Black Lives Still Matter
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
To celebrate our charity auction starting back up (image from @artbyanjanidayal, Anjani Dayal), I wanted to highlight the Black Live Matters movement and why it still matters. The movement appears to be dying down in media coverage, but protests, police brutality and lack of justice are still taking place and we should do our best to be knowledgeable on these issues and to educate ourselves. As a white woman, I will never truly understand the discrimination people of colour face, but what I can do is listen to their stories and learn more about the issues they face. As many have said in recent times; it's not enough to not be racist, we have to be anti-racist. Since the protests started back in May, I have tried to learn more, by reading about black experiences, looking at police brutality and systemic racism and did my best with raising awareness, signing petitions and donating to the causes. And I thought I was quite knowledgeable on the matter. Needless to say, from looking into the movement further, I was scraping the surface of what I thought I knew. And I'd like to share what I have learned and hopefully encourage you to look into learning more about this powerful and important movement.
Systemic Racism: It's more than just police brutality
Initially, when hearing about Systemic Racism I thought it was just the police abusing their power in order to discriminate and other systems, such as the justice system, failing people of colour. I have heard stories of black women being treated with less sensitivity and care in hospitals and the community facing racial profiling in so many areas of their life. And these are horrible things to face, but it goes so much deeper than that. One source of education on the matter I found incredibly useful was the documentary '13th' (available on Netflix) which opened my eyes to how deep this racially discriminatory system goes. And this system starts with Prison. The US houses 5% of the worlds entire population but has 25% of the worlds prison population. This is the highest rate of incarceration in the World. The land of the free houses a quarter of the worlds prisoners, that's a huge problem, but why is this the case? The 13th amendment to the US constitution states all Americans are free, 'it is unconstitutional to be held as a slave' . However, there are exceptions to this freedom, which includes criminals. Criminals can, as stated in the constitution, be used for involuntary servitude. And this stands as a loophole for slavery, ready to be abused, and it has. Since the abolition of slavery. The southern economy was in a poor state after slavery was abolished, and so they were ready to exploit this loophole in order to rebuild. This resulted in the mass imprisonment of black people, the first mass prison build, where prisoners were exploited for free labour as punishment for their 'crimes' which included extremely minor crimes such as loitering and vagrancy. The black community were made into slaves again through being criminalised, forming stereotypes to criminalise the black people, which are still used in our present society and can be found in many forms, most notably the police racially profiling black people. Stereotyping the black community to be seen as dangerous, violent, assaulters of white women, further made it easier for them to be criminalised. These racist stereotypes are still enforced by the media, by Hollywood and by our justice systems. The US prison system today still uses prisoners as incredibly cheap labour with wages as low as $0.23 and as high as $1.15 an hour. Most of this money made will go back into the Prison as they need to pay for basic living items as state regulations require that prisoners pay for these items.
Learning this opened my eyes to how much bigger than police brutality the problem with systemic racism is. Essentially the US is still profiting off of this loop hole in the 13th amendment. And although they are being paid for their work, an average of $0.30 an hour isn't a fair wage for fair work. It's not enough for them to build savings for when they finish their sentence and isn't enough to buy all the required basic living items as well as being able to afford to call loved ones (an extremely expensive thing for prisoners to do). The US is profiting off of prisoners with a system developed as an alternative to slavery.
The problem with White Propaganda- 'The Birth of a Nation'
One of the first major US Blockbusters was the 1915 film, 'Birth of a Nation' and this film was dripping in White Supremacy. There were huge lines to see this movie and the response to it was overwhelmingly positive, with even the current president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, praising the movie after a private screening in the White House claiming: ' "It's like writing history with lightning. My only regret is that it is all so terribly true."'  .Thus showing President Wilson praising one of the most arguably racist movies of all time. 'Birth of a Nation' is an attempt to erase the defeat of the South in the Civil War and showcase a Southern martyrdom that plainly didn't exist. The depiction of black people in the movie removes their humanity, painting them as an animalistic sub-human race. The image of African American males was tarnished and tainted by this movie portraying them as 'violent creatures' rather than human, which can be seen in one of the most famous scenes from the movie which shows a white woman jumping to her death to avoid succumbing to the violence of a black criminal. This was a common theme within the movie, black men being a threat to white women, and this was then projected into society. It contributed to the many negative stereotypes that were already thriving at the time and made life dangerous for the black community. The myth of the the black man being dangerous was needed by the government to keep black bodies working within the prison system and this film helped contribute to this false myth. It made the black community seen as villains to the white community. This movie acted as evidence for the white population that the black community needed to be behind bars if the white community were to be safe. This film was not the 'birth of a nation' it was the re-birth of the Klu Klux Klan. It romanticised the Klan and depicted them as heroic saviors of the White people, protecting their communities from the savage black men. In fact the notorious burning of the cross associated with the KKK was created by this movie, as the director thought that this would look visually stunning. As said in the '13th' this is a literal instance of life imitating art. And as this movie came into the spotlight it also brought with it terror and violence for the Black American community. Lynching's and mob killings became common occurrence. After World War 2 this was still a common terror black people faced. And when lynching's and killings started to become un-acceptable, this transitioned into legal segregation, with laws being issued that legally made black people second class citizens. We can clearly see this build of anger and vilifying the black community over time, based on false myths created by the White Man. Enforced by the White Man. This was done purposefully with the intent of exploitation and to keep the black community out of equal positions. And shockingly the effects of this are still hurting the black community today and creating an unjust, profitable prison system that is effectively slave labour. That is still harming the black community. That is still enforced by the police system. Systemic Racism is still very real and still hurting innocent black people and black children.
