I was at a #BlackLivesMatter protest over the weekend, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Thousands and thousands of people attended.
What struck me most was the age and ethnicity of the protesters. They were mainly young people (30 years and below) and of diverse ethnicity. I could go as far as saying 50% of them were non-black. They had come out, en masse “in support” of the Black community as they are faced once again with injustice, inequality and oppression.
Elsewhere there has been tons of non-black support, from donations, to tweets, blackouts on social media, adverts, pulling down statues, corporate events and more. The popular South Korean group, BTS donated $1m to the cause and raised funds on another $1M from their fans. James Corden and several other non-black celebrities have publickly supported the moment.
On a more personal note, my non-black friends have been super supportive, sending me love and encouragement.
As a black person, I love it, welcome it and embrace all non-black engagement, after all, we are one race, the human race.
But this is also why I feel, quite a few people (on both sides) are missing the point. White protesters, you are not just supporting black people, it is your fight! We, as black people raised the flag; the banner clearly states Black Lives Matter, but white people should sound the trumpet and go into battle.
Black people did not create the system we find ourselves in
In George Floyd, the whole world saw clearly what Black people have, and continue to endure. The knee of White oppressors on our necks, whilst we are handcuffed and pinned to the ground. Our helpless pleas as we beg for the right to breathe.
On the surface, it seems simple enough. Black people are mistreated, so you want to support ‘their’ fight for equality. But it is not their fight, it is your fight. You are not fighting just for black people, you are fighting for yourself, for your future and for your legacy. You are not on the streets just because you have black friends. You are on the streets because you belong to the human race. A race which functionally, is broken.
You are not ‘supporting’ Black people in their fight, you are fighting for your legacy, for your future.
Banksy, the artist articulates this perfectly on his Instagram post.
“At first,” he said, “I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem. It’s mine.” He continued,
People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. This faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t. No-one will let them into the apartment upstairs.
“This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”
(Bansky 2020 -https://www.instagram.com/p/CBFyA8iM15Y/ )
White Protesters, there is a leaky pipe in your system and it’s flooding my apartment
In Bansky’s analogy, we see the system was not designed by Black people, the leak was not caused by Black people, and Black people do not have the access to repair the leak.
The protests show White people coming downstairs with buckets, they see the injustice and they do not want to be part of it. They help bail the water, they chant, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ holding placards high, standing shoulder to shoulder. But it does not stop the leak. At the end of the day, they return to ‘Whiteness,’ while Black people sleep, wake, eat, play and work with the water constantly incessantly dripping. Some places in droplets, other places it pours.
Ezra Collective, a popular jazz band with diverse bandmates outlines some of their experiences on an Instagram post.
- Having to put the white crew members in front of the tour bus to avoid getting stopped by police.
- Being asked countless times if we’re drug dealers at festivals
- The inevitable interrogation at airports that we’ve just come to accept.
- Having to weigh up the balance of just how racist a country is against wanting to do the festival.
Every black person would read the above, and nod in a shared understanding. I love travelling and I mostly travel solo. With each trip, my key considerations is to check how racist the country is, do black people live there? Is it safe on the streets. I research diligently. I am careful about the areas I stay, where I go and how I travel — all because of the colour of my skin. I love snowboarding, but in pursuing my passion, I endure looks and stares on every chair lift, every turnstile, every gondola. Getting a hot chocolate on the piste is painful — every time, a reminder that I am different and not expected to be seen in a place like that.
I work hard, very hard — pushed by the thought at the back of my head, am I good enough? As I walk confidently into a room, head held high with a smile, I often wonder, am I wanted here?
Slavery, Colonialism, Apartheid, Windrush, the prison system, education system, judiciary system, health system, labels, employment system, prejudices, discrimination — all combined in my black DNA, an internal trauma I fight daily.
My clothes are wet, I am wet, and I’ve spent all night bailing water out of my apartment.
David Oyelowo, the Black British-Nigerian Actor put it brilliantly when he said,
“Black people did not create this situation we find ourselves in, therefore it cannot be on us to change it.”
