Almost a year ago I wrote the words:
‘If people simply took the time to learn, care, and talk to those who are different to themselves, no one would ever have to feel alienated, no matter where you’re from, or who you are’.
Now almost a year later I sit here thinking, nothing has changed. Sadly, I never held the expectation that things would change, because why should it? Why should anyone care about the words of a random person? But people should have cared, they should have cared long before I wrote those words and they should care now and into the future, because what I said has never been more prevalent. If it takes a tragedy for people to start caring, so be it. But it is time people listened.
George Floyd died on the 25th of May 2020 as a result of unfair and inexplicably cruel treatment. The police officer responsible for his death was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter just four days later, but justice was far from served.
The name George Floyd becomes practically household as his death continues to send shockwaves across societies all over the world. Protests have begun across America and the UK, with people braving the risk of catching the Coronavirus, to show justice for the unquantifiable inequality that people of colour suffer from every day, including Floyd. The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) and justice for Floyd are unmissable on social media, with many people even making aware numerous other cases in which Black people have suffered, simply because of the colour of their skin.
But social media is causing a problem. The BLM movement has become nothing short of a trend. Admittedly, I can’t completely fault social media. If it wasn’t for platforms such as Instagram, I wouldn’t have half the information I have now. I read the news every day, and yet I learnt more on the matter from social media than I did from any usual news supplier.
The ease of signing petitions, donating money and finding ways to educate myself has been made easy through social media. People are beginning to feel more comfortable in educating others about difficulties faced in all races and religions and are using these platforms to spread awareness. The concept of ‘White Privilege’ has once again appeared, with people of all colour attempting to learn where their privilege lies; in brief, whether their life has been made harder purely due to their skin colour. People are using the concept to help others understand the point of the BLM movement through suggested readings, movies and links to petitions, for example.
But what happens if people don’t learn? The issue with social media is that people can post blindly. What is the point in posting endless stories supporting BLM, raising awareness on the numerous deaths caused by the inequality, and using the hashtag, if you walk away from your phone indifferent? I guess, you might as well take two minutes out of your day to hit post, if it means you won’t be unfollowed by your friends who say ‘if you don’t support the movement, we aren’t friends’ or post the popular ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’ (Desmond Tutu). But does that show you really care?
Here’s the thing. Desmond Tutu was born in 1931, I undoubtedly believe that when he said those words, he didn’t mean if you aren’t adding to your Instagram story every day, you are choosing the side of the oppressor. Whilst most people understand the true meaning of the quotation, in that you must be pro-active during situations of injustice, the message has been almost completely distorted in the social media storm.
People are now spreading hate towards those who choose to stay silent on social media. But does it matter that they’re silent? You don’t need to post on Instagram to have had played an active part such as signing a petition, donating money, protesting or educating yourself. Whilst spreading awareness is undeniably good and silence only slows this awareness, what is the point in adding more hate to matter, by inaccurately hating on people who simply aren’t posting their support?
My opinion stands on the hypocrisy of the subject. People spread awareness to educate others on topics they may not have knowledge in, such as BLM, to make changes. But surely, to be educated on the matter of inequality, you must educate yourself fully.
A couple of days ago I uploaded a post on my own story about the Sikh Genocide in 1984. To my pleasant surprise, many of my closest friends popped up wanting to know more and showing support of something that is part of my religion. Yet, only one person reposted. Is this spreading awareness? Are the same people who are disregarding those for not posting during the BLM movement, showing the same energy for other matters of the same inequality? Out of the 21 people who can view my social media story, the majority had posted something regarding BLM. Yet when it came to a different matter but of a similar underlying issue, the majority did not come through.
My message here is not that I disagree with the use of social media to spread awareness of the topic, or even that people who are upset by the silence of others on social media, are wrong.
My aim is not to send a contradictory message, by saying that people should not hate on those who stay silent, whilst demonstrating my own upset over the silence surrounding my own post. My message is that we all need to really learn how to use our platforms correctly.
We need to understand that someone’s silence is not an automatic indication that they don’t support a movement. We need to understand that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge those who are quieter on the BLM movement, because those who are vocal about BLM movement aren’t always vocal about other important matters. We need to be proactive; we need to understand that a social media post only goes so far. Our voices should and will be heard, but our actions will always speak louder.
My words from last year still stand. We need to start learning and talking to those who are different from ourselves. From my personal perspective the world appears extraordinarily bleak. I support the BLM movement through and through. But it hurts. It hurts to see people support the movement now, when they didn’t when we were growing up. It hurts that it took a tragedy and a trend for people to really listen to issues at hand and begin to hear the words I’ve been saying for years. It hurts to see people spreading hate and disagreeing with others, when both parties share the same aim of discarding inequality.
In 2019 I wrote the words:
‘They’re just being taught to ‘accept’ without knowing what they’re accepting, and to ‘respect’ without knowing what to respect. In a world striving for equality, the lack of it is appalling.’
Just like before, I sit here now, still hung up on these words. Are we still being taught to accept without accepting? Is the ability to post blindly giving the world a false impression that people are changing… A false impression that people are accepting of all race, cultures and religions, when really, they aren’t? Are we respecting without knowing what to respect? Are the same people who support the BLM movement online, the same people who understand the true inequalities, faced by Black people in this day and age? Do people truly understand that they must respect people of all races at all times, not just in the event of a tragedy?
We need to continue to learn about the BLM movement even after the trend and media coverage ends. We need to remember that before the BLM movement 2020, Black people faced inequality for decades and decades with countless people losing lives, and their names forgotten.
We need to remember that inequality still exists when the trend dies down. What has been most prominent about the BLM movement is the realisation that we need to learn. Spreading awareness is not temporary and it is not restrictive. The same energy we see on our social media platforms now should be continued and extended to all races, religions, and cultures.
My message from last year continues. Keep learning. Learn about those closest to you and change the perspectives of the people around you one person at a time. Listen to their stories, struggles and history. Hear where you made mistakes and accept your own ignorance. There is no point in trying to conquer global challenges, if you cannot see the injustices, right in front of you.
Support the movements, listen to your friends and family, educate yourself, and stop the hate.
(All quotations included come from my Blog ‘Learning to Love My Own Skin’)