One of the 35th President’s of the United States, John F. Kennedy, main sayings was based upon an interpretation of Dante Alighieri’s poem titled Inferno. As his brother Robert F. Kennedy explained in 1964, “President Kennedy’s favourite quote was really from Dante, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality”.
Within the last couple of weeks, we have seen a drastic spike in the global conscious awareness of police brutality, systemic and institutional oppression, White privilege and most importantly, racism. The mobilisation of the Black Lives Matter movement has never spread so effectively, nor has the conversation been so widely discussed amongst the general public. For the first time in centuries, the dialogue surrounding these topics are being highly mobilised to the point where Juneteenth is being considered to be a national holiday, new laws have been created and named after police brutality victims, countless artists have released songs to raise awareness and so, now what?
We’ve done our stories, posted the black squares and Martin Luther King quotes, but this movement isn’t just some trend. Black lives exist and matter outside of hashtags. We are here now, but who will stay till the end? When the hashtags no longer trend and the hype subsides, will you still be as outraged and demonstrate a willingness to learn? Will we continue to be anti-racist in a society that has spent centuries becoming accustomed to being so?
As someone who has more or less always been aware of police brutality in America (I even wrote a blog post about it in 2016) alongside the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement following the senseless killing of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, I was outraged as well as felt an extreme sense of hopelessness. I had seen Floyd’s death without watching it, I watched it countless times before, with the deaths of others, too many to name. I was struck by the similarity of Floyd’s death and Eric Garner’s before him, both uttering the same breathless last words, “I can’t breathe”.
I have a Black younger brother, and my fear for him grows with each birthday. I have been reporting on the link between structural racism and toxic stress and the high rates of death for Black mothers and children for three years. I’ve been truly devastated by the reports about how many Black people are dying from COVID-19 as well as police brutality.
With this sudden awareness of continuous injustice towards BIPOC within ALL areas of life, from medical racism, whitewashed history, down to the wedding industry, it’s almost frightening to see how complacent and blissfully unaware (predominately) White people have been towards these problems. This is far more than just “Some guy getting shot” and other racist arguments that tend to get put forward, this is about unveiling many underlining issues within society. But in order to be a real ally that advocates for change, there are a few things that need to be understood.
First of all, as mentioned, this is merely the surface. Be prepared to feel the tiredness, dread, and a lack of hope at a system that takes one step forward and five steps back. There will be more names and it will shock you how quickly more bodies are added to the pile and how corrupt officials will behave. You will grow weary and your souls will tire from what seems like never-ending travesties and exploitation. I want to ask if you are ready. Ready to have continuous uncomfortable conversations with co-workers, with family members, and with friends.Irish-Nigerian writer and PhD researcher Emma Dabiri made a very informative thread on her Instagram titled “Notes on Allyship and Coalition“, specifically catered to those with White and White-passing privilege in order to help ensure that the anti-racist momentum continues beyond quarantine. I’m going to take sections of that thread, re-write some of it and post them below. But please do continue to do your own research as there are plenty of resources out there for you to educate yourself on the issue.
STOP DENYING THE EXISTENCE OF RACISM.
A lot of people do this. Not only do they deny racism in modern day society altogether, but they also deny that any form of racism exists within them by vehemently refusing to accept that the world has forced us to see race through a certain lens of supremacy for centuries that no one is immune to. White supremacy isn’t an abstract concept coined by the Left in an ever-evolving society, nor is it a political issue that we must ‘sympathise’ with. It is a very much real yet damaging humanitarian issue that we must interrogate and dismantle immediately. It’s a privilege in itself to learn about these experiences rather than having to go through them yourself.
SPEAK OUT WHEN YOU HEAR RACISM. CHALLENGE IT.
This might be difficult because a lot of these racist “jokes” are used an excuse to project offensive and outdated stereotypes that most people feel like they have outgrown. Unless you’re a Ben Shapiro listener or you still watch Filthy Frank. Either way, it’s 2020 and even KSI doesn’t let his fans use racial slurs anymore. I’m just referencing controversial YouTubers now. Bottom line, don’t place the burden on Black and ethnic minorities alike to call out racism. It’s selfish and extremely draining, this is just as much YOUR responsibility as it is theirs.
ABANDON WHITE GUILT.
YOU ARE NOT PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOUR ANCESTORS DID. WE KNOW THAT, OBVIOUSLY. Okay, glad we got that out of the way. However, you are responsible for what YOU and your White counterparts do from this point onward. You are responsible for uncritically accepting all of the advantages accrued to you by virtue of their wealth acquisition, land ownership etc. Oh yeah, and the entire creation story that justifies it. In conclusion, KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT! Keep signing petitions, spreading awareness, contacting local MP’s, staying informed, listening to Black academics/authors/people and understand their experiences, watch documentaries, utilise resources and remain educated. We’ve got this.