Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Black Lives Matter

IMPORTANT: I am white. My thoughts on this are largely irrelevant. If you wish to share this post, please ensure that you also share at least three pieces of writing by black people about Antonio Martin's death.

I debated whether to post this. Halfway Out of the Dark is about support, kindness, warmth. It was not designed to be political. But offering kindness can be a radical act in itself, and I cannot see this happening and fail to speak. Today, I send every ounce of kindness and warmth I have out to the family of Antonio Martin, and to the black communities of the United States.

I will put money on tomorrow's newspapers giving no prominence whatsoever to this image, so I am going to post it here, and I want everyone to take a good, long look at it.

This is the mother of Antonio Martin, yet another black teenager who was shot dead by police in St. Louis last night. Martin was eighteen years old. Police claim that he was drawing a gun, but by now there are plenty of reasons to doubt these assertions.

I cannot begin to imagine the pain the Martin family must be feeling now. I am a white person, and it is not my place to tell black people how they must be feeling right now. So this post is addressed to my fellow white people.

I say this on Twitter all the time, but here it is again, with feeling: our place in this fight as white allies is on the sidelines. We must not raise our voices over those of black people. We must not refocus their pain onto ourselves. We must not redirect images of black suffering to focus on white people. Our task is to listen, to internalise, and to amplify. That is it.

Send condolences if you must. Do not tell black people how they are or should be feeling. Do not presume to know their grief or their fear. We don't. We never will.

Anger is the cousin of fear. Black people have a right to feel angry, and more and more reasons to feel afraid. This is not about us. Do not try to make it about us. Do not police the anger of black people. If you feel hurt by it, sit with that discomfort and take it apart - you will notice, after a while, that the pieces are all tinged with white supremacy.

Do not assume that majority white countries outside the US are free from institutional racism. It has not been that long since Mark Duggan died. Support black people - and other people of colour - by holding the police accountable. Question them. Call out racism where you see it, whether it's from the police or from anybody else. If it's your family, here's another link to that Franchesca Ramsey video.

Hold yourself accountable. Examine yourself carefully for internalised racism. We all have it. I do. You do. Be vigilant. Be self-aware.

If you feel the urge to say any sentence containing the phrase "black on black crime", or to point out instances of black people committing crimes against people of other races, please shut yourself in a darkened room and lie down until the urge passes. There is a time and a place to discuss these things. If you are white, that time and that place is never and nowhere. Do not, under any circumstances, blame Martin for his own death, or his family. You cannot say this is reasonable force. Regardless of whether he was armed or not, there was no reason for police to shoot to kill.

If you are currently serving in the police force, please examine that choice very carefully and ask yourself whether you want to play a part in upholding a racist, authoritarian, and increasingly abusive institution. Ask yourself whether the police force you are part of is the same one you thought you were joining. And if you decide to stay, raise your voice in solidarity with your black and PoC comrades.

My heart goes out to the family of Antonio Martin, and to the black parents who are clutching their children ever tighter this Christmas, and to the black boys and young men who will be keeping their heads lower and looking over their shoulders in case they are next. I am so, so sorry. As a part of the institution that's keeping you down, I vow to do my utmost to help you dismantle it. I will follow your lead.

At the time of posting, I haven't found any blogs or articles by black writers about this specific incident, so I will come back and add them (and feel free to comment with links). In the meantime, I'll link to some black writers:
Jay Smooth (videos), DJ and video journalist.
Franchesca Ramsey (videos), comedian and video journalist. In particular, this video about being a white ally is relevant to this post.
Colorlines (news site) - their post on the shooting of Antonio Martin can be found here.
Black Girl Dangerous (blog)
Ebony (online magazine)
Mikki Kendall (Twitter), novelist and journalist.
Zahira Kelly (Twitter / Tumblr / website), writer and artist.
Jamilah Lemieux (Twitter), journalist.
Jude Wanga (Twitter), journalist.
Musa Okwonga (Twitter), journalist.
Bim Adewunmi (Twitter), journalist.
Reni Eddo-Lodge (Twitter), journalist.

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