Racial injustice in 2020 is no longer a fundamentally black problem. It is now a white problem. Our most recent reminders – the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Breonna Taylor – while abhorrently despicable for us black people, are sadly not all that surprising. Whilst also affecting our self-esteem and mental health, the issues and racial microaggressions we, as black people, face on a daily basis can make our lives feel like a daunting task.
Thinking ‘not another race post’ after just 16 days does not eliminate over 400 years of oppression. We must all understand that this fight for justice and equality is ongoing and does not end with 2 weeks of Instagram posts. This is a battle that I don’t have the luxury to take a back seat on. I understand that for some who may have been largely unaware of the ongoing negative impacts of racism, it can be a lot to digest all at once. There is no excuse at this point to be ignorant in regard to this issue – black people are dying at a disproportionate rate. It is imperative that momentum is not lost and more pressure is put on the system.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech reminds us that if we are to ‘condemn rioting for the destructive, unbridled, and rageful aggression that it is, or more importantly, to try to prevent it from happening in the first place, we have to first understand its cause. Rioting can be thought of as a symptom of a disease. In order to treat the symptom, we have to treat the disease’.
The root cause of the disease in this case is the systemic racism that has persisted across multiple generations, spanning hundreds of years. Dr. King, we can see, once identified this issue, yet on social media people are repeatedly condemning rioters and looters without wanting to comprehend the core issue at hand.
It would appear that in other similar situations where football hooligans or the stragglers at the end of a night out can freely damage public and personal property for non-political gain, the same outrage is not directed at them and their vandalism. Usually they are awarded excuses like: ‘it’s just for a laugh’ or ‘one too many drinks’.
To be more concerned that ‘protests shouldn’t turn into looting’ is to be less concerned about the black lives that have been lost. It is being enraged at the wrong issue. Put simply, arrests should not result in murder. There are no excuses for the oppressed who have reached their wits end fighting for equality for yet another generation. Telling us to heal without justice is telling us to conform. In 2020, I believe it’s time to define a new normal.
Some things are worth fighting for. The life of an innocent human being, regardless of race, is most certainly worth more than looted goods. We are currently witnessing a revolution and, to quote John F. Kennedy, ‘those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable’.
Still, the movement’s measurable impact on the political and legal landscape is undeniable. It must be noted that in just over 2 weeks we have already accomplished the following:
- Invaluable donations worldwide to a number of worthy causes. Please contribute in any way you can.
- The arrest of all police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd. Furthermore, Derek Chauvins’ charges were upgraded to 2nd degree murder and his bail raised from 750,000 to 1.2m.
- Breonna Taylor’s case was reopened for investigation.
- Louisville suspends No-Knock warrants in light of the Breonna Taylor case.
- Countless statues of slave traders being uprooted and torn down around the world.
- Many US organisations, such as universities, cut ties with their local police force.
- US marine corps banned all public displays of the confederate flag.
- A new bill has been passed in response to Amy Cooper, now making it a hate crime to call 911 with a false allegation based on race.
- Maybe the most poignant of all: Minneapolis City Council Members have announced their intent to disband the Minneapolis Police Department in place of community-led public safety.
These are all great things. And that is to name only a few.
It is possible to make the right changes – let’s continue to do so.
For my fellow black people that may be reading this article: I know that this has been an unbelievably difficult time so please take some time out to indulge in some self-care, do things that bring you joy. Learn that Tiktok dance, cook or order yourself that extravagant meal, get dressed in that super boujie outfit to do your weekly shopping. Your mental wellbeing is extremely important in these unprecedented times. Remember that in spite of what we have gone – and continue – to go through, our black joy and laughter is one of our most glorious gifts to the world. From this, we have created illustrious talents and art within our culture that will continue to influence the world.
Make sure to take care of yourself. I encourage absolutely everyone to make a habit of checking the BlackJoy hashtag. I promise that it will lift your spirits to no end. Black joy in general is an act of resistance that is important for us to highlight. Be involved in the revolution of our joy as well as the fight for our human rights and equality. We must celebrate black joy because black lives do not only matter in retrospect. Share our joy along with our plight.
For the white people reading this: use your privilege for change and educate yourself. Don’t just listen to respond, listen to understand. The last 2 weeks have been quite exhausting, frustrating and triggering for us, so having to discuss this topic time and time again with you when it is not our job can be further exhausting, frustrating and triggering. Do your own research and remember Google is your friend. There is a plethora of information at our fingertips – put it to good use! Actively reject the old normal to accept a new one.
We are currently witnessing the largest civil rights movement in history, spanning across all 50 states in the US, and over 18 countries globally. The world is currently protesting in solidarity of the Black Lives Matter movement. To some, this might sound dramatic – but let me be clear; if you’re not with us, you’re against us. It simply won’t cut it to take the claim of neutrality, so I urge privileged Caucasians to challenge themselves to have that uncomfortable discussion, because this is where the change begins.
I have included some online petitions that still need more signatures. I know you all have 5 minutes to spare after reading this. So much has already been accomplished. Let’s keep this conversation going.
By Gabriella Yahaya