The Problem with your Silence

Identity

One of the beautiful things about living in the age of social media is the speed at which news can travel and spread, irrespective of what part of the world you are in. Never has this been clearer than now – as the story of George Floyd has gripped a world struggling in the throes of a pandemic that has confined most of us to our homes.

It is not surprising then that many members of the black community have been left feeling hurt and abandoned by the lack of outward support and solidarity they have received from their non-black counterparts. Everyone with access to a phone and the internet has surely heard or read about the murder of George Floyd at hands of Officer Derek Chauvin.

And so why? Why has there been so much outpouring of grief, rage and support from one section of society and a deafening silence from the others? Are we to just accept that the issue of police brutality and systemic racism is one that only concerns black communities?

Times like this show how apathetic most are to issues of race that keep me up at night, that unfortunately inform so many decisions in my life.

Much has been made of the fact, by members of the black community; that we do not need to pander to our non-black counterparts for support or solidarity; that we risk diluting the narrative by focusing too much on the response of the non-black community; that we should simply accept that they do not care and will never care. In many ways I see the allure of this argument, but that way of thinking is too binary, and it fails to address the need for support from communities other than our own, for those of us who occupy predominantly non-black spaces.

Race is one of the most important facets of any person of colour’s life, more so for black people, what with our particular history of oppression from the state. Is it any surprise then that it should be a topic I wish I was comfortable enough to broach with the people in my orbit irrespective of their race or background? But how can I, when times like this show how apathetic most are to issues of race that keep me up at night, that unfortunately inform so many decisions in my life.

Where is the energy that shines through when we’re out and a song celebrating black culture and experience comes on? ‘Fuck tha Police’ is more than just a catchy phrase for you to belt out on the dance floor. Hip-hop/rap is now the most popular genre and yet one of its most important subject matters is still ignored by a large part of its audience.

Whilst no doubt deserving of your vitriol and outrage, it certainly feels like Donald Trump has become the preferred punching bag of the public

It is quite telling that vast amounts of public outrage espoused by those who are not black has been centred around the comments made by Donald Trump, in the wake of the rioting that broke out in Minnesota. Whilst no doubt deserving of your vitriol and outrage, it certainly feels like Donald Trump has become the preferred punching bag of the public because its form of activism is ‘acceptable’ that allows you to avoid addressing the problems at the heart of these issues.

Minneapolis has experienced decades of Democratic governance at every institutional level and yet very little has been done to address this fact the past few days. Centering your outrage around Trump is played out and unhelpful – it suggests that problem with racism in America is the fault of a few bad eggs. Police brutality was a problem before Donald Trump entered the oval office and will be a problem long after he is gone – simply ask Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner.

Reni Eddo Lodge perhaps said it best when she declared that ‘at best white people have been taught not to mention that people of colour are different in case it offends us.’ But we are different, and pretending like we aren’t simply allows you to ignore the fact that institutional racism and white supremacy are still powerful forces in the world we live in today.

How many times have you used your social media pages to campaign for climate change and gender equality?

It is true that social media is not the only way of demonstrating solidarity and that many contribute to the cause without making their support for it public but what is about this movement that makes it so hard for public demonstrations of solidarity to be made. How many times have you used your social media pages to campaign for climate change and gender equality? Why was it so much easier to pick up your phone then and draw attention to those issues?

The past few days for me have probably been some of the hardest of the pandemic.

What have the past few days been like for you? Have you checked up on your black friends to see how they are doing and coping with not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also the sickness that makes victims out of them because of the colour of their skin? Have you engaged in any form of discussion about the events taking place right now? In the case of those of you who feel your knowledge is not complete enough to speak up: Have you attempted to educate yourself on race matters? Have you donated money to any one of the many charities championing the cause? Or have the past few days been spent in blissful ignorance, lapping up all the goods mother nature has to offer in the summer.

If you have done any of the above, I salute you, but it doesn’t end there – the battle we are fighting is going to be a long and hard one. We can’t allow the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the many that came before them to become another footnote in the long history of black oppression. Their deaths should mean more to us than just another hashtag.

In other news, massive shout out to Danielle Welbeck, Ibtihaaj Mohamoud, Cara Moran, Emma Schuetze and Nadia Awad for raising over £20,000 in support of National Lawyers Guild Inc.

image creds – Phil Rhoeder

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