Black Lives Matter is not a fight against white people. It is a fight in attempt to dismantle the shackles of white supremacy and prejudice, from our feet, our hands, our necks and our futures. When people get offended by the recent, countless calls for ‘Black Lives Matter!’ and they label it as an attack; it tells me that White supremacy is a subconscious evil that still exists today.
When people think of white supremacy, they often picture a person that’s joined a KKK rally or someone who sports offensive phrases, tattoos and other lifestyle habits that perpetuate racism. But that’s not always the case; white supremacy is in education, in social circles, in the digital world, in the criminal justice system , it’s in the employment sector… It’s everywhere in elements of our world that affect our daily lives. The Black Lives Matter movement has been spearheaded by protestors in the US, following a series of deaths of black people, caused by police / authorities. This post is aimed at breaking down what the BLM movement means to the every day black person here in the UK, and mainly to tackle the most common misconception about the movement. One being that it is an attack on white people, which could not be further from the truth. Rather, what the world is seeing is a direct rejection by black people, of “white supremacy” and prejudice. Why do I make this direct link? Because in the countries that appear mostly affected by racism towards black people (being the USA and the UK) the majority of authoritative figures and policy makers are of Caucasian heritage. The perpetrators of racial driven crimes are more likely to be white, yet “Black, Asian and mixed-raced people more than one and a half times more likely to be arrested than white people – and considerably more likely to be victims of crime” (Bulman, 2017) particularly here in the UK. We have seen recently the tragic deaths of #BellyMujinga , #ChristopherKapessa , #ShukriAbdi – all black UK residents, who were killed by white people or as a result of their actions, and have not received any justice. So when you wonder why black people in the UK are angry… damn right we are angry! Because had the shoe had been on the other foot, justice would have been served, had the perpetrators been black? The nation would know their name, their family name, their town and their history… those people would be sitting in jail. Something is still disproportionately wrong when it comes to treatment of black people in the UK. Surrounding these disparity, are a set of social, cultural and professional un-written experiences that illustrate what it is like for a black person manoeuvring through our “multicultural society“.
It’s an opportunity for people to re-educate themselves, I know many people swore they were doing that when George Floyd was murdered by police in broad daylight… yet somehow BLM is still being labelled as a “terror organisation”. If people really did understand, this would not be the case; so here’s another opportunity for those people to learn. A big misconception being pushed is that Black people are trying to reach elitism in society, wanting to be seen as better than other people. Again, so false. We’re just trying to be equal. Saying Black Lives Matter means we shouldn’t be looked down upon for the colour of our skin, or mistreated. Here in the UK, we are hugely suffering from systemic racism – just because it’s not overt it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Many people have an unconscious bias towards us black people here:
So, I am going to break down the fight against white supremacy and prejudice for black people in the UK by highlighting 3 factors: Slavery, Society and The Workplace.
We won’t go into the history lessons to break down how black people in America managed to overcome slavery, the emancipation, the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers etc. We know that millions of Black Africans were taken to the Southern states of America, some to Latin America and some to the Caribbean. Although this is how much of the western world recognises slavery as being in America, we must remember that throughout the period that Africans were being enslaved in America, native Africans were also being enslaved by foreign invaders. The biggest examples are Belgian Congo and how millions of Congolese were massacred by King Leopold II, or the Herero massacre in Namibia by Germans who used concentration camps… all of this was happening to black people simultaneously around the world. In my view, this is the reason for the stereotypes that we carry as black people to this day. Ignorant people still see us with the marks that slavery bestowed upon us as a race, tainted our innocence and animalised us as sub-humans, who are not receptible to pain, or morals, wealth or even civilisation. Even now millions of Americans recognizably of African descent “languish in societal backwater” (Loury, 1998) – while I believe that African-Americans and Africans in the UK have climbed the societal ladder of success and dominate industries such as entertainment and sports, slavery gave white people a “head start” because that is what it was designed to do. We still have a long way to go from this.
Workplace & Education
Now with the workplace and the education system, I’m going to present it differently, in bullet points highlighting all the examples of systemic racism in these sectors here in the UK. I am bound to have missed some out, of course these are personal experiences but feel free to add your own in the comments! This highlights why Black Lives Matter also goes beyond police killing in the UK. After speaking with many people, here are some points raised about what it is like to work and study in the UK as black person:
- You’re fighting to be seen as equal before fighting to get ahead.
- You are judged based on your name, if you make an application with an English name and an application with a native African name, you are less likely to be successful with the latter.
- Lack of senior members of staff from black backgrounds.
- Lack of understanding makes people find their own descriptions for you that suit their agendas. They tend to be commonly used words to describe black people, but in a derogatory and condescending manner. For example “aggressive” or “loud”.
- You may find that you have to change your tone of voice so that people do not feel like you are being confrontational, especially if you are a straight talker.
- People may automatically change their tone of voice when speaking with you, which can make you feel uncomfortable as you know that that is not how they usually talk.
- When you are young, teachers threaten you with phone-calls home, pertaining to black disciplinarian parents, to strike fear into the child.
- Lack of black role models in teaching.
- touching my hair
- struggling to pronounce my name
In our social circles, we see that systemic racism and prejudice against black people more rife. It is important that perpetrators of prejudice, do not base their perceptions of somebody on the way they dress or they way they talk. This can be down to inescapable things like colloquialism and dialect. There are several things that many non-black people should try to learn these things about us before judging us. It’s about people unlearning the premeditated thoughts they have in their head and asking themselves the questions as to why they see us and treat us differently.
An account that a friend of mine gave about their experiences of being black in a social environment. This really did make me think, and it paints the picture very well:
You can tell when someone is put off by you because of the way you are. Someone gave an example of going to play football with a friend and their friends , the other friends sort of gave me a stare when I arrived, like “is this guy meant to be here?” Until my white friend came and then they were more like “ohhh this is the guy! Ok cool” it was just a crazy experience, because it’s sad that you can only feel truly comfortable around your own. At first when we started playing football, I consciously toned down the pace , strength, power and communication used during my normal play, to fit the environment I was in so that I did not come across as too overbearing. I would say for the first half of playing I was playing within myself. I’ve had this experience on two different occasions playing football with my non black friends as an adult.
Other experiences felt by black people can be listed as follows, again I am sure I have missed out many:
- people crossing the road when they see me
- clutching belongings
- assuming I like rap music
- questioning expensive items I own
- people feeling threatened when I congregate with my friends
- having to go the extra mile in job interviews or assessments
- being fetishized
- being likened to another black person that you know nothing about
- automatic fear of police
In the same breath, we can see how the media plays up to the stereotypes about black people. A key example is the treatment of Raheem Sterling for his tattoo of a gun, how the media managed to twist his words to suit the agenda of a troublesome young black man. Raheem explained that after his father was murdered with a gun, he swore he would “never touch a gun in his lifetime”. The Daily Mail went on to add the word “again” at the end of the sentence, to imply that Raheem had been involved in gun violence in the past. This was uncalled for and an attack on his character, because he was a young black man. Statements like these ruin people’s careers and lives, and yet the media in the UK are the most guilty of such undercover racism. The media continued to ridicule Raheem Sterling on any given opportunity, relating everything he did that displeased them, back to this tattoo.
And there are still many more. I am eager to know what experiences other people can bring up. I know there is a lot of detail we can go into about this topic but I had been meaning to put this post out ages ago, it just never felt like the right time! I hope you enjoyed it? Can relate, or just learned something new.
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