Author: Eugene Ellis
The killings of Black people in the US it’s not distant to us as it is also part of the UK experience
If you are black in the UK, you are three times more likely to be killed by police in suspicious circumstances, and death by restraint is normally how it happens.
It brings up a lot of distress for people. This is a reactivation of personal and inter-generational race trauma. There is an African proverb – if you are not well, I cannot be well, if you are hurting, I am hurting.
If one of us is hurting, we are all hurting.
“What is the traumatising impact of watching the widely shared videos of brutality and racism towards Black people?”
For a few, the traumatising impact of the social media sharing of videos of race brutality is overwhelming, and it’s probably best that they filter their exposure.
For the many, however, the shared journey is of prime importance. The fact we look the way we do connects us, and that connection to each other is vital and powerful. We are reminded once again of what the stakes are and what racism means for you as a person of colour or as a white person. We are reminded once again towards overcoming the seduction of the Western post-racism narrative. These types of encounters are fundamental because they re-orientate us towards the things we need to be thinking about. We once again see where we are in the system and re-commit to what we have to do. We also move closer to a political commitment to each other.
If you have never thought about racism before and watch the recent social media videos, you will begin to understand what the stakes are and what it means to be black. It is these types of encounters that sometimes flips the script for both people of colour and white people.
“Do the videos on social media hold perpetrators to account”
The videos in themselves do not hold perpetrators to account. This might be the aim of sharing for some and certainly putting race back on the political agenda is absolutely crucial for change to happen. Truly holding perpetrators to account is only done through acts of demonstration, resistance and political actions, small and large.
The real power in the social media sharing of videos is in getting society to ask the questions we need to be asking. Where does race place you in the system, and what is your connection and commitment to each other?
“What about demonstrations that include looting and destruction of property”
The looting and destruction we have seen in Minneapolis and other US states has prompted the question “why can’t change come through peaceful, moral persuasion”. This is some peoples calling and a necessary pathway to change, but for many, the symbolism of a building or some small items from a store, cannot outweigh the importance of the brutality and murder of black bodies. Looting and violence is something that was learnt from those who practice white supremacy. If we want the looting and violence to stop, then governments around the world need to stop the looting and violence towards people of colour.
“I feel powerless in the face of Black Lives Matter events across the world, but I know I’m not. What can I do to help?”
There is something very powerful about coming together in solidarity around Black Lives Matter. Race keeps us apart and coming together is not just a political act but also an act that is an antidote to the feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness many of us feel. Acts of coming together can be, for example, attending the “Stand up to Racism” Rallies happening all over the country or engaging in the very rich material on the internet that talks into the hurt of racism. Also listening, and even engaging, in the various race conversations that are happening worldwide. When you start to really engage, you discover that below the hopelessness is connection and when there is a connection you will know what to do.
“I don’t want to disengage with world events, but watching the news is making me feel angry and exhausted.”
Don’t watch the news. At least not if you want to understand racism. Part of that feeling of exhaustion is the many racial aggressions small and large that you know people of colour have to deal with, but another part is confusion. With confusion, our energy to act goes anywhere and everywhere, except where it feels like it’s meeting the problem. You do not need to be confused because race is very predictable and understandable. Ask a person of colour what books they would recommend. The ‘news’ will then begin to make sense.