Yeah, black lives matter but what about…

I was in two minds about writing this post as I truly believe that while anger is a valid emotion, sometimes it is best to let the pot of boiling water cool down before you use it…did I just make up a proverb? As the Black Lives Matter movement gains global momentum, I have up until now been silently watching how it unfolds in South Africa. I’ve started to see posts from some white South Africans almost negating that black lives matter, because of the farm murders that occur. Bear in mind that 74% of all farms in South Africa are white-owned, so does it not make sense to that wherever any race is a majority, they will make up the bulk of the stats? This is in the same line of thread as those who have rightly said ‘white people account for more police murders in the US.’ Well duh…the US is a majority white country is it not? However black people, in particular, black men are more likely to be killed by the police. I have countless times posted that the BLM movement is not about establishing a new order of white people vs. black people, it’s about dismantling racism. It’s the world vs. racists. I think it is also important to address those who have coined their own slogan ‘some black lives matter.’

If I’m being honest, I have sometimes felt as though in South Africa we hide behind the phrase ‘rainbow nation’ which sounds progressive but we really haven’t come that far. One of the reasons could be because the conversation of racism in South Africa isn’t just about dismantling toxic white privilege. The conversation in South Africa is a complex one because we’re dealing with two ugly monsters: racism AND its equally disgusting cousin, xenophobia. I can say that the reason why these attitudes persist is because we have a black population still very much feeling the inequality that was established during the apartheid era, add in a government that has more times than not served their own interests above the people who elected them and you have the perfect conditions for racial and ethnic discrimination to persist. More than anything as we watch what is unfolding globally, let us take this time to reflect on our attitudes towards other races and ethnicities. We have to realize that acknowledging the pain of one community, does not negate the pain that another community has or is still experiencing. Saying black lives matter does not mean that others do not. If having conversations about racial and ethnic discrimination makes you defensive, and deaf to hearing the plight of one unlike you has experienced, perhaps being racist/xenophobic is better suited for you…

Black Lives Matter | Peace Action New York State

Dear White People…Pull up!

Growing up as a Congolese immigrant in South Africa, life wasn’t easy. People need to confront their xenophobia as much as they need to confront their racism (that’s a story for another day). For a long time I remember thinking ‘wow they like me,’ whenever a white person would say ‘you’re not like other black people.’ You receive that as a badge of honour, a compliment. You fool yourself into thinking that in spite of your race, you’re accepted, you’re valued.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that we can only fix this world together, we can’t do it divided. I cannot emphasize that enough. We can’t let the de-sensitivity seep in. The, ‘If it’s your problem, then it’s not mine; it’s a woman’s problem; it’s a black people problem; it’s a poor people problem.’ I mean, how many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other races, sexes, religions? Show of hands. Well, they want to break bread with you, right? They like you? Well, then this is their problem too. So when we’re marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Jr.s and Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up.

Rihanna

Now I’m older and I finally see it. I finally get it. The subtle ways that we’re pitted against each other. As if it’s a competition to see which black person is most worthy of being alive, of breathing. It is not lost on me that I am married to a white man and regardless of how we view our children, there are people in this world that will try to break them. It is my duty to ensure that this doesn’t happen. The anxiety has felt overwhelming at times, crippling even. But I am reminded that we have to be proactive, using whatever platform we have regardless of how big or small it is. Engage in conversations that challenge your inner Pharisee. You know who that is right? The part of you that is secretly (and for some people openly) judgemental, the part of you that ‘doesn’t see colour’. The part of you that has for a long time never seen life through the lens of others who are different to you because ‘it isn’t your platform’. When a black friend/colleague or partner chooses to share with you the world through their lens, listen. Don’t try to justify certain actions or re-write THEIR experience/s. It is a dangerous AND ignorant assumption to make that because it hasn’t been the case for you, it isn’t the case at all.

Don’t wait for someone else to educate you, do the work. Pull up! ✊🏾 Here’s a resource I found on the web, for the non-black people in the room who are ready to do the work: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-VlBO-QgirITwCTugSfKie5Fs/preview?pru=AAABcoTynOg*doiSCYsnnyftRjNy23Qzsw

I am as overwhelmed as I am numb. I’m tired emotionally and mentally. But still I will continue to rise.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Maya Angelou