‘White complicity in racism’

Black Lives Matter (BLM), a statement, a movement, and a source of much controversy. But what is it all about? If you do one thing today, please do me the favour of joining me on this journey as we try to better understand this disputed movement.

Many people know of Martin Luthor King’s now famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, yet it was this most recent Martin Luther King Day on January 18th that stirred up an important aspect of the late Dr King’s legacy. The factor that plagued his life, and ever since his death, is the lacking response and care shown by white people.

“…First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…” – MLK, full letter here.

When questioned, of course the majority of our colleagues, friends, and family, believe they support black rights and denounce racism when seen, yet reading King’s speeches made me realise how complicit we are in our inaction. While we like to believe we denounce racism, our attitude towards racial inequality places it as something that is very much a black-persons problem. Only breaking our silence to tackle racism on occasions in which our silence would possibly bring us harm to our social standing.

The tragic death of Sarah Everard & disappearance of Michael Okorogheye displays the disparity in reactions between the cultures in the UK. Both of these tragic cases deserve full attention of the media, the people and the country at large. Both should horrify and trouble us to the same level as though it were on of our own friends or family. Yet the former received huge attention while the other took days of campaigning on social media to receive the attention it deserved. Richard’s mother was told ‘if you can’t find your son, how are we supposed to?’ by the police. This would never have happened if she were white. It’s a signifier of where we’re at as a country.

As a gay man I recognise the importance of non-marginalised groups advocating, protesting, and standing with the LGBTQIA+ community as our allies. Yet when I looked around at my family, I could not imagine them or myself advocating explicitly for racial equality in any meaningful way.

What can YOU do?

Needless to say, this realisation troubled me. I like to think myself as a strongly aligned member of the left socio-political movement, priding myself on fighting for minority groups. Yet it became apparent to me that beyond signing petitions, sharing content on social media, there was not much I actually did to make a difference.

An article by Time Out in June 2020 outlines many ways in which the average person can get involved in supporting Black Lives Matter. From donating to movements like the Minnesota Freedom Fund or your local BLM organisation, showing solidarity on social media to showing up to protests. Any and all of these methods and more help support the movement.

I believe one step from this list we can ALL take is to educate ourselves, keep our ears and eyes open and be prepared to learn. Together we can take personal responsibility day to day to fight racism in all forms, being pro-active in ensuring we treat problems and issues for BAME communities with the same importance we do for issues that directly impact white people.

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