I cannot imagine that there is a single soul that is aware of but unmoved by the spike in race-related protests and violence around the world at this particular time. What with the police brutality protests in Ferguson and Baltimore, the anti-colonial statue protests in South African universities, the anti-racist protests in Tel Aviv against the Ethiopian Jewish population… Whether one is politically inclined or not, I would like to believe that the humanity in each and every one of us has been shaken.
I hold a particular belief when it comes to issues pertaining to injustice. I believe that justice is the concern of every person that walks the earth. This was challenged by a friend of mine a few years ago when I expressed my annoyance when I came across someone who told me that she did not know what or whom Syria was. I told her that I found it shameful that one would not know about one of the largest political insurgences of our time – to not care of the hundreds of lives that were lost amid that, the steps (or lack thereof) of the rest of the world in response to this. My friend said I was being somewhat irrational in my anger as she could not possible see the value of knowing all about world crises if one can do nothing about them anyway.
My response to her was to at least care about the welfare of others who are less fortunate is indicative of selflessness and empathy which is greatly needed in the world. This empathy is what makes hash tags trend, trends which unsettle people whose interests might be jeopardised by inaction, inaction which puts pressure on a couple of circles or powerful individuals, individuals who can be forced to recalculate their actions in the face of pressure from a larger force than them. The motto of my church, after all, is that light always overcomes darkness.
On that light and dark note, I am aware of a lot of tension among the white people around the world. Within this tension is a mixture of sympathy, guilt, denialism, proactivity, solidarity, and critique. This is understandable. They are generations born into privilege which was sown and harvested by their forefathers – something which they cannot reverse. To be angered by the outburst of emotions and pick on the wounds of black skins by declaring their own innocence is not something I advise.
There are centuries of humiliation, whipping, chaining, flogging, imprisoning, starving, agitating, depriving, shaming in our blood as black people. These legacies were not and cannot be undone by Constitutional Rights and laws. These legacies are evident in our ‘rural’ and ‘ratchet’ accents, the stereotypes used to “other” us, the residential area divides, income gaps, crime and unemployment statistics… These are the centuries of history that made it possible for us to protest for rights to vote, to earn fair wages, to live in dignified circumstances.
So what I suggest is that we don’t fool ourselves into blanketing our prejudiced eyes with the sheepskins of the “colourless society” myth. I suggest that we read about the unsettling truths of our past, talk about them and confront them. Watch Vice News documentaries on Youtube, read journals and newspapers, talk to people who don’t look the same as you. We need to air the discomforting thoughts we dismiss as the subconscious entrenched by ‘society’ and strip them of their weight. Racism must carry no weight in our conversations. I hope that soon we can speak freely and truly freely about race issues all around the world without the need for riot police and crowd dispersers. I hope that we can beat against the wind together to not get over racism, white privilege and supremacy, but get through them.