It’s been over a month now since I wrote a post like this. I have been battling to stay awake long enough to concentrate and write a blog for a long time now but I am glad to be back in the land of my rambles.
I am seeing a lot of people criticising people for speaking about Politics or getting political on their social media. Oh but we followed you because you are funny or you talk about mental health or skincare or the environment – stop talking about politics! First, politics pervades absolutely EVERYTHING in our lives. Ok read that again. The air we breathe, the shops we go to at the weekend and the regulation of other businesses we interact with, our health, our jobs, the taxes we pay, the education of our children, the economy, the justice system, how the sick, disabled and elderly are cared for, the funding of the NHS (which affects our physical and mental health), the environment, going to war….I could go on but you get the point. The funding and potential for change in all of our Public Institutions lies in the hands of Westminster and this directly.affects.our.lives. whether you care about Politics or not. Ah but sure Politics is boring, ok fair enough but I can bet ya the Karens out there are the first to complain about the price of cigarettes and booze – cause yeah – Law and Politics governs that too. Oh and lets not forget the handling of the Pandemic – care about politics yet?
Black Lives Matter
It is difficult to find the words to talk about the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. This discomfort in not wanting to say the wrong thing often stops us from speaking at all. It is imperative that we don’t look away, we listen to those who need to be heard and take action – not just now, but until this injustice no longer exists. Pah, you might say, it’s not that easy, the actions of a few people across the world won’t matter.
Uh..yes they will. It’s like the Japanese maxim:
“see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”
There is a lot of people in the world that believe that they aren’t racist so they aren’t part of the problem. Yet, when in the company of someone who says something racist they won’t call that person out. The fact that these people get away with it with no fear of reprimand is the exact problem. Another pocket of people believe they aren’t racist but also that their lives aren’t affected by the deaths of black people at the hands of police. That’s America’s problem they say, that’s not our problem so why should we educate ourselves. There’s a lot of chat at the minute about white privilege. Let’s define it here:
I am guilty of not knowing enough and I am continuing to educate myself on the subject. This is not something that will evaporate overnight and it requires us to always question and speak up for black people who aren’t being heard.
I began writing this blog on the week that this happened and due to tiredness and not being well I am only posting it now. Since then, Black Lives Matter protests have happened all over the world. Sadly, the very police brutality which ended in George Floyd’s death is now being seen in the form of attacking protestors. I have heard people saying that ‘it’s ok to protest but why are people rioting’. If you go to my BLM highlights on my instagram and watch the video by @thedailyshow he explains it perfectly (Update – his name is Trevor Noah). People forget that following the rules and the law is a social contract – in that everyone needs to abide by the rules and be treated fairly. That just isn’t happening when police officers are getting away with killing black people and the laws of the country are discriminatory towards you if you are black. What incentive do black people have to follow the law when these laws do not benefit them and are created to keep them marginalized? Their lives literally depend on fighting back against this injustice. He is better at describing it than me though so go watch that video if you haven’t already.
Violence against BLM protestors in the form of the police and “All Lives Matter” protestors is sickening to watch. One example is from last month in New Jersey where All Lives Matter demonstrators mockingly re-enacted George Floyd’s death to apparently counter a Black Lives Matter march. Last week, a couple in St Louis felt the need to stand outside their mansion and point guns at peaceful protestors. There is much divided opinion on the internet, some saying that the couple were scared because their gate had been broken open, the protestors were trespassing on their private property and they were responding to two white people in the group with guns.
Firstly, bringing out a gun and standing outside your property in a threatening manner is not a measured reaction to what was actually going on, nor should you really take the law into your own hands like that. Missouri has really loose gun restrictions and basically allows you to defend your property if needs be but the most disturbing thing is that the woman had her finger on the trigger. She is seen standing behind her husband at one point and if her finger had slipped she would have took him out. Above all, they are pointing their guns at PEACEFUL PROTESTORS. Nothing that they say in their defense can take away from that. Even if they initially felt threatened, they were completely in the wrong to continue to wave their guns at the people passing through.
Statues have also been removed from several cities commemorating racists and slave traders both unofficially (e.g. removal of Robert Milligan in London and Edward Colston in Bristol) and officially by way of a diversity commission set up by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to look at which statues should be removed. Police are now seeking to prosecute those who removed the statues illegally which just seems wrong. Yes it’s destruction of public property but if they are going to be removed anyway….. Oxford University’s Oriel College has voted in favour of removing its statue of Cecil Rhodes. He was a Victorian imperialist who wanted to continue British rule in South Africa because he believed that British people were better than other people. He co-founded De Beers diamond company which sought to control the diamond industry, and it did really as it controlled about 90% of the world’s diamond mines. He was Prime Minister of Cape Colony and two colonies were named after him – Northern and Southern Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The above is a bit of a summary of some of what’s been going on but I know it doesn’t even scratch the surface. For me, living in Northern Ireland I know that we are not guilt-free. Loyalists were out ‘protecting’ war memorials here the same as the All Lives Matters protestors across the world. This is our problem too, it’s not a case of a problem ‘over there’ and not here. I suggest you read the below articles:
Hearing people speak about the Black Lives Matter Movement and dismissing it as a problem because they feel it doesn’t affect them really enrages me, Irish people in particular with all our history should know what it’s like to struggle with a system that doesn’t benefit them. We as a nation had centuries of history of oppression, then the troubles…you would think we would have sympathy for this movement but that’s not what I’m seeing. In her book, ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ Reni Eddo-Lodge has a quote (which I can’t land my hands on now as I read it through Audible) that basically says you cannot claim to be a minority in one respect and not be deeply affected by the mistreatment of another minority.
