I was born in Somerset, moving from town to village, with the politics never altering. I moved to London for a year, and was comforted when the politics I had grown up around changed. Liberalism was a mindset most people I knew followed, and during a global civil rights movement, it is a mindset I wish I had surrounding me now.
After a year I moved back to Somerset where the lack of diversity was more apparent than ever. 2020 arrived, along with challenges we could never have imagined. A global pandemic stopped everything in its tracks, and then a heartless, tragic murder sparked a seemingly unstoppable global movement.
The Black Lives Matter movement is a call for action that many of us stand for. As a white person it is a privilege that I get to educate myself on racism and not experience the systematic oppression first-hand. It is our duty to stand in solidarity and protest a system that has failed black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) for decades. And yet, this view is not held by everyone.
It is a fact that silence is compliance, history proves this. No good comes from people gawking at oppression, and yet I am surrounded by people who are more than willing to stand in silence, not wanting to get involved; even if the cost is the deaths of countless black lives around the world.
Every day I open my Facebook to local people screaming at their screens. Their view is simple; the protests are for thugs, causing hassle and bringing up issues from the past. These issues do not concern them; mainly because they are white.
I walk around my small village and see faces that look just like mine, many of these people have placed drawings up in their windows praising the NHS, they stood on their doorstep and rightly applauded all the selfless people fighting a horrific battle against Covid-19. Yet, I have neither seen nor heard any discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement. There are no pictures in windows, or people chanting for what is basic human rights, there is nothing but silence.
I like many people across the world continue to protest for change. I had to drive half an hour to get to a protest where I showed up with my sign reading ‘neutrality only helps the oppressor’ ready to show solidarity and help amplify black voices. I was proud to see the amount of people I did at my local protest, it was a number I did not expect. It gave local people a chance to share their experiences living in a small rural town as a black person. The support that was shown was unexpected and heart-warming, yet I knew it could be more.
I am surrounded by casual racism in my village, I work in a nearby town that holds similar views. People I work with have made their opinions known, not only in work but on Facebook and Twitter; no matter how many times myself and others argue back, they do not budge.
My own family hold very different opinions to me, opinions that challenge me morally and only ever lead to arguments that simmer for days. I read, watch, petition and shout yet their opinions do not change. It is draining, a challenge to work out how they cannot see the clear inequality in our society.
I am very aware however, that the heartache I feel is nothing compared to the daily exhaustion and frustration BAME individuals must feel while faced with such blatant prejudice.
I know that this is not just a moment in history, but a movement. I stand in solidarity, pledging to do more in my everyday life to help combat the system that continues to benefit from oppression. However, it is disheartening to see the amount of compliance in my village. I know these people could make a significant difference, yet their silence continues to benefit a system purely designed for them.
There are so many ways you can be a white ally, this is not their battle to fight alone, and we must continue to educate ourselves and the people around us, even if they do not wish to listen.
A link to a great source of petitions and resources: https://crackmagazine.net/article/long-reads/help-black-lives-matter-protests-donate-organisations/?fbclid=IwAR364hbfnz0Jj4cfy8o1T0AXapdp6a-n1gMRk1WW4E-HW67bI9SLuk2MoKM
Featured Photography: Len Copland