I am a 22-year-old white woman. The temptation to not get involved or comment upon issues surrounding race is high, largely due to the fear of saying the wrong thing. Even as I write this, I am filled with an uneasiness that, despite having good intentions, my words may be misinterpreted or that I might show an ignorance and lack of understanding on the issue.
I am undoubtedly uninformed on issues surrounding the treatment of black people. I confess to knowing frightening little about black history and culture, which I have started to correct. The current racial prejudice towards black people is at the forefront of current affairs and online posts, given the horrific events happening in the USA and across the globe. These happenings are of importance beyond what I can articulate, so please research and educate yourself on what is happening. There are some important and useful resources linked at the bottom of this article.
Silence on these issues is the loudest form of negligence
As mentioned, the idea of me, a white person, commenting upon the pain, neglect, suffering and injustice black people experience, seemed both daunting and just plain wrong. However, silence on these issues is the loudest form of negligence. I refuse to let my fear of saying the wrong thing stop me from saying anything at all. I am privileged not only by the colour of my skin, but also by the fact that I have a platform online to share my thoughts and opinions. Therefore, silence for me is not an option.
The depth and complexity of racial prejudice is larger than I can try and summarise in one piece, and it would be inconsiderate for me to try and do so. Instead, my intention is to bring to people’s attention the power- the destructive and manipulative power- of three small words which I have seen repeatedly in the fight for black equality: ‘All Lives Matter’.
No one is disputing that all lives do matter
All lives matter. This is a statement which any decent, non-prejudicial human would stand by. People should be judged on their character not on their skin colour, religion, nationality, gender or sexuality. Therefore yes, all lives do matter, yet the inclusion of this phrase when fighting for better treatment of black people is incredibly problematic. It undermines the very essence of their cause. No one is disputing that all lives do matter, but rather highlighting that, in current society and throughout history, actions and words make it very clear that black lives don’t matter.
In bringing to the forefront of people’s attentions black lives, white lives are not being disregarded. Or forgotten. Or rendered unimportant. It is just that attention is being rightly given to the lives of those at risk. At risk of not only losing a job, or a home, but their lives. Their very beings are threatened due to the colour of their skin, and yet people feel it necessary to say; ‘yes but just remember, white people do matter as well’. It borders on being barbaric. Many analogies and metaphors have been made, one of which likens the phrase ‘all lives matter’ to a fire engine which visits a house on fire but does not visit the other houses on their street. It’s not that the other houses do not matter, or that their safety and livelihood isn’t important, just that they are not in danger. In life threatening danger.
— Lumos ?? (@Lumos7) June 8, 2020
Their racism is loud, unapologetic, and unwelcome
‘All Lives Matter’ is a prominent phrase heard by people of my generation, but some people are unaware of its connotations – for example, those who are in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and do not understand how problematic and offensive it can be. They believe that all lives do matter, including all people of colour, and therefore are confused if met with conflict and frustrations when they use this phrase in conversation. Others use the phrase as a direct counter argument to ‘Black Lives Matter’. Their racism is loud, unapologetic, and unwelcome.
If you are white, understand and recognise your privilege. Do not feel guilty for having it but work to eradicate it
The arguments in this piece have been an amalgamation of my own thoughts, and those of my black friends whom I called upon for advice and opinions. They are the voices which matter. If you have the opportunity to try and exemplify and amplify those voices, then you must do it. If you are white, understand and recognise your privilege. Do not feel guilty for having it but work to eradicate it. A friend of mine named Kara eloquently and simply asserted that, ‘white people need to understand that white privilege isn’t someone calling you a racist, but understanding that the system is in your favour’.
The system cannot be changed by just black people. It is our job, as the oppressors, to stand with those who are oppressed. It can be small statements or actions: sharing posts online, signing petitions, broadening your reading lists to including more black writers, or educating and challenging family and friends who say something problematic. Even recognising your own privilege and not trying to pretend it does not exist. If you are white, ask yourself whether you would be happy being treated as a black person. Nothing else about your character changes, other than the colour of your skin. Could you say that you would welcome this change? Do you think your treatment by society would change? If answering yes, then that is white privilege. Acknowledge it.
Do not distance yourself from it. Educate yourself, accept criticisms and guidance on how to help
‘All Lives Matter’ should not be a phrase until all lives do matter. Using it as a counterargument to ‘Black Lives Matter’ is ignorant and shows people to be uninformed to the size of the movement at hand, or neglectful of its cause. Both are wrong. Both need correcting.
If you are a black person, then I am with you, I hear you, and I promise to do better. If you are a white person, I am now speaking directly to you. This is our problem too. Do not distance yourself from it. Educate yourself, accept criticisms and guidance on how to help. We are privileged that racism is something we have to learn about, not something that we have to experience. So, do something. To be quiet is to be compliant.
Resources (suggested by my lovely friend Ama)-
Website to Support the Black Lives Matter Movement: https://www.residentadvisor.net/news/72778
13th, When They See Us, Farenheit 11/ 9
- 5 things I’ve Learned about Racism (Ali Abdaal) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjPWFTtn5wM
- Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man (Emmanuel Acho) – https://twitter.com/thEMANacho/status…
- Me and White Supremacy – https://www.meandwhitesupremacybook.com
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – https://geni.us/2KDCGz5
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