As the latest racial war begins to reach a fever pitch, we’ve seen a radical new wave of attempts to enforce change with charged rhetoric and trot out racial doctrine in which those on the ‘right side of history’ will conform with no challenge or question of validity. Like every movement, it draws scrutiny – and rightly so! We only better ourselves as a societal collective by constructive criticism, even if that means calling out the wrongdoings or the missteps of a movement to guide it towards a more beneficial conclusion.
I’ve been watching the #blacklivesmatter movement, tracing the reactions and viewing public opinion – the results have largely left me wondering why the movement has taken the direction it has. It’s important to understand that widespread criticism and condemnation can be effectuated whilst supporting the premise of the movement. Attacks levied against certain strategies are not done so to come to the defence of the perpetrators, but it’s simply pointing out where I think movement needs to go to achieve out collective goal – the abolition of corruption within the justice system and the uplift of our fellow black individuals.
Step 1 – Stop rioting
To appropriate a famous quote from Peaky Blinders very own, Tommy Shelby to fit this occasion – NO F**CKING RIOTING! It needs to be said, plainly and simply – helping yourself to a 70-inch, OLED TV ‘in honour of George Floyd’ is in no way helpful nor is it beneficial to the cause at large. You’re in no way morally superior or virtuous if you’re committing these acts – it makes you a criminal.
Do we understand the anger? ABSOLUTELY. Decades of social conditioning by the political elites and the media hawks, painting a damning picture has taken its toll. One that implies that there are constant targets on the backs of our young black individuals. One that implies a nameless, shapeless figure that is “systemic racism” will have you hemmed into a permanent underclass. These carefully crafted and targeted messages ripple through the black communities in the west daily. Is it grounded in fact? At the very basic level, yes! But when you then start to operate primarily away from the realm of factually grounded material and move towards the realm of subjective opinion and charged rhetoric that’s designed purely to prevoke a hostile emotive response, people are going to get angry and the results are catastrophic.
This is not just another scathing attack on the race-focused progressive/left-wing side of the aisle – media conditioning to garner votes and support happens everywhere. Take gun control on the GOP, right-wing side of the aisle. It’s factually verifiable to say that on a guns-per-head basis, the USA actually doesn’t have a ridiculously high homicide rate. It’s factually verifiable to suggest that most gun deaths, in the US, are suicides, in order to defend their strong second amendment positions. But when facts aren’t enough to stir up the base, they charge the rhetoric against their political opposition. “THEY’RE COMING FOR YOUR GUNS” “THIS TYRANNICAL GOVERNMENT WILL STRIP YOU OF ALL YOUR GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS”.
The black community and the #BlackLivesMatter movement have also fallen victim to political elites and influencer charging of rhetoric for political gain. Going beyond the issues of police brutality and justice for Floyd and replacing this with an almost visceral, anti-establishment hatred for every institution, justified or not. Feeling like the world is against you doesn’t help individuals escape feeling of loss and despair for their futures – but neither does rioting. It lends credence to the very scum we seek to eliminate. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, of Atlanta, has spoken out against them. The mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Melvin Carter has condemned them outright. Most importantly, the family of George Floyd have encouraged people NOT to do it, as it’s not what he would have wanted.
Help the good, well-motivated individuals in the black community who don’t want to have their good names tarnished by violence and reckless actions – stop rioting.
Step 2 – Shift back into the realm of what’s verifiable
I’ve been speaking about this a lot and it needs to be addressed. If we don’t, we’re going to miss the opportunity to effectuate change off the back of this heinous ordeal. To do this, we need to address the elephant in the room – systemic racism. We cannot merely shout “systemic racism” and “tear down the system” and expect it to rise from the shadows because of its innate tendency to thrive in the dark. We also need to ask ourselves, where is the systemic racism? We ALSO need to ask ourselves, what is it? There is often a sweeping conflation “systemic racism” with “systems with racists in them”. We need to actually operate in the realm of fact and tackle what we can see in order to save lives.
For example, verifiable systemic racism comes in the form of exclusionary zoning laws and redlining implemented in the early 1900s and propped up through the segregationist era, until it’s end in 1954. These were systems and methods geared to the direct subordination of minority groups – the effects of which can be still felt today.
The police force is an example of a mostly good system in practice but a hindered by a problem with racist, ill-trained or power-crazed individuals continually being allowed to operate in that sphere. We’ve seen that not all cops are racists – and it would be idiotic and ignorant to impute that. Police chiefs throughout the entire continental US have condemned the recent killings of both Arbery and Floyd. There are just many bad faith actors within it.
