Reflections: A black tile is not enough

Photo byย Cooper Baumgartnerย onย Unsplash

It’s been a rough couple of weeks and I’m emotionally exhausted. From the news of yet another murder of an unarmed Black man in the US, George Floyd, at the hands (or rather knee) of a police officer, while his colleagues looked on in approval. The murder of a young woman, Breonna Taylor, again by police, as she lay sleeping in her bed. Closer to home, Belly Mujinga who died after contracting coronavirus, which was initially thought to be as a result of man spitting as she went about her work at a busy London railway station. The man was caught and apparently tested negative for the virus, but no charges were brought against him for assault. And people wonder why we cry out “Black Lives Matter”. Because in actual fact our lives don’t matter.

And I’m tired. I’m angry, I’m hurt, and I’m grieving.

It was a powerful moment this week to see across the world, people, brands, organisations come together in protest whether by risking their lives to march, posting a black tile on their social media in support of #blackouttuesday and the Black Lives Matter movement, or by making statements of solidarity. But I hope this is not just a flash in the pan. A cynical virtual signalling moment to make liberals feel ok about themselves for the time being until the next atrocity occurs. I hope that what happens is a fundamental shift in how things work. The black tile is not enough, hashtags and statements of solidarity are not enough. We need real fundamental change. As a society our attitudes can change for good, but until the structural and systemic inequalities that reinforce and keep racism in place are dismantled and destroyed, we remain where we are.

I’ve had some fantastic conversations with people over this week, most significantly with allies, all of whom are seeing the need to do and say more, whether by working in partnership with Black organisations, reading more diverse books and supporting independent Black bookshops and publishers, or checking one’s privilege. On a personal front, I realised just how reluctant I have been in the past to speak up in certain situations – mainly professional – for fear of being dismissed, shut down and labelled the troublemaker. A close friend of mine said that when George Brown said he couldn’t breathe, that was all Black people who have had to keep quiet, tiptoe around conversations, stifle our very beings, to make life more comfortable for white supremacy.

But this week gave me my voice, amplified it and turned this tiny platform into something significant. What I’ve learnt is that I’m going to keep speaking up and out. I’m not going to be stifled anymore. It’s why I started this blog nine years ago – to amplify voices that don’t get heard, or are ignored. To celebrate the richness of Black writing and Black culture. To celebrate being Black.

If you liked this post and want to do something in support of the issues highlighted, here’s a few causes you can get behind:

The Belly Mujinga Fund, which raising money to support her family, funeral expenses and tribunal costs. There is also a petition to find and prosecute the individual who assaulted her.

The Independent lists a number of organisations quite a few of which are US-based, but does include some UK organisations such as Black Lives Matter UK, and the Stephen Lawrence Trust.

From a literary perspective, please do also support Inclusive Indies, which is a crowdfund to help diversity-led independent publishers to tell more stories.

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