What Supporting Black Lives Matter Means In 2021
The unjust death of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked protests and campaigns that helped the Black Lives Matter movement gain momentum across the world. As we head into 2021, it’s important we remember the moves we made last year and keep up the fight for true equality.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are just a few of the countless Black people who have lost their lives as a result of racism. Others have been subject to police brutality and hate crimes; everything from being the target of racial slurs to being violently assaulted.
Black Lives Matter UK told UNILAD that footage of Floyd’s death, shared on social media, served as a ‘major wake-up call, like no other in modern times, to the racial injustice towards Black people’. It wasn’t something only witnessed by those on the scene, but by people across the world.
UK-based anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card said many Brits sympathised with the stories of racism emerging from the US in 2020, but at first failed to understand the need to support the movement in the UK.
The charity told UNILAD the death of Floyd acted as a ‘catalyst’ that helped shine a light on the fact that the UK is also responsible, explaining:
Only recently in the UK data was released showing that young Black men were 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in London. We have data showing 40% of prisoners aged 18 and under are Black or of mixed heritage; despite these groups being less than 17% of the entire prison population.
Black Lives Matter stressed that the ‘brutality’ shown against Floyd could not be ignored, and as a result the world was ‘united in its outrage’. It added, ‘We all saw [Floyd’s death] for what it was; racial hate, racial discrimination, racial injustice. We all agreed and understood racism has no place in a civilised society.’
As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum in 2020, not even a life-threatening pandemic could stop people from standing up against inequality. This is the kind of drive we need to continue in the new year; if not with protests, then with education, donations and meaningful societal changes.
Every single person can make an impact when it comes to making changes; it is not enough to just not be racist, we must be anti-racist. If you’re unsure where to start, explore films, documentaries and books that educate about racism, unconscious bias and how to be an ally – for example, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness, or John Lewis: Good Trouble.
Educational resources can be found through the Black Lives Matter website and through organisations such as Show Racism the Red Card, which also recommends books such as Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Biased: The New Science of Race and Inequality, Brit(ish) and How to be an Anti-Racist.
Resources like these can help open your eyes to the huge range of ways racism features in day-to-day life, allowing you to recognise it and call it out when it happens.
Racism can be present through prejudice and overt biases, stereotyping and racial profiling, though it is not always abundantly clear. Show Racism the Red Card explained that as well as verbal abuse, physical abuse and derogatory language it can be demonstrated in so-called ‘micro-aggressions’, such as asking a Black person, ‘Where are you from?’
Black Lives Matter encouraged talking about racism with Black friends or colleagues if they are comfortable and willing to do so, but stressed that Black people should not be expected to educate people about what the issue is, so making the effort to educate yourself is vital.
The organisation told UNILAD:
Reject (White) privileges that are known but denied to Black and Brown people. Educate yourself, family, friends [and] children. Racism is not a Black person’s issue to solve.
The issue is also still prevalent in some policies held in society, for example in schools that forbid certain hairstyles as well as in policing and law systems.
Many of these issues were brought to light in 2020, and while millions of people helped make their voice heard by taking part in protests, in 2021 we need to make sure we undertake inward changes, as well as more public displays.
Show Racism the Red Card encouraged people to ‘take the time to consider your own prejudices and biases’, explaining, ‘Starting to examine our own views on things and why we might have certain beliefs can be really powerful.’
When it comes to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and showing yourself as an ally, the charity stressed the importance of listening to and learning about other people’s experiences.
If you’re White, you won’t have had the same experiences as someone of a different skin colour; that’s not your fault, but please listen to what they are telling you and try to really hear it without being defensive or dismissive.
Read books on the subject, diversify your social media feeds by following Black creators, and respond to racism when you witness it.
The charity acknowledged that it can be tough to call out racist comments if they come from family or close friends, but stressed that ‘if jokes or comments go unchallenged then people will assume that you are comfortable with that behaviour’.
As well as taking steps in your own life, continue to back Black Lives Matter in 2021 by spreading the support further afield. Take part in anti-racism initiatives and petitions, donate towards charities and educational resources, report racism and continue to spread the important messages you learn about being an ally.
Black Lives Matter stressed that it is in need of financial support to ‘enable [it] to level up to an equal playing field’, explaining it is reliant on ‘donation and goodwill’ from those who want to collaborate for change.
Though we made great strides in raising awareness of issues in 2020, there are still a number of barriers we need to overcome in order to make the world a truly equal place. Show Racism the Red Card pointed to unconscious biases that ‘permeate through the heart of our society’ from years gone by, stressing that we need to acknowledge these biases in order to change things for the future.
Similarly, Black Lives Matter stressed that White people need to ‘disentangle inherited biases’ and that ‘society needs to come terms with its racist past [and] its racist present, how it discriminates daily in every which way against Black and Brown people’.
We need to support the move to better represent Black history in schools and celebrate the positive contributions Black people have made to society throughout history.
Black Lives Matter told UNILAD that anti-racism education, teaching and discussion should ideally ‘start very young’ with ‘informal, normal and open discussions in all sorts of arenas’. The organisation admitted it is ‘almost unbelievable’ that White adults need educating about racism, but it goes to show that ‘White people have the privilege to not experience racial discrimination’.
Show Racism The Red Card stressed the need to have better representation across the board, explaining:
As Barack Obama pointed out in his book, for him to be the first Black president of the USA was a huge thing for Black kids to see, to aspire to. However, it was equally important for White kids to see, to grow up seeing it as normal for Black people to hold positions of power.
Better representation will go a long way to helping us achieve this.
Black Lives Matter noted that it is a movement often aligned with politics, but said that ‘on the whole’ it is a ‘non-political, non-partisan, non-violent movement of very ordinary people who just want equality’.
The organisation continued:
For us, racism transcends politics and is a human rights issue and concern first and foremost. We are not affiliated to the Black Liberation Movement nor are we affiliated with a political party, we do neither call for defunding of the police nor abolishment of prisons – though we do call for more funding for communities and grassroots concerns so that the police do not need to deal with social and community issues that are not criminal.
We all agree that racism is a evil in society and together we must fight this evil. The human race is really one race, it should be a place in space where all people are equal. Racism should have no safe haven to reside and thrive in this world we share.
Let’s fight this fight together and unite as one… the time is right here and now, let’s not let this opportunity pass us by in history. Let’s create a better history for mankind and for generations to come.
2020 was a tumultuous year for everyone and there were many things that we couldn’t control, but in the new year we must take matters into our own hands when it comes to racism.
It shouldn’t take the loss of more lives to prompt more action, so keep up the momentum established in 2020 by continuing to support Black Lives Matter, understanding and demanding the need for long-lasting change and standing up against injustice to make sure racism becomes a thing of the past.