations as a Black British Man.
One of Skepta’s tweets from 2015 still resonates with me especially as a Father. I want to be around for my children for as long as possible so entertaining fights/conflicts with those who have nothing to lose is actually pointless.
There’s been a number of occasions where I would be tried and tested to react in a physical way (usually at night), even to the point of being called triggering names and racial slurs, but I don’t bite the bait as I know that the person provoking is not worth me wasting my time/risking my life.
As a DJ, I often am carrying expensive equipment whilst traveling home at early hours in the morning. I have to navigate around intoxicated and ignorant people on a regular basis with this in mind. This is me completing the mission and getting back to the house and I implore you to do the same with any line of work.
6. Whenever you arrive at your destination, be responsible for the energy you bring into the room.
Going the extra mile to make others feel safe can be exhausting so please ensure that you take time for yourself.
You may not realise it but your face can often project what is happening internally. A lot of us are fighting battles no one knows about and unconsciously this can affect our physical appearance.
The way we talk, move, speak and interact can all reflect how we are feeling and if there is a build up of frustration or aggression this can come to surface easily with the lightest of triggers.
Whenever we enter any space it’s important to reflect and acknowledge how we are feeling and decide whether or not we are going to leave it at the door or carry it into the space we are about to enter.
A great way to release anything we are holding on to is to meditate, visualise, practice deep breathing and exercise regularly.
These acts can be practiced daily which can boost our serotonin levels making the micro-aggressions we face (as real as they are) seem like nothing in the grand scheme of things.
This allows us to navigate both the arrival into the workplace and back home (around your family) with grace and clarity once we arrive safe and sound.
Whether you are a black man yourself, or you have a black man if your life I hope these tips resonate with you and yours and if you have any other tips to share please do so in the comment section below.
“Strength isn't just about enduring the journey, but about empowering others to navigate it with resilience.”Black Wall St. MediaContributor