Black movements across the globe are paramount in ensuring equality and freedom for black people. Despite different causes, black movements like #BlackLivesMatter in America or South Africa’s #FeesMustFall share a common goal in dismantling inequality and racism caused by systems that are rooted in white supremacy. These movements serve as evidence that institutionalized racism and white supremacy not only exist, but also deny black people equality and freedom.
Black movements are often misconstrued by white people who mostly criticize these movements rather than support it. It seems to be common knowledge that everyone is entitled to an opinion but people fail to remember their responsibility to an informed opinion. Uninformed opinions by white people do more harm than good to black movements. There have been equivocal stances by the black community on whether white people should be able to voice their opinions about black movements. However, there are certain things that white people should keep in mind about black movements so as to have a better understanding and a more informed opinion. There are important questions white people should ask themselves before critiquing black movements. These questions include whether their opinions are informed by their privilege and whether they are unconsciously enforcing white supremacy by voicing their opinions. The following are frequent comments made by white people about black movements which I hope to debunk.
“Black movements create divisions among races”
Firstly, you need to understand that movements are put in place for a specific cause. Secondly, black movements are pro-black, and anti-white supremacy. Anti-white supremacy does not mean anti-white. White supremacy is a system that enforces racism through the belief that white people are superior and black people are inferior. White supremacy and racism play a pertinent role in contributing to the conditional freedom of black people. There is a reason why these movements are pro-black, because the black community falls victim to social injustices. Hence, they are the cause of the movement. By condemning black movements before trying to understand it, you could disregard black struggles while supporting white supremacy and divert the cause of their movement.
“It’s not my fault, I wasn’t born during slavery or apartheid, I’m not racist”
No it’s not your fault and most of the time people aren’t blaming you. Despite most of the black community not living during 400 years of historical oppression, they still face the social injustices today. Black people have to fight institutional racism and white supremacy every day. Imagine being a black woman but only being regarded as “pretty for a black girl” or being a black man that isn’t afforded the right of being innocent before proven guilty. These are just snippets from the reality of black people. Before you defend yourself, try to understand. Remember before you can even begin to understand black movements, you need to understand the reason behind them and the black struggle.
“Why must they always burn things when they protest…They put the government in power…Surely there must be an alternative”
In most cases black people don’t have the luxury of simply making their concerns heard without protesting. The past is a painful reminder that burning tyres as means of blocking roads is the most effective way in attaining the government’s attention. Before you complain about how much of an inconvenience protests are to your daily routine, imagine the inconvenience for black people who were promised equality and freedom but offered conditional freedom instead. Stop offering alternatives; it generally enforces white supremacy by undermining not only the intellect of black people but the struggle as well. You are looking in from a privileged perspective and offering advice on a daily reality that you have never experience. The sad reality is that black people are mostly listened to when their voices are “inconveniences” to the government. Protesting is not fun for protestors but neither is having your humanity reduced or asking people to see you for what you are, human. The protests are equally if not more of an inconvenience to them than they are to you. Lastly, think of when you had to protest for something?
If you are guilty of making any of these statements, I hope you understand the impact your opinion bears. Remember before creating an opinion make sure it’s informed and that for an opinion to be informed requires that you have tried to understand the complex and sensitive nature behind black movements. I leave you with a side note from actor and activist, Jesse Williams, “the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down”.
Written by: Sharnade Mc Kerry