What to do about White Privilege
White privilege can be a hard thing for some people to grasp, especially when to a lot of people, slavery is over and in the past and surely we're all equal now. The word white privilege can be uncomfortable for many white people to confront, because firstly, not often do we have to recognise our whiteness, and acknowledge our own race. Secondly, because so many poor white people with struggles do not consider themselves as privileged. To claim white privilege to some might mean claiming to be racist, which it is not racist to acknowledge. White privilege is simply acknowledging you know that due to your race you will be treated better, you know you wont face discrimination as black people or people of colour do. As a white person, I have to understand that I am the product of choices made by my ancestors. For black people this is not the case, they are the product of their ancestors who didn't have a choice in the history being made. I am in a place of privilege because of my white ancestry. I am at an advantage compared to people of colour who will face more obstacles in life than I ever will, simply due to their race. 'Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “white privilege” was less commonly used but generally referred to legal and systemic advantages given to white people by the United States, such as citizenship, the right to vote or the right to buy a house in the neighborhood of their choice.'  . So what do you do once you recognise this privilege? To me the first step is listening. A response you might want to take is to speak about your experiences and to show that you are not racist. But right now is not the time for white people to dominate the conversation. We should listen to black people on their experiences rather than question those experiences. Let them have the space to talk without us dominating the conversation. You can also use your privilege to amplify those voices and share their words and perspectives on social media, this can help spread their message from the source. We can also stand up when we see something racist and wrong. As allies we can also teach and educate our friends, family and people who may not be fully aware or educated on the matter of race. We need to keep the conversation on race and racial injustice going. It might feel hard to do that now that the conversation has died down, but it's important we keep this going and we keep pushing for justice and for police and prison reform. Keep protesting and sharing information. Keep signing the petitions and keep the conversation alive. Keep the movement alive.
Important links to support the movement and for education.
Films on Netflix:
13th- Ava DuVernay 13th: A conversation with Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay BlacKkKlansman- Spike Lee When they see us- Ava DuVernay Websites: Ways to help! What is White Privilege? The case for Reparations Anti-Racism resources for White people George Floyd: How can I help from the UK? 103 Things White People can do for Racial Injustice
Campaigns and Charities: Black Lives Matter
Campaign Zero American Civil Liberties Union The Bail Project Stand up to Racism UK Petitions: Justice for George Floyd Justice for Breonna Taylor Justice for Ahmaud Arbery Justice for Belly Mujinga Justice for Tony McDade Justice for Amaya Braxton Julius Jones is innocent Justice for Jacob Blake Justice for Tamir Rice Justice for Alejandro Vargas Martinez Justice for Willie Simmons Charge the Minneapolis Officers Defund the Police
 13th. (2016). [Documentary] Netflix.  Benbow, M.E. (2010). Birth of a Quotation: Woodrow Wilson and “Like Writing History with Lightning.” The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, [online] 9(4), pp.509–533. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20799409?seq=1 [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].  Collins, C. (2018). What Is White Privilege, Really? Teaching Tolerance. [online] Available at: https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2018/what-is-white-privilege-really [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020]. Images:
 Digital drawing, submitted for the Oddball Space Charity Auction by @artbyanjanidayal  Cabinet Secretary Keyes on Systemic Racism & the Role of Businesses. (2020). Available at: https://gonm.biz/stories/cabinet-secretary-keyes-on-systemic-racism-the-role-of-businesses [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].  IMDB (1915). Birth of a Nation poster. Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0004972/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].