Take A Stand Against Racism // #BlackLivesMatter

I'm tired. I'm tired of living in a racist world. The world is sexist, it's homophobic, transphobic, but it's also racist and, in this blog post, we're talking about racism because racism is a real issue today, just as much as it was seventy years ago and we cannot keep sweeping racism under the rug just because it's always been there. We shouldn't have to just "put up with it."
As a young, white woman, I will never have to experience the racism that my black brothers and sisters do. I will never know what it feels like to have racial slurs hurled at me in the street. I will never know how it feels to be rejected from a job because of my skin colour. I will never know how it feels to be misrepresented in mainstream media. I will never know what it's like to be hated so deeply by small minded people just because of the skin colour I was born with. Reverse racism doesn't exist and whilst people may poke fun at "white people," racism will never be inflicted upon us, no matter how hard we try to argue that we are victims of it. My opinions on racism shall always be limited because I speak from a position of white privilege. Therefore, as determined as I am to stand up against racism and as angry as it makes me, I will always be aware that I am not the one suffering. As much as racism is the issue of everyone, not everyone is directly affected by it, which is why we should not allow the voices of us, the white people in society, to overpower the voices of people of colour, the real victims of racism. It is vital that we use our voices to speak out against racist acts and hate crimes but it is also vital that we listen to those who have actually endured them and that we remember they have a far better understanding of racism than we ever will.

That being said, even though I do not have the capacity to fully understand racism, I am not afraid to call it out. No person should feel afraid to call racism out, in any situation. No matter how frightening it may seem, no matter who the perpetrators are, by remaining mute and letting our fear of the consequences control us, we are letting the racists win. By refusing to call a racist a racist just in case they turn their weapons on you, you are siding with them. By not condemning their actions, you are condoning them. I'm in a position where I could stay silent on racism. I could let it pass me by, I could let black people suffer without saying a word, because I am white and I have the privilege of being able to ignore racism just because it doesn't directly impact my life. But I don't want to do that. I don't want to be superior. I want to voice my disgust on racism and you should do the same because, whilst we are not the victims of racism, racism is still our issue because it is a humanity issue. Racism affects millions of our brothers and sisters each day and, despite the fact that we may never meet them, we should stand in solidarity with them. No one is free until everyone is free. There is no liberation without racial justice. 

It's easy to think that racism isn't that big of a deal anymore but, just because we aren't living in the 1940s, that doesn't mean racism is extinct. In fact, racism, is even more of an issue now as it was back then, it's just that people are blind to it because they live in this bubble of privilege which allows them to ignore it. Racist hate crimes are committed every day, most of which aren't reported. Racism is one of those things which we're just supposed to tolerate. It's as if we're just supposed to accept that people of colour are subservient because that's how they've always been viewed. It's as if racism has existed for so long it's as though there's no point in doing anything about it. These mentalities are harmful. Just because racism has existed for longer than any of us have been alive, that doesn't mean we should just carry on what our ancestors started. We should want to challenge and annihilate racism for the sake of humanity. Why would anyone wish to live in a racist world which makes the lives of many a misery? Why should anyone feel afraid to leave their house out of fear of being killed because of their skin colour? Out of fear of it being their name in the headlines and their body on the front of newspapers the next day? A racist world is no world for anyone. I sometimes feel as though a great deal of progress has been made and, in some cases, it has. America had a black President, black women are working in Parliament, we have the Black Lives Matter movement which works to combat racism and, thanks to social media, everyone is able to speak out against racism. We can sign petitions to change laws, we can comfort victims of hate crimes, we can educate others on the harsh realities of racism. Young people are more clued up on the world we're living in and are doing what they can to shape a better, more inclusive future. However, despite the progress we have made, I am so very often reminded that we still have a long way to go. Each day when I open Twitter, I see racist comments being made. I open Snapchat and see videos of white people singing the N word in songs at parties. I switch on the news and hear of black people being killed by police in America. Racism is oh so real and there just seems to be a constant divide between people of colour and whites.

In England and Wales, racial violence is largely under reported to the police. According to Home Office statistics, from 2012-2015 there were 106,000 racially motivated ‘hate crimes’ per year, on average. Countless surveys have highlighted the fact that victims of hate crime are less likely to think the police had treated them fairly or with respect, compared other crime victims. Of reported hate crime incidents, a mere 59% of victims believed the police treated them fairly. We're living in a world of fear. Victims of racial hate crimes should not feel scared to go to the police! It's ludicrous that POC feel reporting their hate crime is futile because justice will not be served or because it's just something they're "supposed to deal with." It is such an act of bravery when people of colour come forwards to report racism inflicted upon them, but they shouldn't have to do that. I know no blog post is going to completely eliminate racism and I know it cannot be extinguished worldwide overnight, but it's something we need to TALK about and, if each person starts using their voice and talking about racism a little more, perhaps more progress will be made. Saying something is better than saying nothing.

Let's talk about America, in which there are too many known cases of hate crimes for me to talk about. Each day I learn of a new one. I learn of a new name of someone who was attacked in the streets or shot by police simply for being black and I see thousands of Tweets publicising their names because, sadly, in today's world, we have to be our own media. We have to report these injustices because mainstream media do not care. We have to say the names of victims of racist hate crimes to make them known to the world because those who are supposed to report them are choosing to talk about other, insignificant things. 
In 2016, young, black men were killed by police at a much higher rate than any other American, with black males aged 15-34 being nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed. 
There was Alton Sterling, the 558th black person to be killed by police last year. He was a 37 year old son and father. Police received reports of a man in a red shirt selling CDs at a convenience store and heard he had threatened someone with a gun. Officers were quick to jump on Alton and arrest him. His death was caught on video and officers can be heard shouting that he had a gun, however, bystanders made it clear that Alton did not threaten the cops with the gun. He was shot dead in 90 seconds.

