Alright folks, listen up. It’s been quite awhile since I last posted, but some things are worth coming out of my unintentionally self-imposed blog hiatus for.
I would like to preface this post by saying that I do not know everything – in fact, some days I wonder if I know anything at all. To my friends and family and peers who may know more than me (likely) or think I missed an important point or maybe didn’t portray something correctly, I am here to listen. I am constantly trying to maintain a state of openness and awareness, and this whole self-evolution thing is only possible if people are willing to come out and tell me when my thought process or general opinion could use some tweaking. I am always open to constructive criticism.* Additionally: this is not a history lesson or an “I hate cops” rant or a guide to why racism is bad and specific references to prove why that’s the case (bc if you can’t figure that one out on your own, we have bigger issues). If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll have to look somewhere else. Lastly, here I will provide a link to a sort of Black Lives Matter-based reading list bc while I enjoy using my own voice to support for the cause, there are a whole bunch of other voices who know firsthand a hell of a lot more about what’s going on. Maybe we can all learn a thing or two about a thing or two. Please also look into consuming Black art and history in all forms as it aids in decentering whiteness.
*Note: I said constructive criticism. If you come in here saying All Lives Matter then I will be happy to have a conversation with you about why the focus here is on Black lives, as it should be.
This is such an unbelievably important issue. And while it doesn’t permeate European society in the same way it does in the US, racism is still such a painfully serious problem all over the world. There are 400 years of oppression of people of color in America, specifically Black people. This issue has been talked about seven ways to Sunday in modern society and yet no real change has happened.
The abolition of slavery with Lincoln was followed by the establishment of the horrific Jim Crow laws in the 1800’s and 1900’s preaching ‚separate but equal‘ while promoting anything but equality. The abolition of Jim Crow was a never-ending process as segregation was such a deeply ingrained part of society well into the 1900’s. Our grandparents and parents were born in a time when, after having fought for their country in World War II, Black people were still horribly discriminated against. There wasn’t even integration in schools until 1954, and even when it was legally mandated, it was not enforced in the South. My grandmother went to a segregated school for the for the entirety of her academic life, and at that point Jim Crow laws and racism were still so deeply ingrained in the South that Black people were killed by civilians without repercussions simply for having looked ‚wrong‘ at a white woman or for refusing to sit in the back of the bus. MLK and the civil rights movement were in full force in the 1960’s - just before my mom was born, to give you some context - at a time when Black people were still fighting for the most basic of rights promised to them in a constitution written when they were valued as lesser-than in contrast to their white counterparts. They had the legal right to vote, but it was obstructed one way or another in most states. The law was against them, and in so many ways it continues to be. Black people were restricted from property ownership in certain neighborhoods before the late 20th century – essentially being given low quality property in poor locations – which means that all of us white people in the US who benefited from our grandparents having savings and homes to sell when they pass are privileged. When I get pulled over on the side of the road, I don’t have to fear for my life because I am not Black. Black people are targeted for arrests, get worse punishments than their white counterparts with the same charges, and are – often despite their innocence – so often blatantly and publicly mistreated at the hands of our law enforcement system. Black people in America are constantly experiencing economic, political and social oppression at the hands of the American government and society.
Talking about it hasn’t worked. Peaceful protests are one of the only methods available to people fighting for their rights. And while the looting is not ideal, a lot of it is opportunistic and being done by greedy people taking advantage of the protests. To be honest the worst looting to happen recently was a few weeks ago when corporations collected over 500 billion dollars in stimulus money while individual citizens (some, but decidedly not all) were given a one-time $1200 to do their best to exist with and provide for their families. I do not encourage violence or theft but A. well-organized protests specifically leave local establishments alone and instead target major corporations receiving corporate bailouts and B. the loss of (black) American lives is by far more important than the damage done to well-insured, mass-produced products.
