Updated: Jul 3, 2020
In this blog post I’d like to offer a brief (and ridiculously simplified) history about why racism exists, plus videos and links to places with guidance on how best to support the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ll include details of some of the things that the protests have already changed, and my thoughts on why that isn’t enough and we need to keep fighting to protect black lives and improve the status of people of colour generally in our cities and neighbourhoods. I will also try to explain how an improvement in the status and lives of all people of colour helps all people.
I will include videos and speeches by people of colour (both historical and current) because as I’ve said before, they are the experts on this particular struggle, even though it clearly intersects with other issues including class, gender and sexuality, which is why a win now will lead to the betterment of so many people’s lives.
Why Racism Exists
Europe has been colonising the rest of the world since the 1400s. North America is a former European colony, and all of the white Americans are immigrants from Europe. Humans, for all their faults, are social and empathic, and yet we have managed to wipe out and enslave people for the past 600 years. How? By pretending that non-whites, non-Europeans are not quite human. Racism exists as a salve for this guilt and an excuse to perpetrate crimes against humanity. It isn’t comfortable to hear, but it is true.
Pseudo-science was used to “prove” differences between races.
This “science” has been thoroughly debunked, but like those people who still believe the world is flat or the sun orbits the Earth, it persists.
There is a lot of air time and energy spent (now the science has been debunked) in creating and perpetuating negative cultural differences. Crime is a huge one. People who have immense power in our societies would like you to believe that black people commit more crime than white people. That’s why you’ll see ex-con next to George Floyd’s name so frequently, even though the people who knew him loved him and saw him as a way to bring together communities. Democracy Now has interviewed people who suggested that they saw echoes of Fred Hampton in George Floyd. Both men were assassinated, if you’ll take a leap of faith with me and accept that crushing a man’s neck for nine minutes was an assassination.
In reality residential areas, where the population is predominantly black, are heavily policed, and poor people do not have access to expensive defence lawyers, so even though crime levels are likely the same in white and black communities, convictions and prison sentences are skewed to ensure black people are locked up more frequently than white people. That’s true before we realise that governments have intentionally created crimes and weighted penalties to target black people, as shown by documents between J Edgar Hoover and Nixon. Please feel free to Google this if you are unaware.
Why are social media and mainstream news channels trying to vilify and discredit the Black Lives Matter movement?
And why should you, as a white person, care?
Where ever I go I hear people complaining about a protest related Covid second spike (while ignoring the impact of shops reopening and full beaches). People are upset about horses, while not considering whether mounted police should be banned from protests entirely for safety reasons. People are angry about looting and property violence rather than black people being killed by police. People decry the toppling of statues of slave traders from the 1600s. You noticed that too, right? Whatever can be thrown at the movement (including tear gas on peaceful protesters) is being thrown.
I think it’s because powerful people are very afraid.
Powerful rich people want to get richer. We know they’ll relocate to third world countries for cheap labour while domestic workers are left unemployed. We know they engage in the destruction and weakening of trade unions who can improve the conditions of those domestic and international workers who are employed. We know they avoid paying taxes into the general good fund.
Meanwhile more and more people are in poverty, suffering from unemployment and lack of access to affordable health care and effective legal representation. Rich and powerful people don’t want these problems to be blamed on them. They need a scapegoat. Imagine if poor people looked at rich people and felt it was unfair – ermahgerd, socialism! Got to make people hate socialism. Enter fear of immigration and people of colour with a sprinkling of women are doing men’s jobs cheaper. Still with me?
When people say this protest is 400 years in the making it’s because the first slaves arrived in America over 400 years ago.
Ancient history? Well not exactly.
Because of the 13th Amendment you can still own slaves as long as those slaves are in prison. Enter mass incarceration and more policing and longer sentencing. Create a war on drugs like Hoover and Nixon, and the three strike rule like Clinton.
Does reading this make you angry?
I hope so, because we need to focus that anger onto the systems that keep us and black people in poverty, and ensure our inability to protest without a weaponised police force dispersing and beating us.
Do you hate Trump?
Well a lot of people do, but he is simply a mouth piece, a narcissistic individual who can’t stop talking and frequently reveals what people in power actually think about all of us. Even when he lies he reveals the truth of that absolute contempt for the people they rule over, you included. Any concessions they ever make to their populous happens because there’s a tipping point where it becomes less expensive to concede than to stay entrenched. Sadly, to improve your position in life you have to disrupt theirs and that takes a lot of effort, sustained effort. If you give up those concessions will be gradually eroded until it’s as though they never existed.
I’ve said enough. It’s time for you to hear other voices. Here are some of my favourite videos where protesters speak, followed by a list of resources if you’re hungry to learn more. If you want your subjugation and the subjugation of people of colour to end.
Edward Colston was a 17th century Slave Trader who amassed a fortune by shipping 80,000 people in hellish and often deadly conditions. You can sometimes visit the tunnel where these human beings were stored as property.
The Windrush Generation were British subjects when they were invited to the UK to help rebuild. When Jamaica gained independence, these people were denied the British citizenship that was rightfully theirs.
Race has always been a hot topic in some cities in the UK, especially London, Bristol and Birmingham. And work is always being done to combat racism, even if it isn't usually publicised this well.
Gentleman on the plinth: Manoel Akure
Photo credit: Clíona Ní Cheallaigh
Kimberly Jones discussing the Black Lives Matter protests.
What happened in Tulsa?
Fred Hampton on the importance of working-class unity.
Trevor Noah on the social contract.
Some of the black people killed by police in the US .
Get in touch if there's anything else you'd like me to cover on this subject. If not, this series of blog posts is now complete. Thank you for reading.