There is an understanding when you go to school. You are given a time when you must be at school, ready for class. If you do not get to school on time, more often than not, you are given detention and if the lateness is consistent you are brought to the principal’s office.
Please take a seat in the principal’s office. I’m afraid you have been late for over 400 years…..
In the last week or so I’ve seen a multitude of people, most of whom have never uttered a word on racism that they both participate in and benefit from, using Twitter and Instagram to “show solidarity” to black people. Whilst I’m sure these people think they are doing the work, like I said in my previous post, what is actually being done? It all feels a bit funky to me. Violence has been happening to black people for centuries and there has been silence. Why is it now people want to rally? What is the difference between then and now?
Social media is truly a great tool. We are able to share aspects of our lives at the tap of a button and by following a hashtag we have access to people all around the world. The difference between then and now is visibility. People see what others are doing or not doing. Solidarity now seems to only require a tsunami of posts about how to do better, without the person who has posted having to prove they’re doing better. It feels like a tick-box initiative:
Have I posted someone black?
Have I used a hashtag pertaining to black lives?
Have I posted a publication written by someone black? Etc.
These things may seem like work and they may look like
progress, but if it’s based on performance alone it mean nothing. If it’s not
coming from a genuine place it means nothing. If it doesn’t lead to a new way
of living to support black people it means nothing. Black lives do not have a
time limit. Black lives is not a trend. Black lives is not a performance. Being
black IS. MY. LIFE! I have to walk this life dealing with racism every day. I do
not get to pick and choose my blackness, I do not get to wash my face and
re-join society, and nor would I wish to. I love being black; being black is
not the problem – racism is the problem. As a (scarce) blogger I’ve seen a lot
of performance. The point is to amplify a variety of black voices but I see the
same faces again and again. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see these faces as these
faces are ones I also follow, but its repetition nonetheless. Supporting black
voices seems to be rationed to those with an existing platform. A swipe-up
option seems to be the criteria for worthiness and it goes back to this post.
Is a black voice only worthy when they have the right amount of followers? Is a
black voice only worthy if they have a “palatable” appearance? Is a black voice
only worthy if it’s a friend or someone who can potentially help you gain something
down the road? This “movement” feels very performative because it feels transactional.
Like everything else, it really does only come down to numbers and reach. Michelle Hopewell is an incredible voice on this issue and I encourage you to listen to black women when they talk about lack of visibility.
A variety of voices is vital when dismantling institutional racism. Companies take note of the voices we choose to amplify and until we see faces that don't fit a particular mould or sit, listen and share stories from people not in our circles, there will never be real or significant change. I don’t like the monopoly white people have on this. Black people are continuously dictated to on worthiness, yet without it (particularly in certain spaces) black people don’t get anywhere. It's like a game and black people just small pieces of a larger puzzle. It’s maddening, but I hope we’re now working towards black voices being heard because we know we are great, not because a white person tells us we are great. People may not like to admit it, but this is the definition of covert racism – appearing to be an ally but also knowing and using the power you have to potentially mar a black person’s public image. I’ve always said I prefer an overt racist because at least you know where you stand. Covert racists are the ones you really have to watch out for. And I’m watching. We all are.
So, as any principal would say just before exiting their
office: Please learn from your actions. I hope I don’t see you in here again.
'til nex time.