As I stand in solidarity with all black people, I say George Floyd’s words, “I can’t breathe.” The truth is black people have struggled to breathe for far too long.
The years of slavery and oppression black people have faced in the past are no different from what’s going on now. Racism never ended, it’s just getting more discreet (alongside the very obvious examples: placing your knee on someone’s neck until they die, or shooting a man while he’s jogging.) But racism isn’t always that obvious. Systematic and casual racism often don’t get acknowledged. Chances are if you’re black, people have probably also been racist towards you without you even identifying it as them being racist. Or you see it and you think nothing of it because “hey, at least I didn’t get shot.” If a police officer kills a black man or a friend slyly utters a comment, please know that both are undeniably unjustifiable racist acts. Don’t let it slide, even if it’s your best friend that’s saying something wrong. Call them out. Don’t wait until another black person mercilessly gets killed for the conversation to come up again (only to disappear just as quickly as it arrived.)
Although I am black, I can’t possibly speak for all black people because we all experience things in different ways, so I’m going to speak for myself. As a black person, I’m still trying to find ways to heal and to forgive. When I heard about George Floyd, it was yet another punch in the face. Reflecting on it, I’ve noticed that each time I hear of things like this happening I’ve found that I actually feel fewer emotions. Or maybe the emotions are there but I’ve learned to suppress them. I expect the racism, and this isn’t right because it means that I’m becoming desensitized to it all. I don’t want to ever feel numb to this pain. I want my desire to see a change to be a driving force in my life. Imagine as a non-black person if you continually saw your people being brutally killed? Imagine what this does to the family, friends and to be honest all people with your skin colour? It’s insane. We’re supposed to go through life just accepting that we’re inferior? The reality is that what happened to George has gone on for generations. We’re only seeing the high profile stories. Why is the killing of black people a norm in our world? I ask that if you’re a non-black person that you would join me and all other black people in using our breath to say the names of those who have died and those still suffering because of the system. To do all we can to make a real difference because we all deserve to breathe. We all deserve an equal chance in life. Sharing a post on social media is just the beginning.
Will you continue to be anti-racist when social media isn’t your audience?
As often as I’ve heard Black Lives Matter spoken out, I’ve also heard the phrase All Lives Matter. To clear things up, Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other people’s lives don’t matter. It’s acknowledging and stating that black people are disproportionately mistreated and undervalued because of racism. If black lives truly mattered, there wouldn’t have to be a Black Lives Matter movement. The All Lives Matter movement simply can’t exist if black lives don’t matter.
If you’re a black person reading this, I know you’re tired of what’s been going on. I know it’s tough, but we need to keep pushing for justice. I’m learning to navigate my way around this by taking time to myself to think and mourn so that I can go out and act out of love. Opening myself up to the difficult conversations with my non-black friends and continuing to treat others the way I’d like to be treated.
If you’re a non-black person, thanks for reading this post because it means you care and want to do something about the injustice that is happening towards black people all over the world. Keep fighting the good fight.
Here’s what you can do to make a difference.
1. Acknowledge –
Acknowledge your privilege. Particularly if you’re a white person, ‘white privilege’ is a very real thing. To put it simply, it doesn’t mean that as a white person you haven’t struggled, it just means that the colour of your skin doesn’t make life harder for you. You actually benefit from the oppression black people face. An example being that as a white person you see yourself represented everywhere first (magazines, movies, games, toys beauty products etc.) The truth is if you still can’t see it, it’s because your privilege is blinding you. It’s up to you to open your eyes to what’s going on around you. Ignorance simply can’t be an excuse at this point. Acknowledge that racism still exists, because to deny it exists is also a big part of the problem. You need to change your heart because it starts from the inside.
2. Listen –
Listen to your black friends and listen to black people in general. Ask questions and sit back and listen. Hear things from their perspective. But also understand that black people are not entitled to educate you so don’t be expectant of this from all black people. A lot of us are tired of having to constantly explain it all – please respect that.
3. Talk about racism in your homes –
Make it a topic of conversation and speak up when family members are being racist. A simple ‘don’t be racist’ isn’t enough. I challenge you to keep talking about it until you’ve convinced your family. There’s a right and wrong, help them to see this. If you have a younger brother or sister, or you’re a parent with a kid(s), it’s never too early to talk about race. When you ignore it, they go out into the world and a lot of the time learn it the wrong way, from people who also haven’t been educated. Majority of the time we tend to listen more to people who look like us so it’s probably more effective if a white person who is actively anti-racist were to educate other white people. Show your family the difference between not being racist and actively being anti-racist, one conversation at a time.
