Activism in the Wake of Nothingness

Following the large protests and riots around the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, our Mazkira Imi Wise collected a few opinions from several members in FZY.

Seeing social media flooded with black squares yesterday morning made me realise that if we didn’t use this time now, more than ever, to galvanise people to be activists then what even is the role of a youth movement in 2020. The last 11 weeks have shown communities from across the world come together in the global fight against Covid-19, raising money for health services, sacrifices to fight the disease and support those most vulnerable. Right now, when life is on a momentary pause, it makes you realise the huge opportunity that we have. An opportunity to not just educate, but actively inspire people to take that social media posting one step further.

I spoke to a few of our members about their thoughts and frustrations about what the world is coming to. I have chosen to anonymise them so to ensure those that read are reading the words, and not the person.

“Do you really believe that Black Lives Matter alongside equality for all or are you just trying to follow the Instagram trend? Aspects of contemporary British society have come from a time when we marched around the globe endeavouring to expand the British Empire and inflict our culture upon the nations of India and Africa because it was regarded as primitive. For all those saying racism isn’t an issue in the UK, it is. After spending 3 weeks working for a law office specialising in employment, I was shocked to discover the number of unfair dismissal cases which related to racism. To judge others by the colour of their skin, or the religious symbol they wear, is abhorrent. In my view, I suspect that racism is prevalent in all schools and is a microcosm of the macrocosm of racism in society. Schools should be educating their pupils about racism and alongside teaching faiths they should also include black culture. No one is born racist. My frustrations at the moment come from the fact BLM has become an Instagram challenge. It is almost a competition to see who can look the most anti-racist on social media because they want to be seen as a ‘good person’. However, the reality is that not enough people fully believe in the cause. Fundamentally if you are posting that Black Lives Matter you should believe strongly in equality as you are advocating that you believe in the rights for all minority groups. Realistically posting a black screen on your Instagram feed isn’t that productive. Instead engage in discussion with people, educate others and practice what you preach if you witness racism. Increasing awareness on social media is important but to make a difference sign petitions, read books and educate. If you had limited knowledge before, be open minded and change your views. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) says EVERYONE has rights and should be treated in an equal manner in the eyes of the law, no matter what their protected characteristics are. At the moment this isn’t happening for the black community and therefore All Lives don’t matter until Black Lives Matter. I want to leave you with this quote: ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’.”

“Events in America have made me rethink a lot about something that is close to my heart. I have loved and listened to hip hop for the best part of 6 years almost religiously, but recent events with George Floyd have made me reconsider the meaning of countless albums and songs. Hip hop is one of the only black dominated industries and its recent commercial success has forced a lot of the meaning behind the music to take a back seat in order to cater to the commercial ear. After revisiting albums tackling issues of frustration with inequality, which I previously thought I had understood, I’ve had to reconsider the meaning of the music and the attitude I have towards the music I have become so familiar with.”

“Recently, people have started to discuss the fact that the UK is not innocent when it comes to racism and inequality, as previously, the USA was the main matter of concern. As an extremely developed (and relatively well governed) country, it is paramount to look at the way that the UK deals with and documents racism - and to endeavour to promote racial equality. We don’t hear as much here (compared to the USA) about racism because police don’t carry guns and there is far less police brutality when it comes to this matter. However, the issues regarding white supremacy in many strands of life, as well as verbal and emotional racial abuse is just as serious and equally as severe as the physical aspects - whether people see it that way or not. This is what makes the UK not so innocent. The fact that racism is JUST as prevalent, just as critical and, most importantly, just as significant. It is simply less obvious to the public and not publicised the way it needs to be in order for people to be educated. Let’s take GCSE History for example; having taken one of these courses, I heard no mention of black history at all. Nothing. Black people should be considered as worthy and completely equal to those who are white - it is just the colour of skin. Just like white people have history, black people do as well - in fact it is incredibly interesting to learn about - so why don’t we in schools? One of the reasons that people grow up to be so ignorant to racism and uninformed about its consequences is because of education and upbringing. If we don’t learn in equal detail about other parts of history, slavery and apartheid before leaving school, how can we go out into the world and help combat and prevent modern day racism? I think that in multiple Jewish schools (a generalisation - just my opinion), we are particularly sheltered from the real world and the horrors that take place. I can confidently say that in my 15 years of attending Jewish schools, I have never been academically exposed to modern day (or historical) racism against black people and the oppression they face/d. I don’t disrespect the importance of learning about our own history, and the antisemitism that Jews have faced, however it concerns me that such a huge topic has never been introduced to me in a school environment. The only way for this extreme racism and pure ignorance to slow down is to educate. To educate those who are unaware. To educate those who are openly racist. To educate anyone who needs to hear it.”

“Whilst I’m not ignorant to the fact that racism is by no means only an American issue, but rather something entrenched into global society as a whole, I do especially feel obliged to discuss some of the overwhelming issues of white supremacy in the US, with it being one of, if not the most developed countries, yet with some of the worst racism in the world. Whilst many people see the news and presume that racism is just violence and verbal slurs towards people of colour, I feel like a huge part of it is covert and goes unnoticed to those that don’t take interest/choose to ignore it, which is a huge issue, especially as it is rarely covered by the media. It may appear that there has been a lot of development in racial equality in the US over the years, and yes, black people now have the right to vote, there is no longer physical slavery etc, but it’s more ‘hidden’ things, like the fact that even in 2013, a county in Arizona reduced the number of polling stations in black and Latino communities by 70%, limiting minority rights; it’s the fact that there’s still a $30,000 pay gap between white and black workers per year; that the percentage of non-white congressmen is only half the percentage of the non-white population in the US. This is really not even about knowing all the statistics, it’s just the fact that racism is inherent in so many aspects of American society, and without the education, and putting the effort into actively displaying the racial inequality in the US and globally, there cannot be change. People that don’t want to get involved in the ‘politics’ of racism, or don’t have an opinion, or think it’s too ‘difficult’ of a topic to discuss, are the ones who are privileged enough to have the choice whether to take action or not, because they’re the ones that aren’t affected by it - or if they are, it’s to their advantage. These issues are so prevalent today and it is the majority with this white supremacy that actually have the power to enact change. It’s not enough to post on Instagram for one day and forget about it the next; we need to put anti-racism into practise and make it a part of everyday life, to change the perspective and oppression towards black lives everywhere.”