If you’re anything like me, perhaps you’ve been wondering what all of the fuss is about lately. Of course black lives matter you’ll say, so why now? Aren’t they aware of the coronavirus?
I have to be honest, even I, as a white British female, have truly failed to understand what the Black Lives Matter protests represents, I already knew not to say anything racist to my black friends, I don’t need educating. Treat all people the same way as you wish to be treated, it kind of makes sense. Anti-racism has been a thing in the UK for a long time, so why was this going on? How more not racist could we possibly be?
Shamefully, the only way for me to really get to the bottom of it all was to break it down into children’s terms. I’m generally fairly smart and keyed in, but I’d heard phrases like “white supremacy” (which feels rather far right for my tastes) and “white privilege” (I don’t consider myself privileged), I failed to understand what all of the fuss was about. Of course black lives matter. All lives matter, you silly goose!
But it was white reading this interview with fellow blogger Candice Brathwaite that I came to grasp the true extent of the problem. It was while reading this article that I could understand the extent of the issue with people of colour being selected by airport security for screening, simply because of their race or ethnicity, and again with my white “privileges”, I too have been stopped by store security, heaven forbid I was smuggling anything out of the store in my wheelchair. Targeting people for any reason besides genuine concern for attempted shoplifting is simply not okay, period.
As these protests and riots rumble on, there has been mud-slinging on both sides. Black Lives Matter protesters insist that All Lives Matter protesters “miss the point”, and All Lives Matter protesters insist that Black Lives Matter protesters are prioritising themselves over everybody else, not least other ethnic minorities. It’s all fruitless arguing over semantics, quite essentially. In my very personal opinion, everyone needs a ten-minute time-out to cool down, and anyone who disagrees should be sent to the naughty step. We can’t move forward with these current hostilities.
Whilst these skirmishes are going on, I feel as though it is Black Lives Matter who themselves also miss the point. As point five on this kids-friendly article suggests, awareness can be achieved with the addition of one tiny little word- black lives matter too. They matter as well as everyone else, as a member of the wider community. They are not set aside from the rest. By underscoring that they matter as well as, rather than mattering full stop, I believe that it helps to highlight some of the inequalities that the movement represents. After all, why would they need to protest so angrily if there wasn’t an issue in the first place?
By recognising the power of this short, simple word, I believe that the reaction that the Black Lives Matter movement will receive can change from one of anger and hostility, to one of acceptance and even empathy. White people will continue to “miss the point” when the black community refuses to tell us exactly where the problem lies. There is some debate in saying that the black community does not have an obligation to educate white people, but sooner or later, you have to step down to step up. I think of this situation like a marriage, how can a spouse resolve a conflict if the other party refuses to talk? It is not only for white people to go away and educate themselves, we have come as far by being willing to sit down and listen, now the black community needs to be willing to tell us all that has been going on. If the government refuses to listen, go lower and educate the people so that we can advocate your rights for you. Help us understand what covert racism looks like so that we can call it out when it happens. The natural reaction to an angry face is not to stop and listen, the adrenal response is to fight or flee, neither of which will resolve anything.
With each passing day, more and more inequalities are being bought to my attention. Things that I didn’t know, things that I would have never considered have only come to my attention because a member of the black community has been willing to share their story. In the space of a few short days, my attitude has changed from frustration to shock, awareness and even understanding of the issue. We can’t resolve problems if we don’t talk to one another, but we can resolve it if we continue to share our stories and make the world a better, brighter, fairer place, together.
So to all of my friends of colour, my final message is simple: Look after me, and I will look after you.