Where Is Your Movement?

You either live completely off the grid or are purposely ignoring the winds of change that stirred with the cold and unnecessary murder of George Floyd.

His death sparked a global resurge into the Black Lives Matter movement, that brings into question the treatment of Black people by other races — predominantly White people. From racial profiling, microaggressions in the workplace, media depictions, and uncomfortable comments from friends — everything was put under scope.

As the justified anger, the marches, riots, and stories increased, and the calls for accountability overflowed, we saw a wave of people across the world including Brands, celebrities and politicians, voice their solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.

Black Lives Matter

def.

  1. An international activist movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people.
  2. Commonly misconceived to be saying black lives matter more than other lives, the group advocates for black lives being treated the same way as other groups.

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The day after #BlackOutTuesday I found myself for some unfathomable reason checking profiles. Friends and acquaintances; who had stood in solidarity with a black square, who had previously hashtagged that Black lives matter and who had stayed silent.

Soon the hypocrisy of my actions dawned on me. I never post on Instagram (bar that now lone black square), and my Twitter accounts are compartmentalized, so though I may not talk about an issue on one account, I will on another. Finally, I have always been an advocate that Social Media isn’t the be-all and end-all of information.

Posting or not posting doesn’t expose racism, there is no way to know who is out for genuine change and who is jumping on a bandwagon. A movement can take place elsewhere, it doesn’t have to be photographed or written about, and that place will be different for everyone.

Silence is compliance, but that doesn’t mean if you don’t show your sympathies on social media that you can’t hold up your fist elsewhere.

Afterall let’s be honest, the inevitable will happen — slowly people will move on, protest crowds will thin and once the approved guidelines are put into place to combat the spread of the pandemic, people will go back to work.

The midweek marches will come to an end, and some who posted black squares will silently delete their image of solidarity so their Instagram pages can be aesthetically pleasing once more. The news crews will pack up their kit and #BlackLivesMatter will stop being a trending topic.

Whilst the Black Lives Matter movement has peaked and troughed in wider media depending on its current cause, George Floyd’s murder was the straw that broke the camels, already bruised, and bloody back. 2020 marked a turning point in the hearts and minds of many who now refuse to let the continued disregard for the lives of Black people be tomorrows chip paper.

Although the weight of coverage my decrease, the fight that rages to irradicate racism in all its forms; institutionalised, nurtured, subtle or chorused from white supremacists, can never be quietened. It can be subtle, it can be loud but the race for equality isn’t slowing down.

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The Montgomery Bus Boycott

def. After Rosa Parks’s arrest in 1955, the Black citizens of Montgomery, Alabama refused to ride the cities buses in protest of segregation. They finally boarded buses once more after the Supreme Court ruled segregation on public buses as ‘unconstitutional’. — The boycott lasted 381 days.

Not all of us are foot on the ground protestors — nor do we all need to be. The ball can be kept rolling in a multitude of ways, but the most important thing is to keep the conversation going until the correct changes are made.

There will be a moment where each of us will have the opportunity to truly know where we stand. Alone with no posturing and nowhere to hide, it will be apparent if you truly stand, or if you are just talk.

Only one of these options have the staying power to keep the conversation going, to be relentless and know that they are in for the long haul, that the hard work doesn’t happen in one fell swoop overnight.

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SELF AWARE

Across social media, and in person, I have come across a lot of people who have gotten defensive when it has come to a discussion (and in some cases accusations) about race, and as a result, have ended up sticking both feet in their mouth.

Getting defensive is a natural human response when your mind feels like you are being attacked. But when you are on the defensive you’re not listening, you’re waiting to talk — or, in a lot of cases, just talking over the other person.

You’ll find that you completely end up missing the point of what you are trying to articulate as you rush to jump on and defend every line thrown at you. The next time you find yourself in such a situation, stop, listen, think and then respond.

It’s not for a bird to tell a fish how to swim. If you are not Black, it is not your job to minimalize how a Black person feels, or defend how they have been treated.

Understand your differences and truly listen to what someone is saying, oftentimes they’re not accusing they are highlighting or educating. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you could learn from their standpoint or experience.

