12 minute read
What will be your contribution outside of social media to ensure that your children and grandchildren grow up in a world where racial equality is the standard and not the exception?
Are you willing to sacrifice your time, privilege or conscience?
Do you really care that much or at all?
The Movement to value Black Lives in America is a serious, yet sensationalizing phenomena. Because of this, the public tends to stick on a story for a little while… until they don’t. When the hashtags fade and protests settle, we go back to our normal lives and live through micro-aggressions with people telling us that we’re overreacting, which unconsciously allows oppressors to continue their work…until the next civil unrest.
Activism in the era of social media is very different. The proposed fight for racial equality is often carried on by an inciting incident such as police brutality or a hate crime induced attack. Like a storybook timeline, the media coverage follows a similar pattern. There’s usually, the videotaped murder involving a black body, the hashtag story that spreads like wildfire, and then the public outrage and outcry. Then comes the protests, the elected officials making speeches of alleged solidarity, the indictment (or not), and then the trial. Subsequently and oftentimes there’s the acquittal and our hearts break time and time again.
The Black lives Matter movement was created to bring awareness to the continued devaluation of black lives. From the delayed arrests, coverups, manufactured alibis, and lack of accountability for the loss of a black life, this country continues to show me how much they value my life and the lives of people who look like me.
Social Media Activism
I have a problem with certain self proclaimed social media activists. While I respect and support their efforts to raise awareness, I feel strongly that certain strategies buy into the ‘trendy’ nature of devalued black bodies. Certain posts and platforms allow us to focus on one particular person and hashtag as if the circumstances represent an isolated incident rather than a systemic disease. While one viral incident can spark conversations about race relations in America and systematic oppression, it still misses the point. The work needed to be done is warranted on a day by day, minute by minute basis.
So what happens when the hashtags are replaced with another name and the protests fade? Will we continue to fight?
Black outrage is clickbait, tabloid fodder, and has been monetized by the masses. In a “cancel culture” world, we’ve seen this embodied so many times. Once again, the storybook plays out with a celebrity or company exhibiting racially insensitive behavior. Black Twitter and Black social media users create an uproar to “cancel” the party. Days or weeks pass by, and we’re over it. While the company’s PR team conjured their apology statement, that company just benefited from the millions of mentions and website visitors. From thereon the company gets “cancelled”. Once again, we miss the point of the necessary groundwork we’re supposed to be focused on. From the H&M ‘black monkey‘ advertisement or the Gucci ‘blackface’ sweater, it’s all a trap. A trap that strategically takes advantage of black outrage because although “bad publicity”, it’s still publicity.
When I think of some people doing the real work on a daily basis, Amanda Seales comes to mind. The movement is about making people uncomfortable because we’ve been accepting the status quo of overt and covert racism for so long. We’ve been accepting it for so long that when people like Amanda Seales speak, she is undermined and labeled an angry black woman “that talks about race all the time”. Rachel Cargle is another extraordinary activist that provides evergreen intellectual discourse on racism. The Uganda based advocacy campaign ‘No White Saviors’ says “If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not listening”.
Speaking about race relations in America is never off topic because within one given day, it is without a doubt that someone has been victimized by racism, discrimination, implicit bias and or micro-aggressions. The more we have these uncomfortable conversations in society, the more we will continue to be progressive.
The impact of police brutality has created a divisive realm of police versus blacks, but the bigger problem is the fight to maintain white supremacy. White supremacy simultaneously devalues black lives. The residual effects of this trickle into police brutality and manifests in other aspects of American life including but not limited to mass incarceration, discriminatory hiring and firing, health disparities and marginalization.
When considering police brutality in the current social climate, we must consider a few things. First, we must acknowledge the initial purpose of police use in America. In the 1700s, the police force was created to capture runaway slaves. Secondly, once the civil war ended, slavery was outlawed, but there was a loop hole also known as the 13th amendment. It rebirthed a nuanced system with legalized oppressive forces created to destabilize and halt the socieconomic growth of African-Americans. Most of the white supremacy of today are the remnants of Confederacy, synonymous with being the “sore losers of the Civil War”.
Now, we are expecting people, whose ancestors considered us 3/5 a person, to value a black life. The amount of unpacking, reteaching and unlearning of people who wanted or still want us to be enslaved or lynched is an optimistic feat.
We must celebrate the first Civil Rights Movement, which served to counter oppressive forces and led to many advances for integration and equality.
But, as we’ve witnessed, there’s still more work to do.
There are people who are silent about injustice but vocal about looting and we hear your complicity loud and clear. It is nothing more than an oppressive and capitalistic misdirection of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. This rhetoric completely disregards the unleashing of 400 years of pain as a war on racism. In war, there are casualties.
Frankly, if you are more concerned about property than a black life, reconsider your morals. Lest we forget about the Tulsa Race Massacre, in which white supremacists burned an entire community of flourishing black residences and businesses, commonly referred to as ‘Black Wall Street’.
The dismantling of deeply rooted hatred isn’t something that can happen over a day or week or month or even a year.
We need radical solutions.
While the burden is heavy, it is worth it.
Racism is a public health issue that will disproportionately affect communities of color. As a medical professional, my silence in times of healthcare injustice would make me complicit. I swore an oath to do no harm to patients and my social justice advocacy and mentorship strives to do just that. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking up for patients and saving lives with this very voice.
