We are emerging from lockdown, into a new world. We’ve taken a break, from burning excessive amounts of oil, petrol and aviation fuel. Some of us have put on hold unnecessary buying and consuming. We had to sit at home with fewer distractions and be with ourselves. It’s given us time to pause and reflect. What is really important? What is actually going on? What really matters?
The Black Lives Matter movement epitomises everything that we need to realise and change in order to move towards a more just, humane and sustainable world. It is a stark fact, but right now we need to make a leap in our evolution to meet the enormous challenges of the sixth mass extinction. It’s my belief that by recognising, reconciling and truly remedying the systemic oppression of Black and Brown people we can make that leap.
Our country has been built upon the slavery and oppression of Black and Asian men, women and children. Many of us are only just starting to come to terms with the horror of this. Worse still, this slavery, oppression and violence is not something that happened way back in the day, it is ongoing. Black people are far more likely to be stopped, searched and imprisoned, in our country as well as the US. Black people are seen (even by Black people themselves) as more of a threat, due to the centuries of social conditioning we have all been subjected to, to keep the colonial regime in place.
The Black Lives Matter marches were sparked off by George Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of the US police. Yet, there is also racism and brutality in our police force. It’s very close to home, on our doorstep, in fact. In Tottenham alone, five Black people have been killed at the hands of our police force: Jermaine Baker, Mark Duggan, Joy Gardener, Roger Sylvester and Cynthia Jarrett. There was no apology or empathy for these tragic, unnecessary deaths and the fight for justice still continues for their families. Racism is supported by our government, most clearly in Teresa May’s Hostile Environment policies – it is woven into the fabric our society.
My mother is South African, and going to a multicultural secondary school during the Apartheid era, I was mortified about my roots. I felt deep shame for the way that my mother’s country treated Black people. I would always feel embarrassed about admitting my background, even though not one of my fellow students judged me harshly for where my mother came from.
When I went to University I learnt about “real history” the devastating cruelty of the slave trade. The conquering, killing, raping, plundering and looting that Europeans committed in Africa and South America. I witnessed an older, white student walk out of the class. She wanted to stick with the fairytale version of history that she had learnt in school. All the good that colonialism did… the railways, the improvements in medical care, the benefits to economies.
However, in this time of peak oil, peak plastic, peak everything… we have to ask ourselves: Were these “benefits” truly beneficial? And most importantly, at what cost? Many poorer nations on our Earth are paying for the “benefits” of infrastructure that they did not ask for or need. Yet, it was highly convenient for the companies that swooped in and took their resources, destroyed their communities, felled their forests, and their polluted waterways.
Slavery, is not in our past. We are currently condoning the abusive treatment of children in Democratic Republic of Congo who mine toxic metals from the age of four. These metals are used in batteries for Apple, Microsoft and Samsung phones and computers. We are living in a society that values the money we save, over the quality of life of the people who make our products. Usually these people are Black, Asian or Latin American. Many of us choose not to see that oppression, slavery and injustice continues to this present day.
We can only do this because we see ourselves as separate, because we value money over justice, community and human rights. We can only do this because we have been “programmed” to have a colonial mindset. We have a whole heap of internal soul searching to do. We need to get our priorities back into a place to create a more equal, just and fair world. If we don’t undertake this personal work, we face great danger. We know from basic history that racism creates conflict, violence and ultimately war.
Currently, our own government is playing with fire. It is using the same racist divide and rule tactics as the US Trump Administration used to gain power. The book Mindf*ck by Christopher Wiley – the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower – details how data, including, Facebook profiling, is used to inflame divides along race lines. All for the purpose of political power and control. It has never been more important that we rise above our apparent divisions!
The reason Black Lives Matter is because Black people have been both literally and metaphorically trampled upon for centuries. The burden of generational trauma; the micro-aggressions and the systemic oppression that is written in our law is very real to a Black person. It’s something we have virtually no experience or understanding of if we are white.
Two friend’s posts on Facebook, detailing the daily racism they witness and endure as mixed race women in London spurred me to go to the recent Black Lives Matter March on the 6th June. The atmosphere was of tolerance, peace and respect. It also highlighted the amount of wisdom, love, creativity, bravery, kindness and solidarity that resides within the Black community. Even people stuck in traffic were cheering and beeping in support.
Self isolating Black elders and young kids were waving from windows of flats lining the streets on the North of the river walking towards Vauxhall. The crowd greeted them, cheered them and showered them with love and support. I’m sure many people there felt as uneasy, as I did, about being there during a pandemic. (I saw only a handful of unmasked people). Yet sometimes it’s important to take a stand and say enough is enough.
As we emerge slowly from lockdown we have this opportunity to create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. All of us are required to be a part of this new creation. Our conscious and unconscious beliefs dictate how we act, what we see and the energy we create in our world. Do we really want to return to “business as usual” if this involves oppression and injustice? Can we use this extra time to consider deeply our interconnectedness, something that the pandemic so clearly revealed. And now, can we start to heal our divisions and challenge racism in ways that do not create further conflict? We’re starting to discuss race, privilege and injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Let’s continue this vital, yet awkward and humbling work. We must, as a collective, use our love and wisdom to identify and heal the wounds of racism in every instance. The true recognition, in each of us, that Black Lives Matter has the potential to heal our whole world at a fundamental level. This is just the kind of shift we need right now. Let’s begin our unlearning and learning together!