Let’s talk about race: the Black Lives Matter movement, racial justice and police violence

Hi earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg.

Today’s opinion piece will be on a heavier topic; a topic that is only labelled as heavy due to the lack of positive change we see in it. It is important to remember that something is called a ‘heavy issue’, a ‘heavy conversation topic’, often when people do not want to talk about it because it makes them uncomfortable – which in itself is extremely problematic. You can probably guess what this is by the title of this post, as well as my stream of thought on the issue – and that is the topic of race and racial justice.

First, let me clarify that I am not black myself, I am in no position to speak for black communities or instead of them, nor do I have any authority on the topic at hand. I am here to write about the things I have read, learned and heard, and am here to give my two cents on the issue – in hopes of spreading what is hopefully accurate information about what is and has been going on for so long. I also hope the information I have gathered will only but help the movement. I am in every way open to criticism and comment, and would be happy to add on any extra information if you have any I could share.

I would also like to clarify that the topic is massive: talking about race in the United States is an endless topic (and let it be endless, if that is what we need to continue fighting the injustices). This post just only hits the tip of the iceberg, and there are many, many qualified writers that have a lot more to say that you can refer to, for you to continue learning and educating yourself on the topic. I will be making a list of helpful links to get you started below, so please refer to those resources!

Let me dispel some myths today.

For those living in Europe, saying that this is not a European issue:

As you know, I am writing to you from Europe, and although what happened in the United States with George Floyd (and so many other unfortunate individuals who’s names we do know and sometimes, do not even know) is a continent away, I feel it is strongly necessary for us to discuss the issue, and important to remind ourselves that even here in Europe, there is still such a long way to go for racial justice. Police violence exists and happens in Europe as well, believe it or not, and racial injustice and racism is so very present in Europe as well (Pettigrew, 1998; Ghosh, 2011). It may take a different shape, a different form, but the base remains the same. The absurdity of the situation also remains the same. I could write a whole other post on the question of race and racial issues in the different countries in Europe, but that will be for another time, through what I assume will be multiple other posts. Today, we concentrate on what is happening in the United States.

For those saying that democratic countries will resolve their internal issues by themselves with their democratic institutions and framework, and that this level of coverage is unnecessary:

People love talking about issues that happen in non-Western countries that are non-democratic, that have laxer governmental infrastructures and laws. Especially about countries that are in the developmental stage, and in the vision of the West, somehow simply less ‘developed’ – not only in terms of the economy and existing social infrastructures but also (the wonderful generalisation) apparently culturally so (Mattar, 2009). This in itself is a large topic of conversation (a rather large topic of outrage), but that will be for another day. It boils down to the fact that it is easy to point fingers at North Korea for abusing their citizens with generational dictatorship, at Saudi Arabia for systematically discriminating against women, at Turkey and Uganda for committing atrocities against those that belong to the LGBTQ+ community (and claiming that they do not exist in their respective countries), at Russia for their extremely questionable invasion of Ukraine, China for its inhumane treatment of the Uyghurs… So many non-Western injustices come to mind when the word injustice pops up – and while I do recognise that all the issues I have mentioned above are truly deep issues and problems that we must advocate against and spread awareness of (and write informational blog posts about in the near future) – we must also always question deeply what is happening where we are at, close by to where we are at. And if that happens to be in the West, it is of crucial importance to take a critical stance. Especially if the country one is in claims it is democratic and fair yet has a leader that clearly does not follow such principles. We probably all know I’m talking about the orange clown that is Donald Trump… I will not elaborate on that particular point but I am sure a search on the internet can show you how detrimental he is to the United States as well as the world today.

Believe it or not, I have had to dispel these myths because I have been hearing these opinions from people that supposedly identify with the Left. How? Well… Good question. Perhaps a mix of ignorance and white privilege, but this post will hopefully give them (and all of us) some clarity.

Let us now get to the core topic. What is happening in the United States.

