That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the past couple of weeks. Yes, they matter to me, my family and friends. But do they matter to YOU. Do they matter in our society?
In the UK we are in the grips of a pandemic of a horrible virus where people of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds have a higher chance of succumbing to the disease. In fact BLACK people, especially black men have the odds completely stacked against them.
In addition, we have seen images and stories of black men being mistreated by police and white women. People using their power and weaponising their whiteness to bring innocent people down and even murder them. So I have to wonder, do our lives really matter? I heard an interesting quote from Alison Hammond that said “If black lives really mattered, we wouldn’t be here would we”.
Four years ago, I wrote an article about Boy1 about how I was trying to teach him about racism in pragmatic way. I didn’t want to scare him or make him feel the entire world was against him. But now, as he’s in high school we have to be more direct in those conversations.
He has more independence, so I’m having to let go. I’m having to realise that I won’t always be by his side to protect him and block people’s racist assumptions about him.
We’ve talked about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Amy Cooper. We’ve talked about Stephen Lawrence and Grenfell. We’ve had to talk about the experiences of his dad. The man who he knows works hard every single day to provide for his family. The man who has NEVER done anything against the law, yet since I wrote that article:
- he’s been pulled over more than once for driving a nice car in the nice area we live in
- he’s been accused of attempted f’ing robbery of a shop in another nice area because he happened to be there the weekend before
- he’s been turned away from a nightclub with his equally hardworking, honest friends for being ‘intimidating’ – even though they booked in advance and said they were a group of men, but missed out the black bit
- my lawyer brother has been stopped by police for walking in a wealthy area at night on his way to his friend
These are just the incidents that first come to mind. There are many more. So don’t be naive in thinking things have improved. They haven’t. Don’t be ignorant to think racism has ended. It hasn’t. Don’t assume things here ‘aren’t as bad as the USA’. The only difference is that our police don’t carry guns.
So now, I’m having to be more direct and honest with my son because I need to protect him.
But I need you to protect him too. If you have children – your own or friends and family, teach them about racism and teach them to be ANTI racist. Read books that have non-white protagonists. If you hear an inappropriate joke, shut it down. If you have black friends or colleagues that are hurting, listen to them, help them. If you see black boys being intimidated by the police, stand nearby and let them know you are there to help. Be an ally.
If you aren’t actively trying to change things, ask yourself: do black lives really matter?