I am someone who is passionate about equal rights, which was the main motivation behind studying Law at university. I have learned the history of our country and the reasons behind the troubles and maintained this interest throughout my life. Through this I was first introduced to the Black Civil Rights movement in the US and how they inspired us to stand up our rights via NICRA. I was taught that their fight for equality was so valid, brave and not least withstanding a crucial piece of history.
We learnt about the role of the video footage by RTE on 5th October 1968 and how it changed the game for us. Videos of the RUC attacking peaceful protestors was broadcast all over the world. Years later…we are seeing the role of the media again in raising the profile of injustice.
Finally, I became part of a minority group when I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, the disabled and the chronically ill. Reni Eddo-Lodge has some amazing quotes in her book (I could literally quote the entire thing it’s THAT good). In her chapter that addresses Feminism and the split between white and black feminism she says:
“Feminism, at its best, is a movement that works to liberate all people who have been economically, socially and culturally marginalised by an ideological system that has been deigned for them to fail. That means disabled people, black people, trans people, women and non-binary people, LGB people and working-class people”
Update – since writing this, three out of the four police officers involved in George Floyd’s death have been released on bail. The officers who killed Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and most recently Rayshard Brooks have still not been arrested. This isn’t going away but we need to make sure we don’t look away either. When the history books are written about this – will you be able to look your Grandchildren in the eye and say that you did all you could?
Firstly, please consider making a donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund:
There are so many resources that I was getting a bit lost trying to list them, I suggest following Reni Eddo-Lodge as a start and go from there.
I have been reading some books:
1. Why I am no longer talking to White people about Race – Reni Eddo – Lodge
This was an excellent read and I learnt so much about Black history in the UK. I am ashamed to say I didn’t know their side of the story. We didn’t learn it in school, only learning about the civil rights movement in America. Race pervades everything and she touches on everything from the role of black people in the World Wars to white feminism, class and growing up as a black girl in the UK. I really recommend this book and it’s a good place to start as it’s relatively short and touches on a vast number of subjects.
2. Me and White Supremacy – Layla F Saad
Also written by a UK author, this is a book intended as an anti-racism tool structured ‘to help people with white privilege understand and take ownership of the system of white supremacy…both within themselves and their communities’. This book is intended to be an active read where the reader keeps a journal and answers the questions honestly. I haven’t fully finished this and probably will be still revisiting the parts of this book for a long time. It is great in that it doesn’t simply allow the reader to sit and read about the cause, it makes them actually do something about it.
3. Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams
This is a fictional read but race pervades the storyline as the main character navigates her way through life and relationships as a black woman in the UK. This is another one I haven’t quite finished but I wanted to list here anyway as it has been brilliant so far.
4. Small Great Things – Jodie Picoult
The title of this book was taken from a quote of Martin Luther King
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”
I read this book a while ago now but I wanted to include it here because it is a powerful insight into how the legal system is completely prejudiced against black people in America. It is absolutely heart wrenching that people would treat someone the way the main character is treated. The core event of the book is when a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure. The baby’s father, a white supremacist, banned the black nurse from treating his son. When she steps in to do the procedure anyway, the baby dies not long after and she is blamed for his death. The story follows the court case that follows and her son and it is truly heart wrenching but an important read. It also shows very well how pivotal the silence of white people was who knew that this lady was innocent.
5. Becoming – Michelle Obama
Another one that I have read before but will always go back to is Becoming by Michelle Obama. Whilst it is a memoir and she documents her life and journey it frequently touches upon race issues and her experience of it. She speaks of the ‘White Flight’ as upstanding families like hers moved into an area, white people moved out of it. Her portrayal by the media as ‘an angry black woman’ and the racial abuse her and Barack Obama faced as he made his bid for president.
What I love about this book is that she is no longer under the rules of the White House and speaks freely about her experiences. She talks about post-natal depression, raising her two girls and marriage so openly. More importantly and aside from the domestic side, it highlights the powerhouse that she is for social change and the amazing work SHE DID. BY HERSELF. Becoming is also on Netflix now which follows her book tour.
6. An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
This book came with my Books that Matter subscription. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 and reviewed by Barack Obama himself, I am looking forward to reading this 🙂