I can’t help but state that the onus is upon our allies and the people who hold privilege to make their counterparts accountable for their role in systematic oppression. We need to have more Joaquin Phoenix moments at the BAFTAs or the Oscars, but not just at award shows, in the courtroom, workplace, classroom, and police departments.
We will continue in our fight, but it is not our job to educate you when all we ever needed was someone to actively listen to our voices. Not to mention, we live in the age of Google and Amazon where you can access anti-racism resources.
My emotions range from angry, sad, heartbroken, disappointed, triggered, traumatized and numb.
At this time we continue to mourn the lives of our fallen black men and women at the hands of police and white supremacists.
For the record, I will not entertain the deflation tool of “all lives matter” rhetoric. If all lives mattered, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and the countless other black lives would have received justice. If these victims committed the same crime caught on video, they would’ve been tried and sentenced immediately and accordingly. But, that did not happen to their murderers.
I’m definitely at the numbing stage of grief because I’m exhausted but I am actionary.
Activism doesn’t begin or end with sharing hashtags.
It begins in grassroots efforts to dismantle white supremacy from the top to the bottom and vice versa.
As a collective, police in the United States kill more people in one month than other countries kill in two decades.
Taxpayer dollars continue to finance a failing system that lacks accountability. Divestment of police funding is a solution more comprehensible than defunding. Reallocation of funding should be invested into over policed and underserved communities. Defunding the police sounds radical until you realize we’ve been defunding public education for decades.
There are consequences and liability for almost every professional public servant except police officers. As a medical professional, in the business of saving and protecting lives I can’t help but think of the double standard.
A medical doctor who displays negligence resulting in bodily harm or patient fatality will have to answer to a committee and the courts that will determine whether they will lose the privilege to practice medicine and serve jail time. The cost of malpractice insurance is paid for by the doctor because they assume full responsibility for the lives sworn to protect.
Why is it that police, whose duty is to serve and protect aren’t liable for claiming the lives of innocent black men and women?
Implicit bias training has no measurable outcomes unless there is an attached internal review board and consequence for racially driven patterns of arrests, and deescalation tactics.
Whether we need to radically investigate how leaders in positions of power value of black lives, then so be it. The onus of accountability and shared interests in progressive race relations must be evaluated within every CEO, medical professional, political representative and police department.
As citizens, we have the right to question the interests of the people who provide value to our society, even if it is your boss. If you feel that your job is discriminating against you for speaking out on racial or discriminatory practices, you should first make an internal complaint in writing via email. If at any time you feel targeted or retaliated against, you are protected by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
From the bottom, what we can do as grassroots activists is vote in ALL elections, contact our mayors and local officials as well as sitting at board rooms that influence changes in our communities.
- Find out who your local representatives are via online directory, city hall, state house and reach out to them to ask how you can get involved in community initiatives
- Community councils have the power to create change in regards to voting registration, police reform, public policy, and health disparities.
- Inquire about city council meetings and statewide advocacy campaigns
- Literally google ‘How to join community board in your city’ for example
Join a School Board
- You can join citywide school boards to have your voice heard
- Advocate for the hiring of teachers and curriculums that accurately teach black history
- Advocate for school infrastructures that inform and empower black children
We live in a society now where primary and secondary education has purposely curated a curriculum devoid of white accountability as it pertains to African history, African American history and Native American and Indigenous history. Classrooms and textbooks are now teaching slavery in the context of a voluntary nature similar to that of an indentured servant. The Civil Rights era curriculum is marked only by a whitewashing of Martin Luther King’s legacy. The current curriculum teaches an African history which begins with slavery without mention of Timbuktu or Kush Empire.
All children deserve to know the truth about America’s history.
Black children deserve to learn that they come from royalty, because they are.
Once we acknowledge that the system isn’t broken but rather intentionally created, we can learn the laws and protect ourselves. When laws were created, not a single black person was sitting at ANY of the legislative tables. Nowadays, we do and there is black representation at certain tables, although not many. People at these tables have a significant responsibility to step up and commit to dismantling disenfranchisement.
On a micro level, mentorship is vital. If you are a black scholar, doctor, lawyer, scientist, businessman or businesswoman, you hold a key that can unlock doors for your people.
Black visibility in high places is important. We must continually show black children what they can achieve.
We need more black lawyers and also non black lawyers dedicated to an equitable legal system. If more district attorneys, prosecutors, judges and politicians strived to dismantle inequality in the justice system, we’d fix so many of our wounds. If you are any ally, think about how you can use your privilege and resources to seek justice for innocent persons of color and do just that. An example of such committment is the Innocence Project.
If you are a professional, black or non black in any sector, offer your expertise to marginalized communities. For example, if you are a lawyer, provide a free or low cost workshop where the community can learn about their rights as a citizen. If you are a medical doctor, mentor those in your community, offer workshops on health promotion and help bridge the gap in health disparities. There are so many resources our communities need which include but are not limited to therapists, uplifters, positive life coaches, healers, educators, etc.
Healing Black Communities
Many of us are suffering from generational traumas that serve to hold us in mental captivity. To be truly free, we must break chains and curses of our traumas and decide to heal. It is time to meet the community where they are and properly address our struggles so that we can truly prosper mentally and spiritually. Therapists, we need you more than ever.
Dear America, you can right some of your wrongs by writing our checks.