BLACK LIVES MATTER. TO WHO?
How can we become true allies and supporters of black lives?
Black lives still matter months on from the marches and the death of George Floyd. I wrote this just after 'Black out Tuesday' at a time when the fight for black lives felt particularly difficult...
One thing I love about technology is that it can serve as a democratic free-for-all space. I have found it inspiring to see how social movements have grown thanks to technology, and speak more on this in a previous blog post. The recent Black Lives Matter movement has definitely been leveraged by the power of technology and people power.
In a matter of weeks, the world has learnt a new language of anti-racism. Whether you like it or not, this has been the compulsory class all students of life have had to attend.
Following Black Out Tuesday, I wrote the following post on my socials as a response and thought it would be worth capturing as a reference to how my thoughts have developed since. I felt (and still feel) I have a lot more to say and learn about issues of Anti-racism. I’ve had a humble awakening to where my blindspots are. My thoughts have changed and developed since writing this post, but considering this was written as an Instagram caption, you’ll understand why I thought a blog may be a better place to grapple with these ideas.
This is what I wrote: Yesterday’s blackout Tuesday was intended by organisers to be “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community through an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change”. I took a step back from social media in an attempt to support the movement in tangible ways and to reclaim a moment for self-care during what has been a difficult time as a member of the black community. Unfortunately, even in the attempt to gain some silent reflection, I was reminded that many still have a LONG way to go. Deeply saddened by how people can be vocal in their willful ignorance. Saddened by how others sit in silence alongside it. Maybe people find silence the best option if they don’t feel they have the words, are intimidated by a discussion they feel they don’t know enough about, don’t want to step into an arena that seems sensitive or just aren’t that deeply affected by it because it doesn’t impact them directly. Every effort is needed though. You don’t need to be textbook ‘woke’ and know every terminology under the sun to support someone. A simple “how are you doing?” Or taking time to read and listen amplifies oppressed voices and is helpful. What is helpful:
Read, listen and learn. – Doing your own education on what racism looks like and feels like is essential if you don’t have the first-hand experience. It saves black people so much emotional energy and labour if you meet us halfway.
Approach with curiosity. – That goes for every conversation in life. Curiosity is key.
Stand up when you see injustice big or small. – Any time you let it go you are actively condoning it. There is no safe grey area. You either confront it or you condone it.
Unionise and innovate – Create and support methods of supporting the struggles of people under attack.
What is not helpful:
Seeking validation or a round of applause from black people– Yes we appreciate allies, but justice is a right, not a luxury we should not have to bend over backwards to be grateful for. Right to life is a basic human right that was robbed from a member of our community, and we will acknowledge and appreciate all attempts but please don’t support in a tokenistic way. Support us every day when you see microaggressions too.
Retraumatising us with more stories of loss of life- Think about trigger warnings before sharing content and stories with black people. Think about your gaze and how sharing images or shock stories may add to spectacle rather than empowerment.
Not naming the issue for what it is- It is called ‘racism’. It’s real easy to say “ra-cis-m”
Silence– We don’t have to be influencers or brands to have a platform. Everyone has a platform. If there is one other person in a room, it is a platform.
Labelling us as ‘angry’ or ‘aggressive’– These terms are loaded. Look up why these terms are rooted in racist histories and why they are hurtful for the black community.
As someone of Anglo-Indian heritage too, I’m looking at South Asian communities– All ‘non-white’ groups that have experienced colourism know in some way what this feels like, so not supporting us in this time is painful. Please use your voices and address unhelpful colourist language when you see it.
We are spent and tired. This isn’t something that started yesterday, when George Floyd was murdered, in the 60s or prior. This is deep rooted.
Since writing this post, the world has changed significantly and for the first time in my lifetime, it seems like these conversations are taking up space in new ways. What are your thoughts on Black Out Tuesday? Was it performative? How have your views changed since? Follow me on Instagram @riah_writes to continue the conversation #BlackLivesMatter #race #blackhistorymonth #blackbusiness