Some years ago I wrote a report titled “Missing Communities”, where I attempted to profile and understand better the needs and concerns of communities that tended to be on the fringe of mainstream society, in my own town of Southend. One of the issues I tried to address was racism. I was tempted to conclude it was not a big deal in Southend but, after speaking to several, I realized it was.
When it comes to the USA, I suspect racism has been, in the recent past, a much bigger issue than in the UK but, as in the UK, they have come a long way. Given a Race Relations Act (1965), for the UK, and Civil Rights Act (1968), for the US, had to be passed so relatively recently, to help to combat racial discrimination, this is evidence this has been a big issue and, some argue, still is. Given many choose to ignore the issue shows, as I have painfully found out for myself, that people see things from different perspectives, and this partly accounts for many conflicts we see when people hold different views.
One of the standout items of news in recent days are encapsulated in the following two items of news, as a result of a simple Internet search: “Protestors chant ‘Black Lives Matter’ during second night of unrest in Charlotte” and “Charlotte shooting: State of emergency amid protests”. The protests come riots are part or maybe a lot as a result of a black man being shot dead by a police officer, following similar such incidents in the recent past. My point here is not to come to a view on the rights or wrongs of the shootings and reactions to the shooting, but rather to point out here is an issue we can’t ignore, not just because of the seriousness of what are seeing but also the underlying issues.
When I checked the “Black Lives Matter” website, I read: “Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement. This is Not a Moment, but a Movement. #BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our dehumanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes”.
On the spectrum of civil rights protests, I sense this particular movement is more leaning toward the Malcolm X rather than Martin Luther King brand of civil rights protest, which we saw in the 1960’s. While one might want to think these two men have achieved what they set out to do, what we are seeing in Charlotte suggests otherwise. There is a need to fully understand what did happen regarding the earlier shootings and whether there was a racist element behind it, and this needs undertaken by someone neutral, competent and with great integrity. While I can sympathise with those who are angered at what has happened, riotous behaviour can not be condoned. As for the tensions in Charlotte, which from what I can make out remain high, there is a need for peace, and once again there is a need for peacemakers as well as a need for hope.
When I set out to find an image that encapsulates all what I wanted to say, I came across many with differing yet valid messages. I opted for something from the two men cited earlier, for we owe them both a debt for raising the issues. When I look at my own children’s generation, when it comes to race, it is a complete irrelevance when it comes to how they treat people, and that is what we want to see happen in Charlotte and the world at large. As I often remind myself: there is only one race – that is the human race.