Willful ignorance has allowed so much of America to ignore the problem at hand bc they have had the privilege to do so. I am not Black, but I’ve spent my entire life hearing about and watching unfold the hardships that the Black community has faced in the US and, whether I wanted to or not, benefiting from white privilege. While I understand that Corona-time is not the most responsible time in the world to be protesting, enough is enough. When footage is released of a man dying at the hands of a police officer kneeling on his neck and actively suffocating him while the dying man repeatedly says that he cannot breathe, action must be taken. Something must change. And it may be a small change, it may be slow at first, but nothing ever changed bc people did nothing.
The protests need to happen. Every day that policemen and policewomen can kill Black men, women and children and get away with it, every day that white people maintain and enjoy a political, economic, and social advantage in America (and I can send you countless articles which statistically and thoroughly prove that we do) is another day that systemic oppression continues and an entire demographic continues to be fucked over by their own country. George Floyd was arrested and died when Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck, ignoring his numerous declarations that he couldn’t breathe. Ahmaud Arbery went for a run and was chased down and shot by a father and son who said they thought he was a burglar. He was on a run. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old killed by a trigger-happy civilian neighborhood-watch member. 18-year-old Michael Brown allegedly stole some cigars and was shot while his hands were in the air. These men, and so many other unnamed men and women, have died at the hands of a systemically racist and corrupt system.
I hope that you recognize that racism is a problem everywhere in today’s world – especially and on another level in the US. But it’s really, really important that you understand the root of the problem. I don’t care about issues like this to the extent that I do just bc I have nothing better to do. This is a matter of life and death for the Black community in the US, and it matters. It may not impact me personally on a daily basis, but that doesn’t make it any less important, and at no stage is this an exclusively US problem. For example, the massive and potentially fatal rubber bullets being fired at so many protesters right now were invented by the British Army and engineered to maim and kill after a generation of Civil Rights protestors in England were inspired by the Civil Rights movement in the States.
The protests need to happen. No, nothing will change tomorrow, and yes, money and power and lack thereof will play a major role in this fight, but public opinion and peaceful demonstrations are one of the few ways with which we as citizens have been equipped to fight injustices and promote change ever since the country was established, starting with the Boston Tea Party. The Seneca Falls Convention paved the way to women’s right to vote with the 19th Amendment – a right which Black women were still fighting for even after the Amendment passed. Rosa Parks initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott which eventually led to the integration of public transport – which only happened in 1955, a mere 65 years ago. In the 60’s, the March on Washington paved the way towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After MLK was assassinated, 110 US cities started rioting, causing $47 million in damages. Six days in, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed. The legalization of gay marriage and the development and progression of LGBTQ+ rights were only made possible by public protests and demonstrations and pressure like from that of Stonewall. So the protests are necessary, as is outspoken support for the demonstrations and the cause. No, a Facebook post-share or an Instagram story won’t change the world, but the spreading of awareness is an irrevocably vital piece of any movement, which is why it’s so important to talk about these difficult topics, bc the only people who can ignore them are those unaffected, and that is a dangerous precedent with which to continue. And every voice, whether it feels like it or not, makes a difference. I’m not naive, and I’m not stupid – I know how the world works as much as any 25-year-old can. But if we do nothing, nothing will change.
I hope these words help to clarify why I care so much about this issue and why I fully support the protests happening in the States and even here in Europe right now. I wrote this with my only goal being further comprehension and perhaps a collectively better understanding of the matters at hand, and hopefully further productive chats about this and other topics. It’s very important to be able to have these conversations. Do not rely on Black acquaintances or friends to tell you what you’re doing wrong, they are tired. They are exhausted from constantly having to defend their existence. Keep an open mind, recognize that there’s no way in hell you could ever know everything there is to know and that your opinions can and should continue to evolve with the progression of time. Angela Davis famously stated, “It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist,” and she could not be more right. Speak up, speak out, keep an open mind, recognize that every day is a new learning opportunity. Buy from Black-owned businesses, take the time to learn about contemporary civil rights and social justice issues and their dark histories, be conscious of the effects your actions have on others, and just try to not suck overall.
PS. Please take a look at this link which will direct you to petitions that need signing, organizations you may be able to donate to, and several other resources, bc while talking about the issue and spreading awareness is vital, so too is taking action.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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