Black voices all around the world have spoken. They are demanding equality. They are calling for systemic change. They have asked us to stop killing them. They have told us they can’t breathe. That’s a confronting statement. It’s an even more confronting reality.
Even as a supporter of Black Lives Matter, and someone who absolutely believes in the message, the whiteness of my skin makes me complicit. I am complicit not through action, but rather through inaction. Through the fact that nothing has changed. 432 Indigenous deaths and custody and no charges laid? How can that even be possible? We know if there were 432 dead white people this would not be the case.
Why don’t we see black lives? Why don’t we hear black voices? We have been snow blind. Even those of us who, like me, call for accountability. I am still a beneficiary of racial inequity. My whiteness is my privilege, it is the unseen social passport that allows me passage. I know when I am pulled over for speeding, my car will not be searched, when I walk through a department store I will not be watched, when I stand at the counter, I will be served first. That doesn’t feel like privilege when you’re used to it. But that’s the point – my privilege is embedded in a system that favours me. In a system that selects me, with an invisible hand on my back that pushes me forward, it doesn’t push me down. It doesn’t press its knee into my neck.
Black Lives Matter has drawn attention to the fact that racism is a white issue. It is an issue that white people need to own. They need to talk about it. They need to dismantle it – and not slowly. They need to burn it to the ground. It is an issue that can’t be properly addressed until true systemic change happens – in the police force, in the legal system, in society. The current system’s mechanisms for change were built by a system that defaults to the status quo. These are the machines of privilege built by white men – by slave traders and colonials. These are the institutions that talk about ‘inviting’ these conversations around equity to the table.
But it is a table where every seat is occupied by white men. How hard is it to start a conversation with an establishment that are already sitting? Black people are tired of waiting outside for a chair to become available. That table has never offered anything but disappointment and only illusory change.
The table needs to be broken. It’s time to find a new table. We are starting to hear black rage. Rage at the injustice, and the inequity, at the lack of acknowledgement, at theft, at murder, at our cultural pillage. That anger makes us uncomfortable. It makes me want to say ‘it wasn’t me’. ‘Hey brother, it was my ancestors maybe, but it’s not me.’ But it is me. Because my ancestors aren’t here.
It’s my responsibility to make restitution, to accept blame, to listen, and to step aside. It shouldn’t be up to the black communities around the world to keep having to explain. Our stupidity, our ignorance, our desire to understand should not be their burden. The onus is on us. For Black Lives to Matter – there needs to be action. White acknowledgement. White surrender. That is the true discomfort for the incumbent. Are we prepared to power share? Are we prepared to step back while our black brothers and sisters navigate a new space; one where white people haven’t drawn the lines? I am hoping the answer is ‘Yes.’