By Lindsey Witkowski
We are literally living in an age where we are seeing history play out and they have certainly been uncertain worrying times. We have always known that racism exists, and we have all witnessed it in some form. And protests and riots are certainly no new thing. But there is a shift in the air and the world is changing. The Black community are rightly tired of fighting daily. It isn’t fair. And speaking as white person, it’s often hard to know what to do or how to respond.
After the news broke of George Floyds murder, I was heartbroken. My soul ached for his loss and I could feel the grief from the Black community. But I felt lost, did I have a right to fight along side them? Was it my place to feel hurt and loss? How do I show my support? How can I help?
I know that I was not alone with these feelings. My friends and community felt the same. We all felt his loss. We could feel the injustice and were angered by it.
I am so fortunate to be raised in Liverpool. A multicultural city with strong socialist roots, and a long history of fighting the media. Especially when it comes to the lies the media weave in order to further protect the police. So, it was no surprise that Liverpool protests to “take a knee” for George, were supported by all colours in equal measure. Sadly, Liverpool did make its wealth in the 18th and 19th century in the slave trade. Whilst I am not writing a Liverpudlian history book, it is certainly worth keeping in mind. If you are interested in learning about that you can visit the Liverpool Martine Museum digitally or in person (www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/history-of-slavery/transatlantic-slave-trade).
“Taking a Knee” for George was an emotive day. It was peaceful, powerful and educational. Organised by the Firefly Fighters, their speaker addressed the white audience members. She warmly welcomed us, thanked us and addressed us as Brothers and Sisters. “My bread is your bread. My music is your music. My dance moves are your dance moves. I will share it with you who stand with us. But DO NOT TAKE IT”. This wonderful speaker, at 18 years old no less, spoke with power, grace, dignity and passion. Her message to the white members of gathering was that of education. And this is where you come in. This is what you can do.
Go and read black literature (I’ll drop a list below). Learn from black voices.
Read black history
Do your research
Challenge all racism – not just the overtly racist remarks but the subtle ones to. Things like “all lives matter”. Challenge them, make them feel uncomfortable.
Admit that you can never fully understand how it feels to be black
Accept your privilege
Donate to causes
Follow activists of BLM
Avoid the use of the hashtag “blacklivesmatter”. Leave that space for black voices to speak.
Accept that there are gaps in your knowledge and experiences
It’s okay to be scared. Challenging racism can be hard. But at least dressed in white skin we can still live with the privilege. We don’t have a target on our backs just because of our skin. It is remembering that it is no longer enough to just be a non-racist. But we must be anti-racist. We must challenge, confront and speak up. Silence only ever benefits the oppressor. We stay silent because speaking up makes us uncomfortable, but why is yours or my comfort more important that speaking against oppression?
Be Allies not a lie
“All lives matter” – and why it is just not okay.
It’s like a house on a street is on fire. The firefighters turn up to put out the fire. But the other residents shout, "my house is important to". Well obviously, no one is saying that it's not. But that house is on fire and in a crisis point. It needs the immediate attention. Also, to put out that fire protects the whole street. But to let it burn whilst you go to fortify the non-burning homes only says that the non-burning houses matter more than the one in flames. That to fortify something not burning is more important than to deal with one already on fire.
LASTLY – It is not the black community’s job to educate you. That is on you. I am sure there will be those that want to have open dialogues and want to educate. But be proactive. Learn your local black history as well the worlds.
Some reading ideas:
“Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge,
“Women, Race and Class” by Angela Davis,
“Assata” by Assata Shakur
“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness” by Michelle Alexander.
“Black Feminist Thought” by Patricia Hill Collins
“Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” Dr. Brittney Cooper
“Heavy: An American Memoir” Kiese Laymon
“How to be an Anti-racist” Ibram X. Kendi
“I know why the caged birds sing” Maya Angelou
“I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a world made for whiteness” Austin Channing Brown
“Just Mercy” Bryan Stevenson
“So you want to talk about Race” Ijeoma Oluo
“White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about race” Robin Diangelo, PhD
“The Fire Next Time” James Baldwin
“Men We Reaped” Jesmyn Ward
“They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement” Wesley Lowery
“Inglorious Empire: What The British Did To India” Shashi Tharoor
“Beloved” Toni Morrison
Donate if you are able https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd https://www.gofundme.com/f/i-run-with-maud https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/ https://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions#solutionsoverview https://www.cuapb.org/ https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019
Black and Ethnic Minority voices - here are some good people to follow on social media. IMPORTANT NOTE ON THIS – I repeat what I said earlier, it is not their job to educate you. But by all means please support and read what they have to say.
@rachel.cargle - https://www.rachelcargle.com/
@gracefvictory and @simonepowderly
@thedailyshow. - https://www.trevornoah.com/about
@laylafsaad - http://laylafsaad.com/
More on Liverpool’s Black slave history.
Liverpool’s Black Community
Credit Instagram: @fireflyfighters @bold_street_guy