Please go and fix the pipe
Go back upstairs, bang on the doors of the White system. Break them down if you have to, fix the leak. It is your system, your apartment, your leak. Don’t ask me how to fix a leak in your apartment. Ask the people who built the system.
If you meet the brigade that says, “All Apartments Matter,” would you agree with them, point out that the apartment below is flooding, so right now that particular apartment matters.
If you meet the brigade that says, “there goes Black people again, playing the race card,” would you explain that they are simply wet and cold from the flooded apartment.
If you meet the brigade that says “but George Floyd was not a good person,” nod along, then say “the leak is coming from your apartment and it’s gotta be fixed first.”
This story provides an excellent starting point with resources to repair your leak.
47 Very Specific Answers to ‘What Can I Do to Help?
There’s a role for everyone in this fight
Black people have issues to deal with. I agree. Black on black violence, disunity perhaps, poverty, drugs and crime. Our walls are spotted with mould. Our carpets are soaked. We had to get rid of our chairs and we sleep on the floor. Our clothes smell damp. We have repairs to make in our apartment, we are working to survive, warm up and redecorate. All we ask, is that you repair your leak.
Don’t ask me how to fix a leak in your apartment.
- Just over 400 years ago, White people brought Black people from Africa to work on their plantations as slaves — In the 1800s, White supremacy was justified as it was based on science. Darwin’s book, ‘The Descent of Man’ unwittingly helped propagate this theory and it became widespread.
- 300 years ago, the seeds of colonisation were planted in Africa
- Up until 30 years ago, apartheid and segregation was the norm in South Africa
- Up to 5 years ago British tax payers including descendants of slaves were paying off a debt to slave masters incurred by the British government
- 2 years ago, the Windrush scandal rocked Britain with illegal deportations and detainment of Black British citizens
- Up till 6 months ago the currency union of Francophone African countries was being supervised by France
These are a few of the holes.
This article in The Guardian yesterday, addresses just one part of the bigger problem. Again, one example pulled from hundreds and hundreds I could cite.
It's time for Britain to think seriously about reparations for slavery | Amandla Thomas Johnson
The fall of Edward Colston's statue in Bristol on Sunday has quickly become the defining image of the recent wave of…
Today as we write the history of tomorrow, these protests present an opportunity, not just for black people, but also for white people to educate themselves about the four dimensions of racism.
The banner we raise is an opportunity to re-write history. When futures films are conceived, and documentaries made. When man conquers galaxies, and we live amongst the stars, when books are written and songs are sung. The legacy of White people would be the fight for equality that took place in the very heart of White Supremacy.
If our walls collapses, the whole block goes down with it
Black People raised the flag, our apartment is flooded, the walls are crumbling. Scramble to stop the leak because you see the obvious. We call it Black Lives Matter, because if our walls break, the whole apartment block will collapse.
Our moment of pain has resulted in a movement. But this movement sounds a responsibility for White people, for Governments and institutions in the West to change. You cannot sit back and watch. You cannot dismiss this as a ‘Black’ problem. You cannot play the part of the ‘White saviour’ coming to help us. None of these are valid.
It is your fight.
Get up and repair your system.
If our walls break, the whole apartment block will collapse.
Two days after publishing this article, I was asked a question by a White Ally who wanted to get involved in the ‘fight,’ and was worried about ‘being challenged’ as trying to solve the problem rather than standing back and letting POC do things their own way (paraphrased). In my next article, I share his question along with my answer.
If you ‘enjoyed’ reading this, here are other related articles. #BlackLivesMatters.
In response to a 50 words prompt:
Getting 8 mins 46 seconds out of my head:
8 Mins 46 Secs. It’s a Long Time to Have a Man’s Knee on Your Neck
With nothing to do, just breathe
When Trump held a Bible in front of a church, I had to double check what Jesus would do:
Eight Instances Where Jesus Stood up to Injustice, Exclusion and Inequality
And none of them involved holding the Torah in front of a Temple
Written the day after I watched George Floyd die on the street with a white man’s knee on his neck: