In light of the ongoing Black Lives Matter and anti-racism protests in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white police officer, Pinnock took the opportunity to reflect on the effects of systemic racism and speak out about her experiences as a member of the world-famous girl band.
In the video, which has been viewed over 2.5 million times, Pinnock begins by sending her condolences to the family of George Floyd and all the other families who have lost a loved one due to police brutality and racism.
Pinnock then turned to a series of pre-prepared words to continue her message, reflecting on her childhood as the daughter of two mixed-race parents and how she had come to terms with the fact she was “sleeping on racism”.
“My parents are both mixed race. Both my grandfathers’ came to England with the Windrush Generation and married white women in a time when interracial relationships were extremely frowned upon,” she explained. “Growing up, me and my sisters never saw race being a limitation on what we wanted to achieve, because if our grandparents could raise mixed race children in the 60s, we could do anything.
“One thing we were doing was sleeping on racism. Too often black people are reminded how far we have come as opposed to how far we can go,” she explained. “In doing this we sleep on racism. Think about it – do you ever hear white people having to be thankful about how far they have come as a race?”
Pinnock then outlined her experiences of racism during her career in the creative industries, reflecting on a moment when Frank Gatson Jr – a black director and choreographer – had told her “you’re the black girl – you have to work ten times harder,” and how that fact had come to make sense over the course of her career.
“I learnt that the dream of being in the biggest girl band in the world came with its flaws and consequences,” she explained. “Consequences such as knowing about the existing, underlying racism in the creative industries.
“You learn to understand you can’t be seen to be too loud, or too opinionated, otherwise you’re deemed a diva or aggressive. You learn that by walking into a room you are deemed unapproachable or offish before anyone has even approached you. You learn that voicing your opinion about the lack of diversity within the industry is like smashing your head against a brick wall.”
Pinnock then spoke about her reality as a member of Little Mix, speaking about how she often feelings “anxious” or “lonely” because of how fans and industry professionals respond to her and her race.
“My reality was feeling lonely while touring predominantly white countries. I sing to fans who don’t see me, or hear me, or cheer me on,” she said. “My reality is feeling anxious before fan events and signings because I always feel like I’m the least favoured. My reality is constantly feeling like I have to work ten times harder and longer to mark my place in the group because my talent alone isn’t enough. My reality is wanting to see other artists who I know are so talented but will never get the opportunities I have had because to the industry they are not marketable.
She continued: “My reality is that all the times I have felt invisible within my group, part of me is fully aware that my experience would have been even harder to cope with had I been dark skinned.”
Pinnock ended the video with a message to her fans and supporters, in which she reminds them to get involved with the movement and make their voices heard.
“Our reality is no matter how far you think you have come racism exists,” she added. “It exists in sports, in the creative industries, in politics and policies, in the streets and in the hearts of racist individuals.
“We are no longer in a position where we need to be quiet on this matter. So let’s all continue to speak up on racism and keep this movement going. Thank you.”
How to support the anti-racism movement
Looking for ways to show your support for the anti-racism movement? Here’s three things you can do right now to start making change:
1. Sign petitions
There are a number of vital positions demanding change in both the US and UK that you can engage with now. This tweet by @eleanxrsmith links to many of the key UK-based petitions that need signatures – take 30 minutes to go through and add your voice to these vital movements.
2. Donate to anti-racism organisations and charities
The UK is not innocent when it comes to systemic racism and oppression, and the organisations and charities fighting to change this need your support. You can check out our guide to the anti-racism charities and organisations to support right now to start donating.
3. Educate yourself
If you are a non-black person who is only just beginning to engage with the anti-racist movement, you should be taking the time to educate yourself about the lived experiences of black people in the UK and across the world. There are plenty of ways to do this – check out our guides to relevant podcasts, TV and films and get started.