“The UK will no longer be permitted to distract me from its own sins with a bloodied, rotting finger that points at the USA’s injustice.”
It’s been a long time coming, and it’s not over yet. This post is a lengthy summary of my thoughts this week in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement: Responsibility & Sacrifice, Silence, Performatism, Education, Revolution and of course, Racism.
Responsibility & Sacrifice
I’ve felt this overwhelming sense of responsibility, particularly on the front of social media – regardless of condition, to sacrifice my comfort of retweeting funny things and instead fill the TL with news and facts. To sacrifice my comfort of sharing aesthetic Instagram stories and direct people to petitions and learning resources. In other words, there has been a loud sense of “I don’t care if you don’t feel like posting. Post because you need to spread awareness and fight. And if you don’t post, I’ll assume that you don’t care.”
I understand the approach and in many contexts I agree. However, some people aren’t posting or being visibly active because they’re spending time learning and processing. But, for some that’s not good enough. It’s a sliding scale.
The cards that we have been dealt as black people currently require us to teach ourselves and inform others. We can take rightful breaks but after a while we need to “show that we care again”. The process is tiring but true – we have equal shares in victimhood and activism.
Silence is complicity at times. But for many Black people, silence is complicated. We are “silent” because we are overwhelmed. We are “silent” because we are protecting our mental health. We are “silent” because we don’t know what to say anymore. We are “silent” because we are in mourning. We are “silent”, but only online – offline, we are doing what we are able to to change things and will keep doing so once everyone else moves on. – Yomi Adegoke.
Silence is complex and no true indicator of someone’s mental state. Especially the cohort of victims themselves.
There is a (often self-imposed) pressure to show that the visible part of your existence gives a damn about racism. However, not everybody is keen on, or fond of displaying their outrage or desire for change online. Perhaps less people are looking at you than you believe, but you don’t want to be called out for no action.
Speaking to a friend earlier this week, we agreed on the question of “but who is actually checking for you?” i.e., you may feel like you need to post because you don’t want to be called out, but who is calling you out anyway?
Now, I won’t deny that I did see people calling out others (non-Black people, colourists, coons…). However, if you know that you are genuinely feeling something about this, sometimes having a conversation is enough. If you feel like that’s not enough and you still need to post, I could say ‘you do you.’
But, I could also say that your actions are performative because your self-assurance with your concern for the issue isn’t enough for you.
This week marks the most I have ever heard this word in any given timeframe. Here are some short thoughts I’d been writing:
- I need to police my potential performatism. I want to continue learning organically in a time where no one has the patience for that, myself included. I begin to wonder if I knew enough in the first place.
- I want to do my part with learning about Black British history. The UK is no longer permitted to distract me from its own sins with a bloodied, rotting finger that points at the USA’s injustice.
- Sharing things on social media has led me to question if I am sharing because I genuinely want people to know things, or because it is required of me and I’ll look bad otherwise. Am I proving myself to others, or to myself? Perhaps the need to ‘prove’ is the main issue.
- You’re right and wrong to everyone and to no one.
- In awareness and awakening, we make mistakes. Have mercy on such people because no one is totally righteous.
- I have a strong desire to learn all that my brain can take, remember it, and inject it into trains of thought and conversations where necessary. But I fear the tiredness and anger that comes with learning about Black history.
A post I saw this week was titled, “Performative Allyship is Triggering”. No further comments – welcome to 2020.
On Wednesday, someone responded to my anger with claims that their anger for Nigeria’s corruptive downfall is three times mine concerning current social justice. It frustrated me as I felt like I hadn’t learnt enough to justify my argument.
I wished I did. And that’s what’s important – the self-driven desire to learn.
However, there is a danger with learning so much during this social climate. It is the chance of a repetition of a traumatic school experience; learning under pressure in order to perform.
In this case, performance isn’t necessarily performative, but rather baby activism and doing your part; informing yourself and contributing to the conversation with knowledge rather than ignorance. Not feeling dumb.
This process of learning should not feel forceful. I was educating myself organically in the past and this sudden rush of education has been a lot to handle. Nonetheless, I’ve still learnt a lot. I just want to return to the self-imposed methods of learning that I was using before.
Note to myself and to you: Do not be angry with yourself for not knowing much about Black (British) History. Do not be frustrated if you understand the why of systematic racism more than the how. Do not be frustrated if you stutter in an argument and have gaps in your knowledge. You may not remember everything you teach yourself and that is fine. The reason for your self-education is a result of un- and miseducation. Therefore you need to be patient with yourself as you smooth over these cracks.
As pressing and revolutionary as everything feels right now, this type of learning is non-linear, so remove the pressure to know and remember everything instantly.
We must be sure to not romanticise anything that is going on now.
Black people standing together is a sign of unity. Unity is beautiful but the source of pain is not – it’s ugly. Do not romanticise the revolution because it is not pretty. Do not synonymise the revolution with beauty because that is a separate term.
The revolution is a definer, not something to be defined. It is a separate entity. People don’t know a revolution when they see one but they need to be more perceptive now.
Do not be frustrated when the hashtag stops trending. Change doesn’t occur overnight. The revolution did not just begin, neither is it near the end. This is a just a part of it.
Simultaneously, privileged groups need to be knocked at the knees and brought to the same level as the underprivileged in order to hear their stories and primarily experience the same revolution in their minds that will manifest itself in the flesh.
Gil Scott-Heron said it best in his explanation of his poem and song, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised:
One problem is that white people are looking for concrete proof of racism: facts, receipts, evidence… when really society has evolved past that now. Racism has its ear to the ground and is aware of how to get to Black people in such a way that allows denial.
As vulgar as it is, calling a Black person a nigger nowadays will spark rage but not rallies. Rather, killing a Black person as a police officer will spark a rally because it is proof of systematic racism. That’s the bigger monster we face today. Receipts of prejudice and discrimination cannot always be given to the privileged groups asking for it because a lot of the time, the racism is coded.
To be racist is to also be apathetic, to close your eyes to the systems that make it difficult for Black people to exist freely without a target on their backs. If you’re waiting for a white person to scream ‘nigger’ as the only receipt of racism, you need to wake up and realise there is a greater depth than that now.
Until you acknowledge that, you’ll be living as if the world is prejudice-free while a white police officer kneels on a Black man’s neck until he kills him.
“Not all (insert cohort) are bad!”
Fury arises at the sight of sweeping generalisations and assumptions but such behaviour is what caused the current condition of the Black man; the assumption that all are criminals, savage, rapists, illiterate, etc, and the assumption that Africa itself was a Tabula Rasa.
No batch is free of bad apples, but racists, colonisers and imperialists didn’t key into that knowledge when constructing their damaging systems. They made sweeping assumptions. E.g.: all Black people are bad. So let’s make it harder for them to get jobs.
Assumption and its aftershocks systematically chip away at the livelihood of Africa and its diaspora to this day.
So don’t be furious when people make sweeping generalisations about the police and white people. Without such, no one will pay attention to the batch, talk less of the bad apples.