I grew up firmly holding the hand of religion. I let it guide me and teach me values I still hold today. But, as any child does, I soon let go of that hand and found my own way. Things like that can cause a rift in families if not dealt with sensitively. So I became a sensitive person. I hold no enmity towards my religion even if I find it limited. I hold no enmity towards my loved ones even if they believe some questionable things. I continue to find the middle ground and carry out the emotional labour because I want everyone to be happy.
But being a sensitive person means that things stay with me. They stop my sleep and lodge deep in my mind. I try to stay apolitical and keep topics light. Because why rock the boat? Why ruffle those feathers? Why not just find the middle ground?
This mentality has meant that, on this blog, I write what I really think and then edit out any potential controversy before hitting publish. I fear pushback, I fear nasty comments and upset folk. Because I want to please people, I want everyone to be happy, I want to be liked so I keep things likable and pleasing.
So how could I write about a protest against systemic racism? It’s not my brand. Plus, I’m a minority too. So I get a free pass, right?
This isn’t about me. It’s about wanting a world of compassion and understanding. So whilst I don’t wish to rock the boat, I do wish to make my stance clear. I am an anti-racist. And however you feel about that term being used, I find it powerful.
I haven’t seen the video. Some might say that I should watch it to truly understand the rage. I’m sorry, but I can’t. Perhaps it’s selfish but I just can’t. I cannot bring myself to face it inches from my face. I would picture my brother, my father, my husband. I’d think about his daughter. His family.
I lived in London when the death of Mark Duggan led to the London Riots. I studied Stephen Lawrence’s case in Sociology class in high school. I have an interest in true crime so have read extensively about the Central Park Five. Obviously, there are many other cases that I am learning about now as I scroll through posts and feeds and the news. Some I am being reminded of and some, shamefully, I had never heard of. It’s overwhelming.
It should be overwhelming. This is a time to be overwhelmed. But some people feel the need to neaten things. They’ll agree racism is bad but they don’t agree with protests during a pandemic. Because they don’t expect the fear of a pandemic to pale in comparison to the injustice people feel. They think people are being silly rather than understanding it for the powerful and tragic statement that it is. Or they say peaceful protests are fine but protestors should stop the rioters. As if that burden falls to the protestors too. Or the snivelling whataboutism. What about other minority groups? Hi, I’m brown and Black Lives Matter. What about gang violence? Moving goalposts are we? What about the poor statues? What about the fact (pfsh!) that he wasn’t totally innocent?
That last one angers me the most. The police are not judge, jury and executioner. This… shouldn’t be a thing that needs to be written in 2020. We do not live in Judge Dredd world. Sylvester Stallone can’t go “judgement: death” and pew pew pew at a criminal. We arrest, we set bail, there’s a court, there are lawyers…there’s a process! No one is expendable. I like to believe that such depraved ideas come from not thinking things through. Stop trying to find excuses for the fact that you don’t care a person has died. Died slowly and brutally. Whose death is there to be seen by the world. Whose child might one day see the video I can’t bring myself to watch.
The statue thing does give me pause though. I believe toppling the statue of Edward Colston is a moment that creates history, rather than eradiactes it. But the concerns around where the line should be drawn are legitimate. Statues reflect who and what we value. They exist to honour those that made our history. Colston built hospitals and gave to the poor. He helped build Bristol through his extensive wealth… from the slave trade.
I mean… screw him, right? Yeah, screw him. I’m comfortable with that.
Because values change. Bristol is what it is largely because of Colston but we need a better way to discuss his legacy. Churchill, Mother Teresa, Gandhi… they made our history. We took their stories and legacies and immortalised them. They done good. But with our current morality… there are cracks in those stories. So how do we approach this? How do we honour controversial figures? Helen Keller was a Eugenicist. The Suffragettes didn’t want all women to have the vote. The patterns of history are intricate. The heroes of history are first and foremost, people. People are incredibly complex. Many of our heroes were not magically ahead of their times. They were very much of their time and a part of the collective history that was being made. And a lot of them were racist. Let’s have a conversation about that.
There are some dismissive comments stating things aren’t so bad with the UK police, which is true when compared to the US. But just because we’re better doesn’t mean we’re great. And the police are not the only organisation that can be accused of systemic racism. Protestors toppled a damn statue. There are tensions here too.
People are so angry. Angry enough to not fear a pandemic. Angry enough to riot. To topple statues. To implore you to be an anti-racist. This is anger. It will not be put in your neat boxes. You cannot say I’m okay with this stuff but not that stuff. Because you need to be sensitive. You need to feel this. You need to carry the emotional labour and understand that this is what humanity is like. You might not like it. You might want to inject reason and logic and tell people to sit and rationally discuss things. It might not feel right.
But this is not just because a man was brutally murdered. It’s because another man was brutally murdered. Because it happened before and it’s happened again. Because people walk past the immortalised slavers of their ancestors. Because people see their fellow humans walk across the street to avoid them. And nothing seems to change. So we say Black Lives Matter.
Stuff you can do:
Campaign Zero https://www.joincampaignzero.org
We can do more: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
Stuff you can watch:
Kimberley Jones’ powerful 6 minute speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llci8MVh8J4
NFL Linebacker Emmanuel Acho https://twitter.com/thEMANacho/status…
Trevor Noah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4amC…
Vlogbrothers Black Voices / Black History playlist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBFYQ…
Stuff you can read:
Victoria Alexander Reading Guide https://twitter.com/victoriaalxndr/st…
Children’s Books https://www.embracerace.org/resources…
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