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

What happened, is happening and continues to happen in the United States is in no way something that is new, it is something that has been dragging ceaselessly in the mud, and has been unaddressed for so long because of the white privilege that exists and prevails in the country – of course, like in many other Western countries, including those here in Europe. Being black in the United States is plagued by a long history of slavery and abuse by white (upper class) Americans, abuse that still exists today in forms that are insidious and continuous (Woolfork, 2009) – in spite of the Civil rights movement and its abolition of slavery, African Americans remain denizens of the United States. We speak of systemic, institutionalised racism because it goes deeper than what we see: the government system that has been set up goes against the very core identity of what it means to be an African American in the United States. Even though they should have full rights as equally legal citizens to their other white counterparts in the country, in practice this is not so much the case. We see strong correlations in the United States (as well as in some other European countries) between being a POC (person of colour), belonging to a lower-class, working precarious jobs, having lesser access to what should be considered basic human rights, such as access to healthcare, stable housing and decent education (Hahn, Truman, Williams, 2018). In the American case, the POC is more likely black than not. We see countless African American men getting shot by the police force, with clear abuses in power (Martinot, 2014). These policemen do not get sanctioned and convicted, and black families lose everything: at times a father, a son, a brother, a family member. Other times, a breadwinner (for the lack of a better word), leading to financial disarray in the family unit. Invisible issues such as mental health issues become critical for those said family members, and further for the community as well, issues that the state today does not support due to the painful lack of medical infrastructures and plans set up for the poorer denizens of the United States (Masuda, Anderson, Edmonds, 2012). Trans black individuals are targeted more often than those that are non-black, which in itself seems almost unbelievable, considering how often trans people get targeted in general, and how few rights they have today in most of the United States (Snorton, 2017) – and more largely, in the world.

This may sound like a distant experience from what you are living personally. It may be something that is closer by. Whatever the case, the statement, ‘this does not happen where I am at’ is most likely flawed. We all have a responsibility to support this movement, regardless of our skin colour, gender, the community we belong to. Regardless of who we are.

Photo by Mattia Faloretti on Unsplash

How can I show my support?

Support can mean a variety of things. Here are a few ways you can show your support, and yes there are many many other ways in which you can show your support. The internet is your friend… Do your research!

If you have what is close to financial stability, support could mean donating to groups you have researched that support and finance the movement (some links below). Donating money supports African American families, individuals, communities and groups, helps them continue protesting and speaking up. Helps them if they lose their jobs from getting arrested for protesting and speaking up. Supports them throughout their precarious careers. Gives them the literal financial means to keep going on. They need those funds.

If it is time you have, you can be active, going to protests in your country, sharing resources that are available on the internet (and there are plenty, some links below) on why this situation is an issue and how everyone can support the movement. Look up on the internet if there are any active movements in your area, groups you can support and go see directly.

You can also support black business, whichever the sector you choose to support. Listen to black artists and pay for their music. Watch movies directed by wonderful black artists. Go to art exhibitions of black artists. Look them up, again, the internet is your friend.

You can also educate yourself, and remember, have a duty to educate yourself on race issues. Read Just Mercy. So You Want to Talk About Race. The New Jim Crow. Listen to podcasts. Watch documentaries. There is so much, so much out there that you can learn from. Again, some links below on books, podcasts and documentaries you can refer to.

Educate others. I do not mean this in a haughty way, but we all know that we tend to love to stay around people that agree with us. We all have that one racist uncle, that unpleasant friend that tells you they are ‘colour blind’ (do not get me started), people we like to avoid because they do not agree with us. Who is going to tell them about this? You are. And remember, having the difficult talks is really a form of advocacy that is unseen, that can change mountains in the long run. Listen to them. Try to understand why they are so bitter about the topic. Try to capture what misunderstandings they have. Dispel them. Give them the information they need. Invite them to a protest, to become a part of a loving community that supports instead of breaking and hating. To those telling me, ‘it’s not that easy’, I agree, it is not easy, but try. Try your best, that is the whole point.

Make sure this does not happen again, by speaking up. If you have a platform, a voice, or perhaps simply a position in society that lets you be heard a lot more than others, please, advocate louder than ever.

