The recent protests in the United States following the extra-judicial killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, at the hands of the police have reignited the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the conversation on race in America. Granted this conversation never really went away, as the equality and justice that was demanded of their government was never provided to the Black community.
Donald Trumpâ€™s term in office continued to see a rise in violence against coloured people in the USA, propagated by the police or white Americans, with it largely being against African-Americans. George Floydâ€™s murder, which was captured in a horrific video, is just another in a long line of murders committed at the hands of the American police. Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and Ahmed Aubrey are all names weâ€™ve heard and read in the news and yet, the cycle just doesnâ€™t seem to stop.
Police brutality is sadly not the only culprit here, as many regular American citizens continue to condone this behaviour and in fact partake in it themselves. Every day thereâ€™s a new video floating on the Internet where a white person is using their privilege to racially profile a Black person. The â€˜Karensâ€™ or â€˜Kevinsâ€™ of the Internet, as theyâ€™re now being called, display their white supremacy and white privilege for the entire world to see, yet apart from them losing their jobs or being dragged online, nothing much happens in the way of substantial institutional change.
You might be wondering what this has got to do with us. Living tens of thousands of miles away with our own problems, why should we care about whatâ€™s happening in the USA? The simple answer is: humanity. More than that, I believe this is the right time to check our own endemic racism and colourism, in order to carve a better world for the generations to come.
Itâ€™s no secret that colourism is rampant in our society; darker skin tones have always been less desirable than their fairer counterparts. We grow up cracking jokes at the expense of those darker than us and these are invariably racist in nature. Using derogatory terms we compare darker people to Africans, as if being an African (which is not a nationality) is a bad thing. The worst part, these jokes go unchecked and unchallenged. And why wouldnâ€™t they be? Thatâ€™s what grown ups around us engage in as well: girls with duskier skin tones are told theyâ€™re undesirable and are admonished for not using the array of skin whitening products available to remedy this. While this is a lot more nuanced than this article can focus on, I bring this all up due to the inherent links with anti-blackness that the brown community, whether in South Asia or the Diaspora, continues to promulgate.
People around us continue to take from the Black community without lending support when itâ€™s required. We obsess over music produced by Black artists, think we have some innate right to use the â€˜Nâ€™ word (please donâ€™t), try to adopt African-American accents and mannerisms, but remain performative in our protection of their rights. Be honest, how many of you have heard the followingâ€”or similarâ€”from those around you:
â€œYeah, but I would never want my child to date a Black manâ€
â€œIâ€™m not going to go watch Black Panther, too many Africansâ€
â€œHabshi lag rahay hoâ€
â€œTrump is right, theyâ€™re all criminalsâ€
â€œYouâ€™re my Nâ€”â€”â€
Sadly, the above are all real conversations from people Iâ€™ve had to argue with and persuade to see their racism. The â€œIâ€™m brown I canâ€™t be racistâ€ argument is the most ignorant response ever. Now, this article doesnâ€™t mean I absolve myself of any prior racist or anti-black attitudes; Iâ€™ve had to identify my own anti-blackness over the years and methodically rid myself of it. The point is, to continue to learn and recognise oneâ€™s biases, in order to defeat them. A few steps that you can take:
- Recognise your internalised anti-blackness: are you fearful of Black people? Do you associate the same negative attitudes towards them that white supremacists do?
- Educate those around you: notice who else is being overtly or inwardly racist. Talk to them about the injustices faced by Black people globally and how systems continue to be biased against them.
- Call out: whenever you see a person, company or brand being anti-black, call them out. Itâ€™s imperative that you do.
- Donate: if you can, then donate to organisations that are fighting for racial equality.
- Ask: there were many instances where I was unsure of whether my behaviour constituted racist undertones, or if someone elseâ€™s did or didnâ€™t. The easiest way was to call up a friend and ask them. With the Internet, you donâ€™t necessarily need to have Black friends for this to happen, just ask on a relevant forum and youâ€™ll be answered.
It should be clear as day that racism canâ€™t exist, yet it isnâ€™t so. Recently, Iâ€™ve read a bunch of books dealing with racism and slavery, as well as watched shows and documentaries that have narrated the effects of these on the lives of modern African-Americans. Itâ€™s been an eye-opening, blood-boiling experience. Some of them that I recommend for you:
Read: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Read: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Read: Any essay of James Baldwin
Watch: When They See Us on Netflix
Watch: Selma (a movie on the life of MLK Jr.)
Weâ€™ve all heard a version of the phrase that those who turn a blind eye towards oppression are complicit and thatâ€™s true now more than ever. We might have our own problems here, but that doesnâ€™t mean we canâ€™t lend our support to others subjected to systemic violence.