The narrative is oppression.
We are seeing a significant uprise of anti-racist protest and calls due to the recent injustice in America where a black man named George Floyd was killed by a white cop without due process. This incident has catalyzed the spreading of awareness and calling for action regarding racial injustice, not just in America but the whole world. The death of Floyd flared the people’s driving hunger for racial equality and has sparked numerous protests around the planet.
However, because of the restrictions brought about by the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people chose to show their protest against racial injustice through maximizing their social media accounts. The #BlackLivesMatter reemerged as the popular call and reached further international attention due to the global protests. The call to action started back in 2013 when people protested against the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot a black high school student named Trayvon Martin to death. It then became a movement founded by three black community organizers, namely: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. Since then, it has become a major movement in advocating for black people’s rights and the recent killing of George Floyd propelled the movement into global attention.
The influx of #BlackLivesMatter opinions and discussions regarding black people has penetrated every corner of the media, from the headlines of French newspapers to the Instagram stories of celebrities like Taylor Swift. The influence generated by the call has moved tens of thousands of people, regardless of race, including those people who weren’t really inclined in engaging themselves in the heated conversation.
Indeed, it is a significant help to perpetuate the movement by protesting but the real change will happen if we rewrite the narrative. But how can we rewrite the black people’s narrative of oppression as a non-black person?
Here’s how. Hear me out.
Start with yourself.
We all know that one quote from Mahatma Gandhi that tells us to “Be the change that [we] wish to see in the world.” This is basically the essence of what this is all about.
Currently, we are seeing proactive protests and progressive movements which advocates for egalitarian and environmental causes. People nowadays are taking it into social media and even to the streets, the protests that we are rallying for. Fortunately, these movements catalyzed social progress in terms of basic rights and freedom. However, the fight is still not over, and people are still clamoring for equality and change, both from the government and the society itself. Nevertheless, this is not the fight we should prioritize.
We should start with ourselves.
We should first assess ourselves and our ideologies regarding the configuration of the society and how it is built on various social structures such as racial hegemony and patriarchy. We must firstly acknowledge our privileges. As a non-black person, we surely have privileges that black people don’t, may it be quality education, the beauty standard or just being regarded as human. With that, we’ll know how much we need to change ourselves. It is also important to identify our implicit biases over ideological concepts. Many people are counter protesting #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter (which calls out for the lives of the police killed in various contexts). There are a lot of counterarguments that are rooted from this since they view the #BlackLivesMovement as something irrelevant to them. According to psychotherapist Sam Louie of Psychology Today, “implicit bias is built into why people respond with, ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Blue Lives Matter.’ They are not comfortable seeing the attention and spotlight given to a cause that’s not relevant to their lives. People negatively misinterpret, ‘Black Lives Matter’ to mean ‘Only Black Lives Matter.’ How does one misinterpret this? Confirmation bias may be at play. They infer from the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ that African-Americans are singling themselves out as the only race that matters.” With that, it is important to assess how the movement is important holistically, regardless of its relevance to us and to be able to identify why our perception and mindset matter.
Furthermore, we should educate ourselves on the history of the present injustice and how it is perpetuated by how our society is established. Black people’s history is more than the slave trade and the cotton-picking jobs. We should know that there are empires in the past which were ruled by black people and these weren’t highlighted enough in our history books because they’re deemed subaltern to the white narrative. This also happens in the beauty standards where it is a status quo that the farther you are from being fair-skinned, the less pretty you are.
People only take the #BlackLivesMatter as a progressive movement that only aims to achieve racial justice in all the oppressive attacks they have experienced, but they don’t account other inequalities and discrimination black people experience in the contemporary society. A lot of black women are still not regarded as beautiful as their white counterparts. This is very apparent in model agencies and beauty pageants where, more often than not, a black woman winning or making it to the top would only be there for representation and not regarded equally successful as white models. The same goes for black politicians who are recognized for their race rather than their service.
Being black becomes an adjective that appeals pity; an adjective that would make your name a success story.
With that, lastly, black people are humans, exactly like you. They are not ill, and they don’t need your sympathy and pity. Treat them as you would like to be treated. Your empathy with their struggle is more appreciated than treating the #BlackLivesMatter as a charity case. More importantly, use the drive and passion that you’ve established fighting for black people to also fight for other marginalized sectors of the society. A lot of them are also oppressed and suppressed by the cultures in power and it will also mean a lot for black people to see a multifaceted social progress; for no one is completely free unless everyone is.
As you’re reading this right now, you might wonder how putting up the ‘hashtag’ #BlackLivesMatter helps the movement and yourself from the change you must do. We must remember that the movement is performative. Yes, social media protests significantly help in spreading awareness and expressing solidarity, but the more important change black people would want to see from us non-black people is the change in our perspectives, ideologies, beauty standards and mindset. They want to be liberated from the oppressive societal structures which are perpetuated by how we live and believe. We must unlearn the biases and stereotypes handed down by the generational narrative and this will rewrite their future narrative.