So, I’ve already written about saviourism, white privilege, certain aspects of colonialism, aswell as some neo-colonialism that overlaps with systemic racism. If you’re interested in any of the above, since they’re all branches of racism, feel free to scroll further down for those posts, or to follow the blog since I most definitely will be covering them again. You can also type each of the terms into google to start reading any and everything you find or use the links ill be adding at the bottom. Take note that this post is specifically related to the B.L.M. movement, many of the tips can be applied to other social justice movements, but my intention is for the focus of this post to be on the B.L.M. movement and the fight against racism. Think of it as ”things to keep in mind” when you approach it with a wish to engage if you’re new.
If you, like so many others are hoping to join the fight against racism, or if you claim to already be in it and is reading up to get better at it, below ill be sharing some tips, pointers and links to potentially help you on your way.
The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter that I’ve chosen to use as my title, is also a great source to find information about different aspect of racism, how to actively work against it and un-learn it. To access it, simply type it into Facebook, Google or Instagram. People share experiences, tips, issues, articles, they also use the phrase by itself to highlight the importance of black lives, since there’s a need for it.
I’ll start this post by addressing some questions and thoughts I’ve received from friends and acquaintances:
1. If you (as a non-black) person feel bad about what you’re seeing in the media right now. Good. You’re supposed to. If brutalized and murdered black bodies make you feel sad and outraged, if systemic racial oppression makes you feel overwhelmed, exhausted and unsure about yourself, your actions and what you’ve been (or not been) doing to help… great! Then there’s something here we can work with. See, NEWSFLASH, you’re supposed to feel bad. Because it sucks, all of it, for all of us, and especially for black people. What you’re NOT supposed to do is write to your traumatized/exhausted/depressed/hurt black friends to ask what you can do to make yourself feel better. Because it’s not about you and that’s lesson one on racism as a non-black person. It’s not about you, always remember it’s not about you, and when you’re about to comment on something, mention something, share thoughts or just open your mouth in a racism related context, ask yourself: – Am I about to reshape or center this around myself or my experiences? If yes? Then don’t. (Also, the people that should worry you, are the ones that aren’t feeling bad right now). Take note that some activists/friends of yours or public speakers you follow may have expressed that they’re available for conversations if people have questions and wish to learn. Use these opportunities to ask the questions you might not’ve been able to answer alone through google, and if they have a gofundme/patreon/paypal chip in on the work they do, the same way you’d pay any teacher.
2. Scenario ”I haven’t shared anything or spoken out personally on the issue, but let me share a black picture for #blackouttuesday in solidarity with the black lives matter movement, because I do care! Fighting racism just takes a lot of effort” Hmm alright, uhm. So two things to point out here. First, If you decide to repost or share anything (something you think could be useful information for other people for example), make sure you understand what you’re sharing. Secondly, if you decide to post a black picture, ask yourself WHY you’re doing it and what the desired outcome is, if you can’t answer that, don’t do it. We’re struggling with alot of clutter and alot of mindless reposting. People think they wanna help but they don’t really want to go through the actual trouble it takes, so they settle for a repost of something they don’t understand or truly know why they’re sharing. Notice how there’s nothing wrong with the act of reposting, just make sure you understand. This obviously goes for anyone reposting anything ever.
3. If you’re not initially (and after that still occasionally) completely overwhelmed by the thought of dismantling racism, you don’t understand racism. Simple. The go-to should be learning about all the separate and intricate aspects of racism in part. Because if you think you’re tackling racism head-on and that you’ve figured it out, I’m gonna need you to take a step back. This has been going on for years, if it was as simple as telling people to ”be nicer to black people” we would’ve solved it years ago. Unlearning racism is a journey that takes time, effort and focus. You don’t simply read a 100 books to understand, ‘cause it’ll take you another 10 years to even begin to apply it to your daily life and your line of thinking. To give an example: I check myself every time I do my hair to ask myself why I prefer a sleek bun over a matted one, when my natural hair texture is matted, the desire (and preference) for a sleek bun is internalized racism. The racism isn’t gone until I’m free to wear either without preference based around which one is commonly accepted as ”neater”, and this is just me?! If we’re getting detailed here I’ve got the ”good” texture of the bunch, imagine what it’s like for people with ”heavier” afro-centric features than me (there’s an old system in place judging people favorably based on their proximity to whiteness, I’ll cover that in-depth some other day but google colorism and the paper bag-test for now). Then proceed to think about all the people I meet on a daily who’s gonna see my bun and think to themselves wow like did she even try? She should’ve sleeked it back with gel to make it look straight. Notice how this is also just a minor thing? One. Minor. Thing. That’s how extensive this is. Racism is a system, an indoctrinate teaching, a behavioral pattern and for some a way of life. Racism is mainly subconscious, meaning you won’t really notice that it’s there, making it harder to identify and fight within one self.