The more this becomes a conversation and not a debate, the easier it will be to talk about, and the sooner we can work together.

Gaslighting

def.

1. a form of emotional abuse whereby person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.
2. when someone debates a clear cut situation they don’t understand choosing to invalidate what has been said, or a stance in the process.
example: Why is it always about race?, If you protested peacefully, people would listen, In my opinion, I don’t think they were being racist… I just think…

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EDUCATE YOURSELF

Some of us have never wanted to be teachers. Personally I hated teaching my younger sibling when it came to reading and writing when they were toddlers, and I find it tiresome having to educate people around me about race.

The difference between my sibling at the time and my colleagues now is that one of them knows how (and needs no permission) to use the internet.

If you can be as quick to Google what time Ikea closes on a Sunday, or how to many calories are in avocado and toast, well it takes the exact amount of effort to ask Google why Black women don’t like their hair touched. Maybe try why it’s not okay to say the ‘N Word’ just because your Black friend does or digest just a little bit about what it was like for Black people throughout history that sparked countless protests.

Perhaps reading isn’t your thing —you don’t want to read a powerful teen fiction about The Hate U Give, or why a boy would start his letters with Dear Martin. If that’s the case then you’d most likely stay away from non-fiction books about why someone is No Longer Talking To White People About Race, or what it means to be a Good Immigrant.

That’s fine because we thankfully live in an age of visual consumption, where all you need to do is opt to watch something like Ava Duvernay’s 13th, or Dear White People. — Netflix has even put together a whole Black Lives Matter Collection for you so there’s no research involved on your part.

As an adult education is a choice. Therefore by choosing to remain ignorant you have no place making your lack of knowledge, someone else’s burden.

Knowledge is best shared, if you are happy to educate, (once you yourself are educated) then do so, or suggest works for others to read and watch so we can all be on the same page having intellectual conversations.

Microaggressions

def. Everyday slights, snubs, stereotyping, etc, commonly done thoughtlessly but can also be used when making a knowingly backhanded comment. Microaggressions communicate derogatory or negative messages to a person’s marginalized group.

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SPEAK UP

We all know the feeling of being in a situation, hearing something, or having something said to us that isn’t right — but doing nothing about it. Brushing it aside with a nervous laugh or remaining silent until you disassociate yourself from the incident which becomes an anecdote to a third party, or you lie awake thinking of all the clever comebacks you wish you had used.

There is no reason to get into an argument with someone who only wants to hear themselves speak and have their thoughts be universally agreed with. What you say doesn’t need to be eloquent or witty — but something does need to be said, and you can do it in two words.

Say it with me: I disagree.

If you are feeling particularly wired after that pronouncement then I have three more words you can top it off with, which can be used as either an adage or a follow up to really pack a punch.

It sounds racist.

Feel free to substitute racist with offensive if you wish, but after those two to five words, feel free to tap out. Excuse yourself to the bathroom to collect yourself or make a calming cup of tea to settle the nerves.

Speaking up doesn’t need to spark a debate if you don’t want it to, it may not be the time, the place, or you may shirk from confrontation. Just know that the power comes in voicing to others that you do not agree.

Whether it is in defence of a colleague, a friend, a supervisor, the delivery driver you may never see again or a celebrity — saying something causes a ripple effect.

You never know who your actions can touch. Whether it is someone else in the group who may agree with you and now has the courage to voice it, or the Black person who is tired of battling against the ignorance of others alone knowing that there is a potential ally in their midst.

If you say nothing when the time comes to say something, then you are not part of the solution.

Non-Racism

def. The belief that all people of color should be treated equally but being passive in the process of seeking equality.
examples. Disagreeing with a racists comment but staying silent, watching racism occur from the sidelines, staying neutral in situations of injustice, being oblivious to your white privilege.

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INSTITUTIONALIZE THE MOVEMENT

Granted, work can be a tricky place to navigate no matter how long you’ve worked there. You take your colleagues as they are because outside of working hours they disappear completely from your mind, and in most lucky cases, they don’t have an effect on your real life.

