With recent events such as the death of George Floyd and the uproar from the Black Lives Matter movement, an outpour of support for black people has flooded in. The conversation reached mainstream media in ways I haven’t seen before. While this support isn’t as visible now as it was a couple of months ago, I’m hoping that this awakening has made its way deep into the hearts of those who want to see change actually happen. That there are allies who are STILL actively doing what they can to make a difference. I’m equally hoping that those who either haven’t spoken up, or those who are conflicted will see reason and join in the fight for justice. For change to happen, we need to continue talking about. Yes, there have been victories along the way, but this doesn’t mean that we should quieten down our voices or put less effort in. There is still so much to do and undo.
As I mentioned, there’s been an outpour of support. But, like always, this broke up into many different avenues. One being the issue of there being a support for the culture and not the people. Something which I find very problematic. First of all, the people ARE the culture. Hair, music and so many other things also come into this. Embracing those things and blatantly choosing to ignore the people actually counteracts what you think you’re doing. While cultural appreciation is an important and beautiful thing, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t also appreciate the people to whom the culture belongs.
Another avenue some people have traveled down is the matter of when cultural appreciation becomes cultural appropriation. There’s a very fine line between the two. Cultural appropriation is a term that has existed for a long time. In the midst of the uproar from The Black Lives Matter movement this year, people have been looking at this term in a much closer way. It’s a term I personally overlooked because, ‘hey, at least they’re acknowledging something about me.’ I learned this year that it’s not something to take lightly. Yes, people make mistakes and that’s ok as long as they learn from it. In fact, we should normalise forgiving people and allowing them to try again. ‘Cancel Culture’ doesn’t even give people a chance to right their wrongs. But if you keep making the same mistakes and not learning from it, it becomes a problem. A few of the ways to know if what you’re doing is cultural appropriation or not is by asking yourself what your intentions are. Are you profiting off of black culture? Are you claiming it as your own? Or are you even mocking it? Something I’ve seen much too often is when I see people who aren’t black put on black culture and they’re the ones who get praised for it. But when black people wear their own culture it’s seen as ghetto. Why is this a thing?
You can’t love the culture and not support the people
So, what am I asking for? I’m asking for respect. To be taken seriously. To be acknowledged as much as my culture is. You can’t just pick someone’s culture and ignore them.
So what does it mean to support the people?
Be transparent & authentic
I’ve been seeing a lot of performative action and it’s honestly such a waste of time because it means that things stay the same long-term because you don’t change on the inside. Therefore you, your friendship group, your workplace, your business (the list goes on) doesn’t actually change. Before doing something, think about your actions, and be as transparent and authentic as you can. It needs to be clear why you’re doing what you’re doing. Since there’s been so much performative action lately, any form of action is looked at more closely.
Be in it for the long haul
It starts with unlearning and learning again. Society has conditioned us to have a focus on white people. From the movies we watch, to the people we buy from, and what we are taught in the education system. But you can offer black people long term support in so many different ways that promotes long-term change. Supporting black businesses and including black people in conversations are two of many ways. Think of it as something that you can do practically everyday. There should be no divide when it comes to the people you buy from, follow, and are friends with. Look at your everyday life. Is it white-washed? Anti-blackness is seen in every level of society. Are you doing something so that this isn’t the case in yours?
Don’t stop fighting
This is far from over. Racism certainly hasn’t stopped in the midst of a pandemic. Racism is rooted deep in the system and we need to get to the heart of it to really start changing things. For this to happen, we need to continue educating ourselves and speaking out. There are so many black people who have not received justice. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga are some of the few you’ve learned the names of recently, but there are so many more out there. Keep signing petitions, donating and writing to your mp’s and mayors.