A good example of beginning to tackle verifiable change to start off moving into the realm of verifiable would be targeting the police’s unique union-based protections and hidden defences in the judicial branch. Under the law in many USA states, police are defended under the acts of qualified and absolute immunity. Founded in 1984 under Supreme Court doctrine, these public-sector union-based protections shield officers from lawsuits and punishment, as long as they weren’t in ‘direct violation of human, civil or constitutional rights’ as decided by a court judge. In the case of absolute immunity, they’re relieved from the duty of even attending a trial.
To save lives, we cannot forget the triggers and the causes of why the movements are out in the first place. It’s about police brutality, unjust treatment of civilians and abuse of power within the branch of law enforcement.
Understand, for every individual trying to wrongfully attribute blame to the BLM movement, there’s an equal amount of people whose incomes and sociopolitical power/influence rely on masking the true extent of societal progression within western civilisations.
Temporarily park the “big fight” of systemic change because if we tackle what we can see and win, more will reveal itself.
Step 3 – Stop changing the criteria to becoming an “ally”
Plainly and simply, the attacks on people that do nothing, but mean no ill-will in their inaction, those that don’t post meaningless social media images and those that aren’t tackling racial discrimination in the way that the #BlackLivesMatter movement want them to, are unjust and disgusting.
Being ‘colour-blind’ IS good enough for many. I speak on behalf of many black people when I say that this was once the goal. I’ve waited almost 24 years to be treated as an individual, merited on my character, rated on my performance – and have my immutable, melanin-based characteristics left out of the equation. Many of us don’t want you to “see that I’m black and ask me how you can do better”. To see anyone opposing this narrative be labelled a white supremacist, or complicit in the action, is truly souring interactions, on a human level, with POC.
Sadly, society is actively being conditioned to think about my race before my merit again. We understand that many believe it’s in our best interest and those backing it are passionate and are doing so with profoundly good intentions – but reverting back to prioritising race is a side effect that not all of us want to endure. But I and many others would be mortified to think that if people don’t talk to me in a manner that’s not first pre-approved by leading black activists, they’d be ostracised and hit with a white supremacist label.
Let’s not vilify white folks – nor should we assume every black person wants the same thing and shouldn’t treat them all as one conglomerate with blinkers on to everything other than racial concerns. If you don’t care about race in a person, you were raised correctly, and you shouldn’t be made to conform to a narrative that deems whether or not you’re ‘morally virtuous’ with hideous fascistic undertones.
There are multiple ways people show solidarity. If it’s not inline with yours, who are you to judge whether it’s good enough? Intellectual diversity is pushed aside and replaced with meanlingless demonstration of solidarity. Don’t listen to the hysteric, ‘woke’ mob who preach constantly via their social media posts for cheap wins and self-gratification, when they come knocking on your door to condemn you for your ‘inaction’. If we as blacks hate presumptions about ourselves based on ill-informed opinions, why do we continue to attribute it to others?
The enemy is racism and you need allies in the war now, more than ever. Don’t make it impossible to enlist.
Step 4 – Be vigilant of media malpractice and misrepresentation
This is a key step, and we’re watching it happen in real time. On one side, the direct conflation with protesters with rioters to draw vitriolic reactions against the BLM movement. On the other side, there’s ill-motivated conflation of police violence against ‘peaceful protesters’ with reactionary force on ‘rioters’. Both of these hype up their respective bases, only exacerbating the problems already stirred up by political power-grabbing and journalistic malfeasance.
Research is key. Understanding “fake news” and not letting the rhetoric that’s ‘almost too bad to be true’ deliberately charge up a situation – which historically hasn’t worked well. It’s important to break out of your social media bubbles. Following like-minded people, like-minded people and your friends will only give you one view.
In the news cycle, many of us have forgotten the problems at large. We’ve seemingly forgot about George Floyd and other fatalities like his already. We’ve forgotten about tackling the abundance of corrupt, racist individuals, tainting the mostly good name of those who take an oath to protect and serve. We’ve nearly forgotten the objective.
We’ve nearly forgotten the goal out of anger, in pursuit of a trying to handle too many things at once. We’re currently engaged in the idyllic lust for tearing down socioeconomic, political and legal institutions perceived to be riddled with corruption, born not out of raw fact but out of hysteria and dramatisation. If we act solely on rhetoric, emotion and vitriol, many of our own will suffer the consequences – and many already have.
Sticking to the realm of facts will mean we can reveal legitimate discrepancies that will have real-world impacts on everyday black individuals.
Let’s eliminate qualified/absolute immunity for police officers.
Let’s investigate public school crisis’s in rundown communities and there the money is being misspent.
Let’s investigate the hangover of effects of Jim Crow laws and Redlining and what it’s done to communities.
Let’s not get swept up amongst the vitriol and the emotional responses, and start changing what we see and what we all agree on.
If your goal is actually saving lives rather than merely shouting about race, take these ideas as a possible alternative.