4. This is an important one, and I cannot stress this enough. Think for yourself. Please. When you see posts upon posts of people telling you to ”read up” they obviously mean read up, but that also includes this: thinking. I already said this in point 2 but let me repeat it because this is a key-step, PLEASE think for yourself. That’s the work you’re supposed to be doing, apart from showing support and speaking up when it’s needed
lawdamercy think. for. yourself. When you see something you don’t understand, don’t just scroll past it and assume you’re good ‘cause you think racism is bad and you’ve got black friends, you’re not good, it’s not fine, figure out why you don’t understand. (Also, if you find yourself motivated to read up but unsure what to read, don’t be afraid to ask, but also, don’t expect a black person to do the work of finding valuable information for you, especially not for free. This is like asking a classmate to do your homework for you. Not cool. >>>Re-read end of point 1 if needed.<<<
5. When somebody goes ”Black Lives Matter”, don’t respond all lives matter, or blue lives matter or my dogs life matters or no life matters (nihilistic edgelord junk). Don’t. Don’t do it. Everybody knows this. Remember what we talked about before? About putting yourself in the center of an issue? May I ask why you feel the need to insert yourself everywhere? Don’t do it. This. This is it. So don’t do it. A great example I’ve seen people use is, if your house is on fire, and you shout ”my house is on fire!” to get it extinguished, and then every other house that’s NOT on fire got a resident stepping out onto the sidewalk shouting ALL houses are on fire, do you realize how stupid that looks? Yes, maybe someday your house too may be on fire, but right now we’re talking about this one. All lives matter, we know this, everyone knows this. However we’re highlighting that black people are unjustly being killed in frighteningly high numbers and systematically oppressed, this is the fire we’re trying to put out. Either you help out or you get out the way. Inserting yourself by asking why not all lives matter, that’s you trying to hijack another movement. If the only time you care about all lives is when somebody else is trying to get their message across, you don’t truly care at all.
This is also what my disclaimer in the beginning of the post is for, I’ve seen that there’s a bad habit in media of making parallels between different social justice movements, between different people or in hopes of making an example to further understand or pick apart an argument. For example, using another gruesome event to try to make the event being discussed seem less bad. Don’t do it. It’s not a competition in who can throw out the most gruesome event or make the most distasteful parallel. If you feel the need to comment on the ongoing violent protests in the USA today, and flip it, switch the colors of the protesters with the people getting hurt or anything like it in hopes of proving your argument, what you’re really doing is erasing the history of the problem itself by isolating one specific event, which obviously will render the event itself nonsensical. The defining history has to be taken into consideration.
6. Last point, this one’s for everyone. A skill you need to acquire when dealing with any and all social justice movements is to be able to step aside and let the people whom the movement is for step forth to speak. Google ‘interpretative prerogative’ or ‘tolkningsföreträde’ in Swedish. This is not just between black vs non black people in terms of the black lives matter movement, but also between black people within the movement itself. For the black people in Sweden taking a stance right now, earlier or in the future and expressing their opinions regarding the actions of black people in for example the US, it’s important to know that at the end of the day it’s not our place to judge their actions. We can comment, share our two cents and debate, but at the end of the day we can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to grow up in America as a black person, even if most of us have our own experiences with racism, identify with the people we see or feel a bond to what could be relatives and even if our own countries are dealing with the same issues, we can’t possibly begin to understand what it’s like to be them because we’re not them. The best we can do is support them in every way we can, share their stories, sign their petitions, donate to their cause, listen to what they need from us and fight our own local issues of racism along side theirs for an overall better future for black people everywhere. (This calls for another disclaimer, take note how I’m NOT saying it doesnt concern us because this is very much our issue too.)
This concludes my list for now, there’s obviously way more I could cover, but we’ll round it up here. Social media is blowing up right now but this is not the first or the last time this is going to or needs to happen, more discussions/fights/protests will be held in the future regarding identity, heritage, cultural ownership and race, it’s needed and long overdue as usual. Buckle up for more, we’re 6 months into 2020 which has come to be the year of exposing everything and everyone.
I’ve personally felt torn about what to write about for this last week. Everyday is history in the making and history is what I do, I naturally cover pro-black topics in relation to that, because, well, I’m black and history needs to be re-written and edited from a non-white western and non-western narrative, this is one of my fundamental beliefs. We need to create our own narrative and space, instead of living in somebody else’s. Thus, I decided to give into my feelings, and sit down, open my brain and write about Black Lives Matter and share some tips on how to approach and assist the movement, because black lives do matter. Everyday. Not just when your feed is a battlefield or my family’s a trending hashtag.
Rachel Cargle’s The Great Unlearn – Currated monthly syllabus to keep you engaged in unlearning racism, and racist behaviour. Self-paced and donation based: https://www.patreon.com/thegreatunlearn
A compiled list of some organizations you can donate to (help with bail, provide support for victims of police brutality, rebuilding etc), petitions you can sign, informative monetized videos who’s revenue will be donated etc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16VOvHrLcL37OFa9udKks_B05IR9N7V1FCVNM-pFmiXU/edit?usp=sharing
Rachel Cargle is a public academic, writer, and lecturer. Her activism and academic work are rooted in providing intellectual discourse, tools, and resources that explore the intersection of race and womanhood.