There was Philando Castile, a 32 year old who was pulled over when driving home from his grocery shop with his girlfriend and their four year old daughter. Officers pulled the car over after suspecting the driver could've been involved in a robbery. Castile informed police immediately that he had a firearm on him. Officers ordered him not to reach for it, to which he replied that he wasn't going to. Despite officers being aware of and yelling that Castile wasn't going to pull out his gun, they shot him dead with five bullets, two of which pierced his heart.

The deaths of black men are not reported enough but the deaths of black women are reported even less.
In June this year, Charleena Lyles called the police to report a burglary in her home and she was shot dead with a stream of bullets after officers reported she was carrying a knife. She was pregnant when she died, meaning police took not one, but two lives. She was also killed in front of her children, one of whom was an 11 year old boy who had to walk over his mother's body, all because she was reporting a burglary and felt unsafe in her own home.

In 2015, Sandra Bland was found hanged in her jail cell, three days after being arrested during a traffic stop. An altercation occurred during her run in with the police, leading to her being forced onto the ground and cuffed. Sandra repeatedly questioned why she was being arrested to which police only responded with aggression. In video footage, Sandra can be heard crying, screaming and bystanders said her head was slammed onto the ground. You may remember the outrage which followed her death because it was ruled a suicide even though the prison was found to not be checking up on their inmates at required times and their employees had not completed the required mental health training.

Police violence against black women is very real and the level of violence that they face seems not to be fully recognised or understood. Grandmothers as old as 95 have been killed by police. Black women are killed whilst at home, in their cars, in the street, in front of their children, in front of their parents, they have been shot, suffocated, tasered, whilst socialising with friends, whilst alone, whilst asking for help and even whilst homeless. Black women are just as deserving of attention for their suffering as black men. I suppose that many of you reading this are feminists, at least, I hope that you are. However, I want you to ask yourself, does your feminism support black women? Does your idea of feminism include the importance of racial equality? Because if it doesn't, if your feminism isn't intersectional, then it isn't feminism at all.

I could type until my fingers fell off about incidents of police brutality in America. I could type until my fingers were bleeding about how wrong it is that black people are being killed every day by the very people who they are supposed to rely on to keep them safe. I could sit here forever and write about the cases of black men and women being wrongly killed by racist police officers who abused their power but, the fact is, it will never be enough because no amount of words are going to bring these people back to their families. I want to talk about a recent incident, though, in the hope that it will open your eyes to the racist world we are currently inhabiting, if they previous examples haven't done so already.

On 12th August 2017, (note that this was in 2017) a group of white supremacists took to the streets of Charlottesville. The terrorists wielded torches as they marched on to the University of Virginia campus, chanting Nazi slogans and racial slurs, surrounding protesters and physically attacking them, unprovoked. I doubt I could convey how terrifying this is using words so I pray that the images below will do the situation some justice.

To say that this is happening in 2017, not the 1940s, is alarming. It's sickening. It's incredibly worrying to see there are still people who hold these absurd views on humanity and that they will stop at nothing in order to voice them. This reprehensible white supremacist violence has no place in society and does not represent America or the spirit of its people. It scares me to know that there are people out there who feel empowered by this hatred that they hold in their hearts and that they are able to get away with expressing it without punishment, just as police officers are able to kill POC and not be reprimanded, despite the incidents being captured on camera. It scares me to live at a time when the President of the U.S, one of the most powerful leaders in the world, is fuelling this hatred and is allowing these violent riots to take place without properly denouncing them. It repulses me to see such naked racism and antisemitism alive in such evil forms but it comforts me when I see that these twisted ideas are very much diametrically opposed to the beliefs of the majority. To see people calling out this racist behaviour and getting angry restores my faith in the world. It reminds me that there is good and that, as long as we keep fighting, evil and hatred will not flourish.

As Nelson Mandela said, "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." So, I urge you to love and to teach others to love. I urge you to unite with your fellow human beings who may or may not have been victims of racism in order to speak out and act when necessary. I encourage you to educate others who do not understand racism. I encourage you to be a voice for the voiceless but do not allow yourself to speak for or over them. I insist you stop ignoring racism just because it doesn't directly affect you and start defending minorities to create a more loving world in which everyone feels safe. Allow yourself to get angry because being angry shows that you care. May we have uncomfortable conversations until we no longer need to have them, to challenge authorities and to change the way you interact with one another in order to make an actual difference. For we are all equal and we all deserve to live in a world which accepts and respects us, regardless of our skin colour and, as KimberlĂ© Crenshaw said, if we want to see change, "We have to be willing to bare witness to the often painful realities that we would just rather not confront."

To those of you who have experienced and still experience racism, I remind you that you are not alone in your struggles and that there is an army of people on your side, willing to fight for and protect your rights. We will not allow ourselves or you to be silenced, for the sake of your futures and in honour of those who have lost their lives to racism. You are loved, you are worthy of love and a life of joy, success and equal opportunities.

I pray for peace in our world, as always.

Love, Emily

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