4. Educate yourself –
There are so many resources out there to do this and below is a condensed list to help.
- Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Topics covered: white privilege, race & class, Britain’s history with racism, what we can do to make a change. Includes facts and figures. An easy read and very good summary.
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
The book features a 28-day challenge to recognise your privilege and combat racism. A great resource for white people who don’t know where to begin. The book is practical, reflective and applicable.
- White fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Robin identifies how white fragility upholds the system of white supremacy. The book exposes racism at its core and is a call for action.
- Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
An exploration of race through Afua’s eyes where she speaks of her personal experience of being Black and British but also mixed-race. She allows the reader to see her experiences both in Britain and Africa.
- Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga
If you enjoy reading about facts and research, this one’s for you. The focus is purely on the history. Looking back at Roman Britain, the Elizabethan era and the slave-trading empire (to name a few), David shows the reader how the lives of black and white peope have been entwined for centuries.
- Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
Fanon takes more of a study approach where he uncovers the experience of black people in a white world. A look at the psychological effects of racism and colonialism with a sientific analysis included.
- Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
A look at the complex nature of black people’s hair and how it’s personal to black people and carries a lot of history. Emma explores how black people have been conditioned to think about our hair in a world where we black hair is looked down on. But also how black hair is also a symbol of empowerment.
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A novel about race entwined with other themes such as family, education, home, being a woman etc. It follows the life of a black woman who experiences life in Africa and America and looks at her struggles to fit in, in both places. A very well written book which highlights the experiences of black women very well – personally my favourite book. (Chimamanda is a great author so definitely check out more of her books)
Films, Documentaries & TV Shows:
- Hidden Figures
Based on a true story, this is a film about the black female mathematicians who worked at NASA and played a vital role during the Space Race (a 20th-century competition between Russia and the United States to achieve firsts in spaceflight capability.) The women served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in US history.
- When They See Us
Based on the events of the 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the stories of ‘The Central Park 5’ better known as ‘The Exonerated 5’ who were falsely accused of raping and assualting a woman in Central Park, New York. The miniseries follows the lives of the men and their families and how they go through the system both in and out of prison. Netlfix also features an interview Oprah has with the real men which is very eye-opening.
- Get Out
An American horror film following a young African-American man who visits his white girlfriends parents for the weekend. The film features a lot of hints at the interracial tension in America.
- The Help
Recounts the story of a young white aspiring author during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. She decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
A limited series inspired by the life of Madam C.J. Walker who holds the record for being the first female self-made millionaire in America. The series is a fictionalised depiction of Madam C.J.’s business: cosmetics and hair care products for black women.
A black comedy crime film highlighting white supremacy in America with a look at the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Director Spike Lee intends to opens the eyes of the viewer to see the effects on black Americans, Jewish Americans, and anyone else who opposes the group. The film follows an African-American detective and a Jewish-American detective and their efforts to infultrate and expose the KKK.
- Dear White People
An American comedy-drama tv show following the lives of black university students. Each episode focuses on a particular character and their views/ where they fit in, in light of racism at university and beyond. Touches issues surrounding modern American race relations.
5. Sign petitions, write to your MPs/Mayors & donate if you can –
Doing these things makes a big difference even though it may seem small. Signing your name on a petition brings the petition one step closer to being fulfilled and for there to be justice.
Petitions (these aren’t the only petitions out there so look out for more):
For those who aren’t in America and sign other petitions which require zip codes, you can use the ones below:
90015 – Los Angeles, California
10001 – New York City, New York
75001 – Dallas, Texas
Sample emails to MPs/Mayors (edit the emails to reflect you and so it doesn’t get marked as spam):
6. Diversify your daily life (inspiration taken from @ohhappydani) –
Diversify the leaders you learn from
Diversify who you follow on social media
Diversify your beauty standards
Diversify the toys you buy for your kids
7. Be actively anti-racist –
Use your voice even if it makes you uncomfortable. It can be intimidating but it matters. You temporarily feeling uncomfortable helps to dismantle the systems that have been put into place for years. It’s worth it. Being anti-racist is the commitment to not stand by and stay silent when you see racism. Challenge it when you see it. Speak up and amplify the black voices around you.
I’m more than happy to discuss this with you further so feel free to leave a comment down below or dm me at @jkevlre.
Don’t allow Black Lives Matter to merely be a trend, because trends die out. Let this be the beginning of changing the way you think, behave and inspire others to actively be anti-racist.