There is a large social movement afoot across the globe tackling an important question related to the lives of its citizens.
Using the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, the movement is raising awareness about violence and systemic racism against black people. Many of the protests centre around killings of black Americans by law enforcement officers. In some cases black Americans have been shot with their hands in the air.
Whatever the training in the States — in some cases it’s a shoot first, ask questions later — something has got to change. African Americans have been saying that this has been going on for years, and until recently, that has been hard to prove. The advent of the smart phone has changed that perception. For the first time ever these actions are being filmed.
Awareness is critical and for white people, myself included, to try and understand the situation. We might just learn something about ourselves in the process.
Showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t mean you don’t support law enforcement, or white lives, or any other life for that matter; it means you want to see justice for those who are killed and for a system that does not treat every citizen equally.
Don’t believe me?
Protesters against these killings are called thugs and are told to protest peacefully. Enter Colin Kaepernick, NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who chose to protest — peacefully I might add — by kneeling during the National Anthem.
It was a protest that sparked pride in some and outrage in others. For the latter, the argument is that veterans who fought for the country are being disrespected. There are others who say soldiers fought for his freedom of speech and he should have that right to protest peacefully.
Kaepernick’s actions have inspired other professional athletes to speak up in silent protest over the injustices on minorities in the United States, either by kneeling or by raising their fists during the National Anthem. Some of these athletes have gone to great personal risk and are being punished by losing sponsorships.
So here we have black people standing up against an injustice that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. They are being told that protesting on the streets and protesting peacefully during the National Anthem are no good. Is it better to be meek and lowly and accept the fate given to them?
A common argument I have seen is that All Lives Matter. Of course all lives matter. No one is saying that they don’t. But by speaking up in support of black lives you are saying you want the same rights and privileges for everyone.
The Civil Rights Movement was a mere 60 years ago, that is not a long time. It takes time and effort to change and we need to be the agents of that change. Another argument I have heard is that there IS no problem. Equality is upon us and people of colour have the same opportunities that white people do. Tell that to the middle-aged lady in my friendly Ponoka neighbourhood who stared down at my friend’s 14-year-old son because he has colour on his skin. His father is black and his mother white.
This individual made a point of walking out of her driveway, then onto the sidewalk, to stare balefully at this young teenager who was doing nothing but walking. To avoid a confrontation I asked him to move along. I realize now that I should have questioned her decision and challenged the status quo. Her action leads to anger, frustration and continues the cycle of hate and my mistake was not stopping it.
We are in a unique position to take offence at what is happening.
I can defend myself all I want to and say that I have friends who are black, that I agree these are terrible instances but what steps have I taken to speak out and offer a solution or try to understand? These aren’t easy questions but one can’t put their head in the sand hoping things will go back to normal anymore. Maybe they’re normal for me, but not for countless others.
A better solution I feel would be to really look into things. Before you respond to defend yourself or your pride, try to understand and speak up when you see injustice. It’s only the right thing to do.