It is a globally tumultuous time and, as protests continue, you may find yourself losing hope for change in the face of adversity. Non-committal, empty responses from international leaders and a whole system constructed to the detriment of black people can have that effect.
However, it is important to recognise the change that the Black Lives Matter movement has achieved already and what it can keep achieving, proof that the collaboration of humanity actively protesting against institutionalised and systematic racism is effective and necessary and requires everyone’s help.
The pinnacle moment that started the protests, George Floyd’s unjust murder due to police brutality, has finally been accounted for. Police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with second degree murder and manslaughter, whilst the three other officers involved were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
The impact of Floyd’s death has resulted in tidal waves of change both locally and globally.
The Minneapolis public schools unanimously voted to cut their contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department
In the US, states have been reevaluating their governance, as Minneapolis City Council members unanimously voted on June 26th to advance a proposal to defund and disband their Police Department.
The Council President Lisa Bender stated that she intends to: “rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe”.
The Minneapolis public schools unanimously voted to cut their contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department, with previous conditions requiring officers to provide school security. This action was shortly replicated by Portland and Denver.
It is important not to focus too much on symbolic acts that can sometimes be used to divert attention, pacify, or even gloss over the main issue protested against: the deaths caused by police brutality and institutionalised racism.
Pulling down statues, cancelling Netflix shows and acknowledging past racism and racists is all well and good, as long as other reforms are also happening within the police and other institutions (like prisons and courts) to actively combat racism and make a real, meaningful change.
However, every bit of change makes a difference.
There have been many confederate statues removed or damaged in the US, as well as that of Christopher Columbus for his killing of the indigenous people.
With the council not taking responsibility, the protesters did, letting his statue sink into a watery grave at the port where his slave ships used to dock
In the UK, Edward Colston’s statue was pulled down in Bristol by protesters. Colston was a known slave trader and there had been petitions prior to the BLM protests to have the statue taken down, long before it was forcefully toppled.
With the council not taking responsibility, the protesters did, letting his statue sink into a watery grave at the port where his slave ships used to dock.
In Belgium, the statues of Leopold II have been defaced, with some taken down. It is estimated that up to 10 million Congolese are thought to have been killed as a result of Leopold’s bloody colonial history in the Congo.
However, despite some real change, performative activism is still rife.
On the 12th of June, the repeal of 50-a into law was signed
Many states paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on their roads and yet, only one of the States, Colorado, has actually ended qualified immunity for police (a doctrine which previously shielded police officers from any legal liability meaning that they could violate your rights without any repercussions).
Many states have now also banned the police from using chokeholds or deadly force for non-violent offenses.
On the 12th of June, the repeal of 50-a into law was signed, a bill that previously allowed law enforcement in New York to hide police misconduct records from the public.
These records will now be disclosed to the public, allowing more transparency, and therefore increasing systematic accountability for police violence.
The house was stormed in the middle of the night and, when Breonna’s partner shot at the suspected intruder, the police mindlessly shot back
Moreover, in Louisville, No-Knock warrants that allow police to forcibly enter a property without prior notice have been banned. This has been called ‘Breonna’s Law’ after a 26-year-old medical worker was fatally shot eight times when her house was broken into by police on March 13th.
The house was stormed in the middle of the night and, when Breonna’s partner shot at the suspected intruder, the police mindlessly shot back, in search of a suspect who was already in custody for narcotics.
However, only one of the police officers responsible for Breonna’s death has been fired and none face criminal charges.
Not only have these protests ignited fury for racist police brutality, but it has also sparked a less tangible, but possibly more important, effect: conversations all over the world, igniting compassion and rage and the need to know more, to understand, to argue with friends and family about what is right and wrong, to be an ally for black people all over the world, actively, not passively.
Be actively anti-racist, don’t just take part in performative activism
Every aspect of racism is being questioned: underrepresentation on social media, cultural appropriation, arrest rates, deaths at the hands of police and the whitewashing of history among too many others.
Be actively anti-racist, don’t just take part in performative activism, such as giving empty statements of solidarity that conflict with your actions, or allowing family members to make racist comments.
Refuse to support companies that do not hire black people; support black-owned instead. Do not just share things on social media without signing petitions. Attend protests, write letters to your MP or actively contact your university, instead.
No matter the progress achieved so far, there is still so much to be done, so much to be learned and so much to change.
There are far too many black people’s deaths at the hands of police or racists that are still unaccounted for, with justice yet to be served.
There are racist stereotypes built into every aspect of life that need to be removed.
Systematic racism is still rife in the UK, with black people being “over 3 times as likely to be arrested as White people” in 2017
Our education needs to change: the UK can no longer ignore its position as the founder of the slave trade. Generations need to be taught the version of history that’s not whitewashed, in which the UK owns and apologises for its history and begins making reparations.
Despite believing that America is worse, systematic racism is still rife in the UK, with black people being “over 3 times as likely to be arrested as White people” in 2017, despite the 2011 census stating that Black ethnic groups only make up 3.3% of the population of England and Wales.
As you see less and less messages in support of BLM online, it is important to continue protesting, weaving those actions into your everyday life.
Especially as a white person, I cannot stop now.
Racism is an issue to be addressed and fought against every day and I will keep learning and using my white privilege to be an active ally of Black Lives Matter.
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