Is someone close to you implicated in this oppression? Protect them. Speak to them, listen to them, check up with them. See how they’re doing, physically and mentally. Reach out. And when I say reach out I do not mean superficially, by sending them a short message via social media. Actually reach out and remind them you have their back, that you will show full support, in every way possible.

Do not expect a black person to educate you. It is not their duty, and if they choose to do so out of their generosity, do not take it for granted. Listen. Really, listen. Do not assume ever that black people owe you stories about their experiences in the matter. It can be very traumatic for people to talk about their past experiences, especially considering it is something that happens systematically to them, everyday. They do not want to unwillingly relive their past negative experiences. No one does. If they do choose to share stories, again, do not take it for granted. Listen. Really, listen. Do not attempt to verbally empathise if you are not in the position of doing so, e.g. by putting your feelings over their’s. They do not need to hear that, unless you actually can share in their experience.

Above all, do not let this fizzle out. Let it burn brighter and brighter and let their voices be heard.

Photo by Munshots on Unsplash

We need to support the black community. It is our chance now to speak up and do what we can and more for them. We have a responsibility, as individuals that have directly or indirectly been profiting off of black people, black culture, enjoying our comfortable lives thanks to their unwanted sacrifices. It is time we recognise the denizens that should have just as many rights as we do. See them for who they are. Give them the voices and places they have always deserved, but never really got. Let this movement wake us up from our long ignorant slumber, and let this be an important moment of forever reflection and activism.

A personal line from me: Asians for black lives. LGBTQ+ community for black lives. Immigrants for black lives. Now and forever. I will push for your community to be supported by mine, I promise I will not remain quiet, that my communities will hear from me, constantly. I hope we reach the day that my communities support your’s, unconditionally, with love. Forever. We fight this fight together.

Fighting to see change and a revolution,

Meena.


Links to support Black Lives Matter, fight police violence and racial injustice:

Places you can make donations to/projects to support:

For advocacy:

Books you can read to further your knowledge:

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
  • Natives by Akala
  • Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
  • I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright
  • No Home by Yaa Gyasi
  • Home by Toni Morrison
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Oreo by Fran Ross
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • (French) Coeur Tambour by Scholastique Mukasonga
  • (French) Petit Piment by Alain Mabanckou

Podcasts:

  • About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • 1619 – New York Times
  • Seeing White
  • Code Switch
  • The Diversity Gap
  • Pod for the Cause
  • Intersectionality Matters! with Kimberlé Crenshaw

Documentaries/shows/movies:

  • 13th (on Netflix)
  • Dear White People (Netflix)
  • Selma
  • Green Book
  • Hidden Figures
  • (French) Trop noire pour être française
  • (German) Afro
  • (Dutch) Wit is ook een kleur

Resources about talking to difficult family members/friends, acquaintances:

Sources

Ghosh, Jayati (2011) Fear of Foreigners: Recession and Racism in Europe, Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts 4(2) Reworking Race and Labor, pp. 183-190

Hahn, R.A.; Truman, B.I.; Williams, D.R. (2018) Civil rights as determinants of public health and racial and ethnic health equity: Health care, education, employment, and housing in the United States, SSM – Population Health 4, pp.17-24

Martinot, Steve (2014) On the Epidemic of Police Killings, Social Justice 39(4) (130), pp. 52-75

Masuda, Akihiko; Anderson, Page L.; Edmonds, Joshua (2012) Help-Seeking Attitudes, Mental Health Stigma, and Self-Concealment Among African American College Students, Journal of Black Studies 43(7), pp. 773-786

Mattar, Yasser (2009) Popular Cultural Cringe: Language as Signifier of Authenticity and Quality in the Singaporean Popular Music Market, Popular Music 28(2), pp. 179-195

Pettigrew, Thomas F. (1998) Reactions toward the New Minorities of Western Europe, Annual Review of Sociology 24, pp. 77-103

Snorton, C.R. (2017) Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, University of Minnesota Press

Woolfork, Lisa (2009) Embodying American Slavery in Contemporary Culture, University of Illinois Press

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