Black Lives Matter: today, tomorrow, and always

Black Lives Matter Logo, the words 'Black Lives Matter' in capital letters on a yellow background.

White people must stand up for and listen to their black comrades

The murder of George Floyd was many things: cruel, tragic, symptomatic of a white supremacist and utterly corrupt police system and broader society. But what we cannot say is that it was surprising. Black people have been dying at the hands of white police officers for decades, and though outrage often follows, change rarely does. We must take some solace in the uprising that has occurred since George’s death, but we must question why it has taken so long for white people to stand with their black siblings.

I include myself in this. Though I have long thought I stood in solidarity with BLM, my activism has reached little further than retweeting a few articles, and signing a few petitions. It took hearing and acknowledging that ‘white silence equals white violence’ for me to fully engage, and start literally putting my money where my mouth is. That it took so long for me to play an active role is a shame I must work to rectify. I have some thoughts on why white people are seeing this as a tipping point, and finally becoming aware of the issue at all, when so many other incidents were not. It can’t be entirely coincidental that the movement has become linked to criticism of a president many white people dislike for reasons other than his racism. But as a white British woman, it is not my place to raise my own voice in this situation – we must first and foremost listen to black voices: the people who have real experience and have been fighting alone for years. It is not their duty to educate white people, and we should not be demanding their energy or attention. So often white people try to centre their emotions and experiences in discussions of social justice. Let this be a thing of the past: it is time to shut up and listen.

For those who say that police brutality is only a US problem (and this is an argument I have personally heard on numerous occasions), it is your duty to educate yourself. White people often seem to have a blindly misplaced trust of a police system that is undeniably both racist and sexist, a fact which even a cursory glance at statistics (let alone listening to human stories) will reveal. BlackLivesMatter protests the world over are forcing people to examine their own societies. I beg you not to dismiss these conversations, but to embrace the chance to learn about and change the systems you are a part of. This is not a US problem, but a global one.

It is vital that we do not forget the individual lives that have been destroyed by police brutality. We must not stop saying their names. These were people who had every right to peaceful lives, who existence was destroyed by the racist entitlement and power hunger of those whose job it supposedly was to protect them. Though many of their stories are horrifyingly sad, from Tamir Rice, who was shot by police officer Timothy Loehman within moments, for playing with a toy gun, to Breonna Taylor, who was shot eight times while she slept in her bed, we must not over-emphasise the life-stories and personalities of these victims. A common tactic of dismissal is to question how “well-behaved” victims were. This DOES NOT MATTER. They were and continue to be victims of murder and assault. No one deserves to be treated this way. The arrests of white terrorists such as Dylan Roof, and the subsequent “justifications” of their actions in the media, is all the proof you need that such attempts to ‘understand’ police brutality are entirely motivated by racist ideologies.

Below is a list, incomplete and tragically constantly growing, of victims of police brutality. I have included the country in which the incident happened, to demonstrate the global nature of this corruption. Please join us in saying their names.

Tanisha Anderson – US

Sean Bell – US

Sandra Bland – US

Rekia Boyd  – US

Michael Brown – US

Philando Castile – US

Rashan Charles – UK

Terrence Crutcher – US 

Michelle Cusseaux – US

Edson Da Costa – UK

Tanya Day – Australia

Samuel DuBose – US

David Dungay Jr – Australia

Jonathan Ferrell  – US

George Floyd – US

Eric Garner – US

Oscar Grant – US

Freddie Gray – US

Kimani Gray – US

Trayvon Martin – US

Kendrec McDade – US

Natasha McKenna – US

Jimmy  Mubenga – UK

Desean Pittman – US

Sarah Reed – UK

Tamir Rice – US

Aura Rosser – US

Walter  Scott – US

Aiyana  Stanley-Jones – US

Breonna Taylor – US

Christian Taylor – US

Adama Traore  – France

This list is inevitably incomplete, and I urge you to follow #SayTheirNames on Twitter for more stories, which must not be overlooked. It is impossible not to read these stories without being overwhelmed by the injustice of it all. People whose lives were wiped away, and which real actual people, not just ‘the system’, hope we will forget about. We must not let this happen.

What follows are some places you can learn more, read more, donate, and sign petitions. I urge you to follow as many of these as you can, and make time in your lives to engage with the issues, and play a part in bringing about change.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter – Ways you can help

Black Lives Matter – petitions you can sign

Black Lives Matter – ways to donate

Black Lives Matter – educate yourself

Justice in June – Lessons on being an ally

Black Lives Matter – toolkits

Black Mental Health Matters

Black Lives Matter Australia

Donate to BLM by watching this video

As ever this list is not exhaustive, but I hope that it provides a jumping off point if you need it.

A final word: always. Black Lives Matter is not an issue of a couple of weeks of tweeting. It is a perennial assault on humanity and justice. We must ensure that work to dismantle and destroy the white supremacist systems that lead to these atrocities is something we keep in our lives, and continue to carry out, even when the hashtags stop trending. Please, take time to make change whenever and wherever you can, even if, in fact especially if, it makes you uncomfortable. Black people have long lived with this horror, and it is time that white people overcame their “discomfort” and start relieving black people of the pain of fighting alone. We must stand with our black comrades, ready to live by and act on their advice and experience.

I for one can no longer live in silence.

2 comments

  1. Well said. It’s exhausting to me, and I cannot believe how awful it must be to BIPOC.

    Here in the U.S. (I’m assuming there are other readers here besides me) where $$$ all too often matters more than other concerns, we can vote with our wallets as well as at the ballot box. Here are a few links I’ve found helpful.

    This tweet thread lists just some black female SFF authors to support:

    Literary Hub has a list of black-owned independent bookstores across U.S.:
    https://lithub.com/you-can-order-today-from-these-black-owned-independent-bookstores/

    The folks at Young House Love have collected a long list of black-owned businesses (cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, homewares, textiles, art, services, food, etc.):
    https://www.younghouselove.com/200-black-owned-businesses/

    I’m lucky to live in a state where I don’t have to convince my representatives to make statements. It’s a tougher job to get them to pass laws, but we keep at it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, these are some great resources! I’ve definitely been trying to read more books by black women of late, as I know it’s an area I’m sorrowfully poor on. I love the idea of voting with your wallet too; I know that in the grand scheme of international corporations it might not make the most difference, but supporting local black-owned businesses is such an important and positive step! Wishing you strength and success in the US, the world is looking on in horror – but I hope increasingly aware that we are no better! It’s been so interesting seeing people finally wake up to the fact that, the UK for instance, is just as racist, even if it isn’t expressed in the same ways.

      Like

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