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Our words haven’t changed

24 Jun 2020

Joshua Williams

Our words haven’t changed

The black lives matter movement is not an ‘American’ issue. It is not something we get to watch from a distance. Black liberation is a global issue. Be it for peace of mind or for political favour, we confine the injustice faced by the black community to the past. To the history books. We daren’t think it is rife in our streets, our schools and our businesses. The money borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was only paid off in 2015 and the UK failed to have a comprehensive anti-discrimination law based on race until 1976. This is modern history – not simply confined to the textbooks. This is our history and we experience the repercussions every day of our lives.

It’s essential we ask ourselves why the black community – who are disproportionately killed by Covid-19 due to societal inequalities – are willing to risk their lives to march in a global pandemic to make their voices heard. Our Government is quick to label marches as, ‘thuggery’ without providing any form of validation or solace or commitments to those simply crying out for equality.

And what are we asking for? The same basic things we are fighting for now, our parents were fighting for and their parents were fighting for and so forth. We continue to add an amendment here. Reform a bit there. Lead a review on this. But at its core, so little seems to change for those that desperately need it to.

It is exhausting for our very existence and experiences to be up for debate. This is why we march.

We march for George Floyd, Sean Rigg, Breonna Taylor, Darren Cumberbatch and countless others who have died at the hands of a police force meant to protect them.

We march because the police were literally created to maintain unequal power relations with black individuals being the most disenfranchised. We march because despite being found to be disproportionate and discriminatory, nothing changes. Meanwhile our people die or if they’re ‘lucky’ incarcerated, harassed in the streets or seen as the perpetrator of a crime; that crime being black.

We march for Andrew Ekene Nwankwo, Kayla Williams and Belly Mujinga and countless others in the UK who have been failed by a Government and a system meant to protect them.

We march for our queer, trans and intersex black family who are abused, murdered or, at best, seen as something exotic to try. ‘No blacks’ seems to be at the heart of every Grindr conversation.

We march because our black youth are not afforded the same opportunities in work, healthcare and even education. We march because our children are taught in school to make fun of their colour with their white friends and accept racism. They’re ghetto. They’re thugs. They’re blik. They’re half-cast. And it will take them years to love and embrace the melanin they were blessed with.

We march because, even in 2020, it is still up for debate as to why we should be able to say the N word because, ‘black rappers say it, so why can’t we?’

We march for Grenfell, Windrush and the hostile environment that view black lives as expendable. Just another scandal and atrocity to be confined to history and explained away with another review by the same institution that continues to fail us.

We march because every time a video of another black murder is shared on Facebook and Twitter, we see our sisters and brothers, our mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts. We march because the pain and the fear and the hopelessness that it brings has to be channelled somewhere. But the trauma never really goes away. It really could be any of us.

We march because when faced with injustice, nothing changes. The nation is outraged. We say never again. We conduct a review and promise change. However, judging by the lack of implementation of the Lammy review, the Angiolini Review, the McGregor-Smith review and even the Home Office review of the Windrush Scandal, that is where the solidarity ends.

We march because we don’t just want solidarity. We want action.

As non-black individuals, you have the choice – the freedom – to be silent. You can make the conscious choice to turn a blind eye as it does not directly impact you. That choice is afforded to you by your privilege. As black people, we do not have that luxury. Every day is a fight to even be heard.

We always underestimate the power of voice, yet it is the most unique and powerful thing at our disposal. As Audre Lorde said, ‘your silence will not protect you’.

There is no one way to be an activist. There is no one way to end injustice. March if you can march. Write if you can write. Create if you can create. History will look back on the actions that we take right now. It does not matter what you do, so long as you are doing something.

The black lives matter movement is not new; it’s been going on for hundreds of years. You just haven’t been paying attention.

Are you finally listening?

Photo credit: getty