“The trouble around difference is really about privilege & power-the existence of
privilege & the lopsided distribution of power that keeps it going. The trouble is rooted in a legacy that we all inherited, and while we’re here it belongs to us. It isn’t our fault. It wasn’t caused by something we did or didn’t do. But now that it’s ours, it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to deal with it before we collectively pass it along to the
generations that will follow ours.”
—Allen G. Johnson, Writer and professor of sociology
Warning: The following may enlighten and help you to understand the dire situation that the human race is in.
We have a problem. Discrimination, in all its forms is highly unattractive. It is an ugly monster which when displayed has power to spread into the hearts and minds of its victims, settling there, causing massive destruction. It wields such power that it has caused human beings to turn against each other and snuff out the breath of their neighbour in the name of an ideology that places one person in a supreme position compared to another. Lack of understanding, compassion, tolerance, and acceptance feeds this monster.
Your brand of discrimination is a particular form of oppression. It is based on the belief that you are superior to other human beings because of the race you were born into. That somehow, the characteristics you developed during incubation, such as the colour of your skin, shape of your eyes and nose, and the texture of your hair, is to be held in higher esteem than the characteristics given to another person during time in their mother’s womb.
It has been said time and time again that race is a touchy subject. “Try to avoid it,” they say. However, if you consider yourself to be truly “woken” to the ills of the world, then why is this an issue to be buried? Knowing the milk was spilt is a far cry from picking up the mop and engaging your muscles in the process of scrubbing the mess made. It must be noted then, that the cleaning method to be used here does not include blatantly covering systemic inequalities and denying other races their right to cry out for the justice they deserve by covering the problem with a veil labelled #AllLivesMatter.
When Billie Holiday sang about the “strange fruit hanging from the poplar tree,” she was not referring to mutated cotton. For this reason, saying #BlackLivesMatter is a reminder that racism is rampant embedded in the very system that is supposed to protect all people. This very system needs a reminder that black lives matter, because the society has been historically designed to debase and dehumanise black people. So please, do not be offended by the statement that black lives matter. The lack of care for black lives can be traced back to slavery, when the belief that Africans were subjacent and barbaric was used to justify slavery in the 18th century. Now, in the 21st century, black lives still appear not to matter, as the stereotype remains cast over an entire continent and all ancestors, leading to illegal and unjust executions of people because of their skin colour.
Please, let us not deflect away from the real issue at hand by diffusing it with sugary notions and shielding yourselves from the blame. Whether in the form of police brutality or you shamelessly telling that girl that she looks good today because she had her hair flat-ironed; racism is real.
Have you ever had an immigration officer question your right to have a seat on the plane to a European country, then looked around and noticed you’re the only black person on the flight? – I have. When you walk into the bank for a loan, do you ever imagine that your skin colour may be a factor? – Hispanics do. When a police car drives by, do you ever worry about being pulled over because of your race? – Black men do. Are your credentials ever questioned because of your nationality? – Indigenous people face this scrutiny.
Check your privilege.
Socialist historian C.L.R. James explained that:
“Historically, it is pretty well proved now that the ancient Greeks and Romans knew nothing about race. They had another standard–civilized and barbarian–and you could have white skin and be a barbarian, and you could be black and civilized.”
The roots of slavery based on race lies in European racism, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and colonialism. The Caribbean is a perfect region to make the case of historic racism and the continuation of this disease. Between 1662 and 1807 Britain shipped approximately 3.1 million Africans across the Atlantic Ocean. By force, they were brought to colonies across the Caribbean and sold as slaves to work on sugar plantations. Here, prejudice reigned; enslaved persons were whipped and tortured endlessly. People were constantly divided and made to face inequalities because of different pigmentation. Variances were also established within the colour scale, with ‘mulatto’ (oftentimes a product of white plantation owners raping black women) people being put to work inside the houses rather than toil on the plantation. Emphasis on skin colour was a foundation in Caribbean society and it remains today.
Addressing systemic repression of persons of certain races and ethnicities to underclass global citizens needs to be made a priority. Racial reconciliation may not occur predominantly through governmental programmes, but it does start with you and with me. When we come together as human beings and embrace our differences we are able to learn from each other and appreciate each other. Babies are not born racist, so let us clear our mind of indoctrinated hate and see each other as all being a part of the human race.
You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
So when you say #AllLivesMatter remember that you do not live in and therefore will never fully comprehend the reality and suffering of those who are racially and ethnically disenfranchised. You may empathise, but you will never have to face a systemic disadvantage just because of the colour of your skin. Yes, all lives do matter, but taking away the plight of black people by stomping out their cry for justice is just another manifestation of your privilege.
This article was originally published on Words In The Bucket.