This week I’ve been trying to think more about the protests happening around the worldwide triggered by the death of George Floyd.
Obviously the most activity has been happening in the US, where opinions and actions at the extremes often dominate media cycles. To me at least, I’m less interested in the click bait anomalies, and more interested in some of the underlying arguments being posed.
Black lives do matter
From the outset, I should make it clear I think that action should be taken to address racial inequality.
I’m writing this as a white, heterosexual, university-educated male with an accent most people seem to respect. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had no real examples of being discriminated against based on my appearance, and so with issues like this (and gender, LGBTQ inequality) I’ve not had personal experience of the repression that is trying to be overturned.
Despite this, I want to live in a world where people are seen as people. In a world run mostly by one group (white, university-educated males) there will be (sub)conscious biases to keep the status quo, and so mass, co-ordinated action is often necessary to change the narrative.
But surely all lives matter?
From what I can tell, most people are in agreement that black lives matter. However there is some tension from other groups who feel that they too should not be overlooked.
This seems understandable. International media suddenly focuses on the issue of addressing racial inequality and, as other minorities facing similar discrimination, they feel overlooked and that people don’t care for their problems.
However many groups have come up with explanations of why now is the time to be saying Black Lives Matter, not All Lives Matter.
A succinct argument in favour of saying the focus should be on just black lives is from this Instagram post by Jeff Bezos.
Protesting for solidarity
Something I didn’t initially understand was why cities around the world held mass rallies.
The normal dynamics of a protest I get: make noise in proximity to decision makers (i.e. (local) government) to get them to change their policies.
But the people on the streets of Copenhagen weren’t (so far as I could tell) canvassing local politicians to make changes. What was going on?
I was thinking too small. As well as getting local politicians to act, there is also (as far as I can tell) an element of demonstrating solidarity with the USA and other cities, to strengthen the argument and demonstrate the scale of the issue.
What will the effect be?
One thing I’m not clear on is specific change being asked for.
Much has been written comparing the protests of the 1968 to today. The protests of the 1960s were clear on demanding for civil rights. As a politician in that era it’s seems clear to me that I’d be thinking “OK, this is the will of the people, let’s make the change”.
Today though, beyond reinforcing the broad message that black lives matter (and calling for policies like defunding the police) I don’t know what thing is being asked to be done.
And maybe that’s the point.
Laws were changed as part of civil rights, but racism remained the dust in the light.
It’ll be interesting to see how the protests will play out, and what permanent changes are effected as a result.
In other news…
Not much to report. I’ve been spending time speaking with a podcast host about helping with their show after my sent this tweet (thanks Bhavik).
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