White Silence Is Compliance: The Role Of White People In The Black Lives Matter Movement

Inherited privilege allows some men and women to accumulate influence, stature, and wealth, reinforcing beliefs of entitlement. This privilege is normalized, maintained and internalized successfully via institutions such as the police, the criminal justice system and educational systems. However, as we witness the protests lead by the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) in America and the UK when this privilege creates and maintains a society in which people and communities are targeted, exploited and murdered due to the colour of their skin, then this privilege can no longer go unnoticed or ignored, and people monopolizing this privilege must be challenged.

George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man was murdered after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck and suffocated him, reports CNN. George can be heard saying in the video, “I can’t breathe, man,” and “Please, let me stand. Please man.” After the video was released, anger and frustration echoed across America and the world, as George’s death was not an anomaly, but a death that fit the pattern of systematic racism and oppression that has disproportionately affected black people for centuries. The perverse constellation of deaths of black Americans at the hands of the police surged BLM into a modern-day civil rights movement, with protesters marching to oppose unchecked state violence, reports The New York Times. However, these protests and marches cannot be left to the responsibility of the black communities. It is not the responsibility of the black community to dismantle a system they did not create nor want. White privilege for example must be disassembled by the freedoms acquainted to white people that have ensured their sovereignty be protected and maintained throughout history. For white privilege to be dismantled, white people must understand that racism is not a moral failing, instead, it is a waste product of a system that prioritizes white people, The Washington Post reports.

Racism is systematic. It is embedded in the societal structures that govern our lives, with these structures valuing whiteness. In America, Donald Trump promotes the slogan, ‘Make America great again,’ and the UK endorses ‘British values.’ We are told to fear threats of terrorism and an invasion of refugees and migrants, and these stories reinforce what some people constitute as ‘Britishness’ or a ‘True American,’ but fundamentally, they tap into deep-seated stereotypes, often racist stereotypes. These systems are hard to shatter when the man in charge of the free world proclaims white supremacy consists of ‘some very fine people’ but calls black protesters who are simply asking not to be killed, thugs. Trump’s answer to the protests is to ignite more violence against black people by writing via Twitter, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” However, although societal systems are created by people, people also have the power to change them. Trump does not represent equality, freedom, fairness, or justice, and so we must use our voices to mute his hatred. The time has come for white people to use their voices proactively to ensure they are supportive allies to the black communities, bearing the responsibility of past mistakes, unconscious prejudices, and being aware of the advantages they hold based on the colour of their skin.

Previously, white people have been asked to examine their own behaviours, to make sure that they are not individually racist. However, what must be asked of white people now is that they look at the structures of institutionalized white supremacy that have not just seeped but suffused deeply within societies and institutions. This is not to say that all white people are bound by white supremacy, but it explains that white people have sometimes, unwittingly benefited from a racist system. White people are not shot dead whilst running through a neighbourhood, white people are not shot dead whilst sleeping in their beds, white people are not shot dead for driving their cars, white people are not shot dead for the colour of their skin. This is privilege. Whether warranted or not, white people have benefited from the oppression of black people, they have been able to thrive undisturbed due to the persecutions of black people, and they have been granted a future when black people have been deprived of one. Instead of saying, ‘black people dying is terrible, but the looting must stop,’ say, ‘the looting is terrible, but the killing of black people must stop.’ Change your perspective. Remove yourself from your echo chamber and engage in uncomfortable conversations, because unless you actively participate in a movement to stop the persecution of black people then you become complacent to the oppression. White silence is violence.

Stop with ‘all lives matter.’ In the scope of humanity, of course, all lives matter. However, when you say all lives matter you are diminishing black issues. BLM is not to exclude, but to emphasize the lack of attention and action surrounding systematic racism. White people need to ensure they are no longer silencing black people, instead, they need to listen and engage with the issues in which BLM is highlighting. If you are white and can protest, do not loot, stand alongside black people, respect their space, and support the BLM movement. If you can’t protest, educate yourself via the plethora of information available, donate to bail efforts, support black-owned businesses and vote for governments that will advocate for real change, and ensure black lives are made to matter.

Ending racism should not be up for debate. Actor and activist Jesse Williams once said, “[…] the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job – stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression”. White people need to stand up and speak out. White privilege is real, it is shown through the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jean, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless other black victims. White people created and have benefitted from the system; therefore, it is the responsibility of white people to dismantle that system.

Katie Clarke


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