Sunday 7 June 2020

Ways to Support Black Lives Matter


Following the recent murder of George Floyd by the US police force and the riots and protests that have been happening across the states and the UK as a result, I wanted to use my own platform to speak up about racism, and the belief that it is only an American problem. As a white person, I cannot comment on nor understand the experiences of black people and the every day racism they endure, but I can educate myself about systemic racism, microagression, and white privilege - and use my voice and my words to educate others and be actively anti-racist, rather than passively not racist. Even if only one person reads this, that is potentially one more signature towards a petition supporting Black Lives Matter. 

I grew up in a very white town, and as far as I can remember, I had no black teachers or classmates throughout school. Of course I had always grown up knowing that racism was wrong, and I don't think I necessarily thought that racism didn't exist - it was more that I didn't think about race that much until secondary school, because my white skin meant that I didn't have to. There is a lot of racist British history that the British curriculum would prefer to keep hidden, and has meant that a lot of people's education in systemic racism is so lacking, or flawed. My year 9 history module, titled The Slave Trade Triangle, certainly was taught as though slavery and the mistreatment of black people was so far in the past that it had no real bearing on today - not to mention the fact that whilst Britain's role in the slave trade was discussed, it was massively downplayed, and deflected on to the US. If I'm being honest, the thing that initially made me the most aware of the fact that racism was still a widely prevalent issue was probably when I encountered novels that dealt with race (To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men) in my English literature lessons. A lot more of my awareness and education has come from studying English literature and history at A-Level, and through my own reading and researching as a result. But I know that I still have not read or learnt enough. 

There are a number of ways in which you can educate yourself further about black culture and history, colonial history, and white privilege. I have recently read Reni Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race, which was very accessible and informative, and reveals a lot about Britain's own history of racism. If you're a student at the University of Birmingham like I am, you can access the e-book version of this book for free through FindIt@Bham here. (If you're a student from anywhere else, it is worth seeing if your institution offers e-book versions of texts like these). There is really no excuse to not be learning and educating ourselves on race when there is such a wealth of material online! 
   I also feel it is important to mention that, aware of the recent surge in demand for her book, Reni Eddo-Lodge recently tweeted urging people who are accessing the book online to donate the price of the book (roughly £7) to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, or to sign relevant petitions if financially unable. Posting a black square on Instagram is not enough; it really takes no time at all to sign a petition, and so I would urge everyone to do so if you have not already. I have linked the Justice for George Floyd petition here, and a petition calling for an education of systemic racism to be a compulsory part of the British curriculum here - of which I have signed and donated to both. But that is only two of a huge number of petitions that should be signed in order to contribute towards change; there are lots more you can access through Twitter threads, which only require a quick search and a tap on the link. Other free ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement is through 'stream to donate' videos on YouTube. All of the ad revenue from the video will be donated; all you have to do is stream a roughly hour long video, being sure to not skip any ads. I have linked one such video here, but as I said with the petitions, there are a number of others online that can be easily searched for and accessed.

I know that all of this information is widely available on the internet, particularly on Twitter, but I still felt it hugely important to share ways in which you can very easily support the Black Lives Matter movement towards ending systemic racism. Not that a level of ease should determine whether or not we support the movement, but the point that I am making is that how could you not support? When a petition takes 30 seconds to sign and 30 seconds to verify your email (do not miss this step, otherwise you will not have signed!), time and effort is not an excuse. I personally feel that my own awareness of race and prevalent racism came much later than it should have due to a lack of honest and thorough education in school, and so I am still learning and reading. I have already discussed that I am using lockdown to read widely, but I am committing now to reading a lot more by black and other minority ethnic authors in order to continue to educate myself in support of change. 

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