I was just about to open this with an announcement that In The Spotlight was going to be a new weekly feature… but we all know I’m not very good at keeping these things up that well, so instead let’s go with ‘this is a new regular feature’ and see where it goes from there!
In The Spotlight is going to be a post where I pick something and put a spotlight on it. It might be a person, a product, a company, a charity, a song, a book, an animal, an event – literally anything that I feel like highlighting at the time – and I will write about it, or share pictures or links or whatever I fancy. It’s a space for me to use my voice to lift up and support other people. Sometimes it might be serious, and other times a bit fun. There are no rules!
I’m going to kick off by adding my voice to the many supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. As a White person, it is up to me to be more than just quietly not-racist, I need to be actively anti-racist.
I feel like the best way for me to use my blog to do this right now is to look into exactly who the Black Lives Matter Movement are and how it all started – because I think that actually a lot of people don’t really know, especially in the UK.
It has all got a bit lost in the hashtag and I’m not sure that many people even realise that there is more to it than just one of those.
Who or What is #BlackLivesMatter?
Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organisation in the US, UK and Canada that was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer.
Their mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
By combating and counteracting acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.From: About #BlackLivesMatter on blacklivesmatter.com
They work to make the whole world a safer place for all Black people and People of Colour, and they focus where they are needed most as time goes on. They support the Black LGBT+ community, particularly the transgender community as they are even more likely to be targeted than any others in the current world climate.
Who Started It?
The original project in 2013 was started by three Black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi – who wanted to start an ‘ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.’ (Herstory: BlackLivesMatter.com)
It has since expanded all over the world and is very much a team effort.
But Isn’t Racism More Of An American Thing?
It certainly feels that way sometimes, but it turns out that this may just be a result of the very excellent job we Brits do of covering up the grimmer bits of our history.
Okay so we don’t have such obvious, violent levels of racism in institutions like the police force, and we don’t have guns so freely available so there aren’t so many deaths by shooting… but we do still have them.
And, actually, our country’s history of racism, the slave trade, and treating Black people like human-cattle is EXACTLY THE SAME.
That ‘glorious’ Empire we had? There were a lot of slaves involved. And okay, so a lot of it happened overseas, but the profits came back here, to us white folk. And we were responsible.
And it wasn’t just olde worlde slavery that was vile.
In WWI for example, we called on the Indian nation to send their men out to fight for us, promising them that if they did so, we would return their land to them.
They came, they suffered, they died… and we went back on our word. Because they weren’t proper people, after all, and they’d probably ruin the hard work we had done ‘improving’ the place. Or something,
After the slave trade was abolished, the people who our government compensated? They were the white people who ‘lost profits’, not the Black people who lost multiple generations of life to being enslaved. And the free slaves were still treated and viewed as something less than human by many people.
Those members of the white society who welcomed the freed slaves into society, or fell in love with them and got married, were lumped in with them and abused, bullied, and scorned. Seen as lowering themselves to some kind of lower standard.
The slave trade has been abolished less than half of the time it was active and legal, and that attitude of people with skin darker than that of a ‘native’ Briton being somehow lesser hasn’t gone away.
Those freed slaves that settled and stayed, their descendants feel as British as anyone, they were born here, grew up here, love this country, call it home… and yet they are still treated like outsiders. They are still told to ‘go home’ – where is home if it isn’t right where they are? Where they were born?
I never learned about the British slave trade in school, what little I learned about such things was all about America. There are children in Britain descended from those freed slaves that have no idea that it is even a part of their own personal history because we just never talk about it.
We should. It is not just America’s problem by a long shot.
But What Can I Do As A White Person?
As white people, we need to use our voices and our actions to support the Black people in our communities and country. It would be easier for us to stay silent, to convince ourselves that not joining in is the same as helping, but it isn’t. It is basically the opposite – staying silent is taking the side of the supremacists and racists, it is walking on by on the other side, and turning away when we see someone doing the wrong thing, because that’s less effort.
We need to speak up, cross over and help, call people out when they are doing wrong. We need to help.
We can sign petitions, join support groups, do things within the community, donate to charities, support Black artists, musicians, and authors, we can actively be aware of our ingrained prejudices and try to do better. We can take time to learn, and talk about things that are uncomfortable, and try to solve the problem.
Because it is our problem, not theirs.
We need to be actively Anti-Racist, not just ‘not racist’.
Watch: The History Of A Movement
Channel 4 recently released this 15 minute video about the history of the Black Lives Matter movement, and it is worth a watch to find out more.
Want to support the Black Lives Matter movement? Here is a link to their official donation page.
Rather than my retelling, go check out the Black Lives Matter website and read more about what they are doing and what they believe in.
I Want To Do More
To carry on learning more about how to be Anti-Racist, or just to find out more to work out your own feelings on the subject, check out these Anti-Racist Reading Lists for some book suggestions:
- List compiled by Layla F Saad – Featured in The Guardian
- List compiled by Ibram X. Kendi – Featured in The New York Times
- List compiled by Hayley Maitland – Featured in Vogue
- List compiled by Charis Books & More
Or maybe join the Anti-Racism Daily e-mail newsletter to get daily suggestions of actions you can take every day: www.antiracismdaily.com
I Want To Give More
Other UK charities that work to help the Black community and need our support include:
- Black Girls Camping Trip is an organisation which provides tailored retreats for black women in the UK. Founded in September 2018, the organisation has since hosted two trips, which aim to give black women the opportunities to network and try new activities, as well as support their mental wellbeing. The money you donated goes towards essential costs such as the camping equipment and providing a travel fund so women from across the UK can attend the retreats.
- Stop Hate UK is a charity which provides independent support to those affected by hate crime and challenge all forms of discrimination. Set up in direct response to the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the charity also delivers and supports projects on areas including community cohesion, youth engagement, stop and search consultancy and scrutiny panels among others.
- UK Black Pride is an organisation which advocates, fights for, supports and celebrates LGBTQ people of colour. Although 2020’s Black Pride event had to be cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, your donations will help to fund future events (both digital and physical) as well as supporting community outrush and hardship funds.
- Crisis Funding for Inclusive Publishers. This crowdfunding project aims to provide support for diversity-led inclusive independent publishers across the UK during and after the coronavirus pandemic, to ensure that representative and inclusive stories continue to be told. The proceeds raised by the fundraiser will be split, with 80% going to Jacaranda Books and Knights Of and 20% split between other diversity-led publishers.
- The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust was set up in the light of Stephen Lawrence’s murder in a racist attack in 1993. The charity works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds aged 13-30 to inspire and enable them to succeed in the career of their choice, in the hope that the UK will become a place where everyone has the opportunity to achieve.
- SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality) is a charity which provides support for victims of hate crime, including those subjected to racist attacks. Alongside providing ongoing support to people who have experienced hate crime, the charity also engages with businesses and organisations to provide equality training and education.