In many ways, this place you go to on a regular basis that pays you to perform specific tasks is part of the problem when comes to corporations and racism. They are a business and in the grandest scheme of things, only care about how much money they make. On a more departmental and personal scale is where the issue of discrimination occurs.

It is a myth when we are told that simple ‘not enough Black people apply’.

The gatekeepers; line managers, heads of departments, company director, human resources. Look around your place of work — if there are no Black people, women, disabled, LGBT, people of color or other marginalized groups represented — these are the people to blame.

Look at your industry and see where they can be doing better — and if they are trying to do better when it comes to representation in the workplace. If they are not then it is your job to speak up.

Pull Up For Change was started by Sharon Chuter who is the founder of the beauty brand; Uoma Beauty. She started a movement with the hashtag; #PullUpOrShutUp, that asked brands to show their numbers when it came to the employment of Black people in the workplace at various levels.

The idea behind it was for all the brands who publically supported the Black Lives Matter movement to understand that it didn’t give them a free pass. Many Brands, celebrities and people piggybacked off the topic, doing so in some cases so they didn’t stand out for not. Pull Up For Change is not to name and shame, but to show transparency and an understanding and willingness to do better.

Black In TV is another Instagram page who aims to highlight the microaggressions and everyday racism that takes place specifically in the British TV Industry. They post real experiences from anonymous professionals.

@BlackInTV Instagram Page

There is no need to go and start your own social media campaign (unless you want to, and you think that will work) but you can look around and if you notice there aren’t enough Black co-workers or any in high-level positions, send an email. It can be to whoever you think will be most effective in dealing with the situation; your line manager, the head of the company or HR — the gatekeepers.

There is no harm in bringing to light a situation which may have been purposely constructed or gone unnoticed and unchecked.

Institutional Racism

def.

1. Racial discrimination that has become established as normal behaviour within a society or organization.
2. The collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin.

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GENUINE SUPPORT

Support can come in many forms. For example, HBO removing Gone With the Wind from their streaming service HBO Max, could be seen as support for the movement.

Other distributors following suit was inevitable and in some cases completely necessary. But pressing delete on the past and releasing a general apology is the easy option and in some ways has a negative effect in that the gesture coming across as hollow.

HBO Max said the 1939 film was “a product of its time” and depicted “ethnic and racial prejudices” that “were wrong then and are wrong today”. — BBC News

If it was wrong then, and it is wrong today, then why was it not removed yesterday?

The quick trigger reaction to rewriting White wrongs of the past has the potential to erase important parts of Black History.

Hattie McDaniel, who plays Mammy in Gone With the Wind, was the first Black person to ever win an Academy Award — Is it right that we no longer have easy access to a monumental feat.

Critics warn that ‘panic-erasing’ distracts from what really matters: employing more ethnic minorities on and off screen — The Guardian

A step in the right direction for genuine support and long term change can be seen in what The Oscars have announced, in having an inclusion requirement in order to be eligible for nomination. This is starting with the 2021 awards and is part of their long term pledge that began with #OscarsSoWhite in 2015. (Read more about it in The Hollywood Reporter)

Another one for motion picture industry is again with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They saw a new record in its number of people of colour as well as women on its board of governors with their latest election. (Read more about in Deadline)

Anti-Racist

def. Actively speaking out against racism regardless of your race, religion, gender, sexuality, background, etc. and as a result promoting equality and racial tolerance.

* * *

To say that I haven’t been complicit in any of the above would be a lie.

I have been the person to laugh awkwardly when someone has said something borderline racist but 100 per cent offensive, I’ve been defensive in arguments where I should have listened and been a part of turning our words into a healthy discussion. I have retweeted blindly without educating myself on the cause, therefore, doing so in vain.

That was all in the past, and though you won’t find me in the streets protesting, you will hear my voice speaking out in situations that call for it. I use my talents, writing, for example, to lend a hand in the movement, and I am holding my industry accountable to make sure real change is sought.

Choose where and how to make your stand.

Wherever it is your voice is most effective, and however small the step is at times in keeping the conversation going, know your movement and don’t rest until equality becomes the norm and Black lives are shown to matter.

Previously published on “Equality Includes You”, a Medium publication.

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Photo credit: Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

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