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We’ve got to start somewhere #blacklivesmatter

It takes an event like George Floyd’s death to spark a conversation that actually highlights the reality that we do still live in, despite what many people think.

I am eternally grateful that I was brought up in a way that gave me a sense that I am incredibly privileged, and I come from a country where that privilege is something you just can’t take for granted. But I also grew up in a world where I was surrounded by people of immense privilege, and with that came immense ignorance. Even then, of course, I still have a lot to learn.

You are at an advantage if:

Nobody has ever made an assumption about you because of your skin colour.

You have never had an assumption made about you when you tell someone where you’re from. (Yes, asking me if I’m going to have an arranged marriage because I’m Indian is racist).

You have never had to be mindful that your friends may not be familiar with, or comfortable with, your home environment.

You have never had to compromise your version of “normal” to fit in with people at school/university/work.

You have never been talked down to because someone is questioning your intelligence because of an accent and/or imperfect English. (Being able to communicate effectively in a second language probably makes you smarter than the person judging you for it).

You’ve never had this dilemma: Am I at home where I grew up and had to compromise, or am I at home where there is no compromise but I’m also an outsider because I didn’t grow up there?

You’ve never had someone mispronounce your name 71038 times, and then give up on it altogether.

It surprises you that “skin lightening cream” exists.

The list could go on, extensively.

If you think that you’re fully aware of your privilege and you “don’t behave based on race or cultural difference”, you’re probably one of those people that doesn’t realise that they’re saying/doing inappropriate things. If you see race and cultural difference and then make a conscious effort to behave in a way that is decisively open and uncompromised, the world needs more people like you.

However, all of the above is generalised and personalised to my own life. The issue at hand is actually far more specific. Black Lives Matter is a movement that needs to be supported for what it is.

THE PROBLEM

Black people are being threatened and killed in circumstances that would never see a white person live through the same sequence of events.

THE SOLUTION 

Address this issue.

THE TEMPTATION

Make this problem symbolic of the wider issue that is racism as a whole, be it against black people, Indians, Native Americans or any other ethnic minority. This is an issue, but if we turn the Black Lives Matter movement INTO A SYMBOL, it will only ever be that: a symbol. And if it’s “just” symbolic, then we start moving away from the idea that it can, and should, be addressed as a pressing issue.

Does everything I said in the first half of this post still have merit? Yes. Does it apply to the Black Lives Matter movement? Sort of. But, and I want to make sure that I say this clearly for those at the back: there is a difference between #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter. All lives do matter, but we can’t go on just pointing at problems going “oh yes that speaks to a wider problem”. It’s completely true, but unless we’re going to do anything about it, this fact is also completely useless.

Sit down at a jigsaw puzzle. I challenge you to complete it without doing it one piece at a time.

Black Lives Matter is ten pieces of the puzzle. Without putting those pieces together, we’ll never get to the point at which we can see more of the puzzle and which pieces to get to next. So it’s all very well saying that it’s “part of a bigger picture” but if the plan is to get an idea of what that bigger picture looks like, we have to start with the puzzle pieces that we’ve got in front of us.

Pick up the pieces, do your homework, and put the puzzle together. It’s a big puzzle and it will take time but, at the very least, just seem a bit interested in it.

Posted on Monday, June 1, 2020
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Anjali Singh-Mitter | BA (Hons.), Dip. Hyp., Dip. CBT | GHR & GHSC, CNHC
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