I wrote the following in a WhatsApp group chat this morning, in response to being essentially told that I was needlessly and foolishly endangering public health, so that I might publicly protest Black Lives Matter. This is a great point, public health is paramount and the subject got a lot of people’s blood up on both sides.
I am happy to report quite a few people spoke up when the conversation became badgering, rather than a dialogue. Some even intervened when people who didn’t seem to want educating past their privilege sneered duplicitously “educate me”. A couple of people on the chat noted that it wasn’t any one person’s job to educate another on racism and misogyny. Google has existed for so long now it would be surreal to say you don’t know how it works. There is no format where stories of individual or institutional racism don’t exist. There are no black or brown friends, colleagues, or family members who don’t have their own stories to tell — if you are there to listen (BTW, now is NOT the time to ask black people and POC for their stories, trust me, it’s just you and Google right now).
This is what I wrote:
“Most people I saw who protested showed signs of being nervous about contact. Almost everyone wore masks, we chanted through them. Lots of hand sanitiser.
It’s not that we were or are laissez faire about the risk of catching Covid-19, this is just way bigger! What could be bigger than a novel global pandemic? A plague that has been with us certainly since we first started recording history. This is about white compulsion to DO something and shake free of being complicit or just ineffectual (silence IS violence) and black desire to stop being held back — and for some, not to die.
It’s about black parents not having to sit their kids down for the talk (I can’t imagine how you think you can hold onto innocence when you have to tell your kid they can’t rely on the police and other services respecting them).
It’s not a Left or a Right thing; it’s a justice thing. It’s not about ‘tribes’; it’s about basic fairness and the right to be treated like a human. These protests are transcending political labels and we should be too. It ought to be seen as a positive that globally we might finally be on the road to getting our shit together.
I come from a family that has done military service, worked for the NHS, works in law — and as for me I’ve done a stint in gov [digital dept] that was all about the public and nothing to do with the party was in power at the time. You know what I see the protest as? You know what it felt like? National Service. Would I risk my life to fight for what was right? Fuck yeah. If you think this sounds dramatic, maybe you haven’t sat with any of your friends or family members whilst they tell you stories of being ignored, abused, sexually or physically harassed/assaulted, paid less, passed over or treated unfairly by people in positions of power over the colour of their skin.
When the #metoo movement started, a lot of good guys, a lot of great guys (some of whom are on this chat) could not believe it. Because they are good guys. That every single woman you know has been (at least) harassed came as a surprise, but that surprise doesn’t stop it from being true. The same applies here. We wish we could ignore this, we wish we could say it’s not a big deal. It is a big fucking deal and it requires a big fucking response. That response is global. I respect someone’s choice to make the virus the thing that dictates how they operate, they’ve probably got good reasons.
Our world will survive this pandemic, and the next one and the next one. It won’t be a world worth surviving for if we don’t stop this constant attack on black people and people of colour.
Finally, the risk [in my view] was highly mitigated by the precautions we took and that there is evidence to suggest that many of us have already had Covid-19. Viral load is hugely important to how this illness presents, while also being highly contagious. Wait til we can all get tested for antibodies, it’s already happening, and it’s astonishing how many people have had it without being even a little bit aware.
If you want to be angry, be angry at government mis-management. Be angry at systemic racism. Be angry enough to help us find solutions. Got a better idea that shows public voice in a way that doesn’t involve a public protest but has the same impact? I’d love to hear it.
Write to your MP, donate to bail funds, BLM, Class13 and Black Curriculum.
And if you think black lives already matter in the UK, my response is NOT ENOUGH, YET.”
If you find yourself struggling to see why this is a big deal, or you think that life-threatening racism only happens in the US, please read the post I’ve linked from @ldnblm. Say their names, read their stories out loud. Then try to take the position that this isn’t everyone’s fight.
Julian Cole, Joy Gardner, Adrian Thompson, Mark Duggan, Cherry ‘Dorothy’ Groce, Edson Da Costa, Rashan Charles, Michael Powell, Nuno Cardoso, Sean Rigg.
BLACK LIVES MATTER.