I am painfully new to this game but the uncodified laws of creative expression means I have the right to hold such an opinion. Not just in context of the BLM movement but objectively speaking, in a world that has been completely defaced by societal turmoil, a year that has been 3 in 1, I doubt this post-pandemic era could stomach or even have the time for the long-winded pamphlets seen in past revolutions. In an increasingly digitalised, fast fashion, fast-food, 8-second attention span world, the idiom of ‘actions speak louder than words’ will never be truer.
Never did I think I’d see the day where race relations became as big a topic as Brexit. Oh wait-it hasn’t. British politics has always been an inconsolable 4 year old that demands constant media attention above anything else. Our distinction between humanitarian crises’ and political news is a dangerous habit in itself. The destruction of Yemen is a political issue. The devastation being allowed unto Palestine is a political issue. Systemic racism is a political issue. As the saying goes ‘if you don’t do politics, politics will do you’. In this context, black writers, bloggers, content creators or anyone sharing their thoughts on the activism occurring right now need to recognise that in a time of a global pandemic, ‘humanity’ or crimes against it will never make headlines for very long. It could be that this is typical of Britain and her tendency to be more concerned with regional, class or age differences than to engage with identity politics. Nonetheless, we cannot rely on publications to further the cause. In fact, we already know that, hence the huge social media campaign that has commendably been sustained for a whole month and counting.
In the words of Gill Scott-Heron- the revolution will not be televised. Here I am being a hypocrite about decentralising Black American culture from British race relations but this sentiment rings true in this context and arguably in any meaningful movement. God-willing, a lot of the changes we strive to see, won’t be immediate. Systemic reform won’t fit neatly into a hashtag or on a t-shirt. British society has too much to lose to entertain controversy or radicalism.
The hype on social media will die down. Less and less people will attend protests. The media will prioritise other stories. What matters is what we do offline. In this regard, change and impact are not interchangeable. A global social media campaign and mass protests is most definitely impactful in maintaining the conversation and disrupting daily life. But they have no longevity in the same way that legislation or economic solutions such as Black Pound Day, mandatory racial bias training or a rewritten curriculum does. I hate to be a pessimist but even with all our efforts, we are not guaranteed justice. We are not guaranteed to be seen as equal by every institution and white person in power. Racist attitudes and prejudice is a hard thing to shake off. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try but if we mean it when we say ‘no justice, no peace’ it’s on us to recognise that there will never be ‘peace’.
There are many thoughtful, passionate pieces written on this platform. From rehashing the centuries of oppression to the psychological effects of microaggressions on one’s identity and self-esteem, some of which are great reads. But for the most part, they do not provide any new or helpful insight. They are not asserting a call-to action or providing solutions. The moment we complain about issues more than we create solutions, this will all be in vain. I so proud to be amongst a generation that is so charged and so willing to put their bodies on the line to show their conviction but many generations before us have done this before and to no avail. Protests are not strategy. Statements are not strategy. Complaining is not strategy. Twitter threads are not strategy.
It is the golden rule of this movement to not knock anybody’s contribution to the cause but if we step back and analyse the results so far, they are all performative, surface level measures that don’t mean a damn thing. Personally speaking, I don’t care about blackface from 10 years ago. I couldn’t give a toss about your apology video. Kneeling on the ground for 2 minutes is definitely not the same thing as an arrest. Entertaining this will see our children and grandchildren marching for the same thing we are right now. If we want to honour our ancestors and avenge the victims of this system, it is paramount that we always have the future in mind and promote solution-based thinking. We will forever remain victims if we don’t actively mobilise and infiltrate ‘the system’.
7 ways you can do your part as a student/young person:
- Write to exam boards demanding for the reform of specific subjects in the curriculum
Be sure to get formal endorsement from your school and any other important people you may know- just for some added credibility.
- Educate yourself on post and pre-colonial history- in private
Just because the media tells us we are punching bags, it doesn’t mean we have to believe them by reposting brutalised black bodies everyday. That in itself is a form of psychological oppression. Contemporary history is a lot more promising and we have a lot to learn from those who came before us.
- Join or initiate campaigns in your school or college
I completely sympathise with the academic stress of being the ‘covid generation’ but your contribution does not have to be a big one. It could just be as small as filling in a form or survey- if you go to my sixth form, shout out to the 25/250 people who did it.
- Buy black wherever you can
There are so many quality alternatives to all these fast-fashion brands as well as designer brands who don’t give a damn about you but will happily take your money. There are also a lot of industries that we as a community are yet to tap into and so we must see our economic status as one of opportunity and not deprivation.
- Call out your racist classmates to your teachers and faculty
Even if you don’t get the response you want, apply pressure so others feel comfortable to follow suit. If these ‘classmates’ happen to be in your friendship circle, weed them out too; your black friends are not your personal history tutors- google is free.
- Promote positives examples of young black people and their work wherever you can
To the earlier point about black trauma porn, it’s just as easy to repost wholesome, inspiring examples of black people creating amazing content and projects for this cause and in general. This is especially for your friends and peers who need your support more than these glorified, celebrity activists do.
- Write to your MP
If you don’t know what to say, there are many templates that have been shared online wherein you simply insert your name. The success of this movement really rests on the younger generation and MPs have a duty to act on your complaints- it is literally their job to do so.
This is quite a long and hypocritical post, but I hope the underlying sentiment is clear- freedom is going to require strategy not sympathy.