Was the virtual blackout enough?

#BlackOutTuesday was phenomenal, but it’s hardly adequate when #BlackLivesMatter

There was a blackout on the web yesterday – around 30 million black squares posted on #BlackOutTuesday to saturate social media with one crucial message: #BlackLivesMatter.

It was surreal and heart-warming,  and sent out a much-needed message of solidarity that was unprecedented in its scope and sentiment.

Especially in light of not only the outrageous police atrocity and absurd political theatrics in America, but also following confirmation in official UK reports that the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought most of the world to its knees, is 10-50% more likely to kill BAME (Black and Asian Minority Ethnic) people. All told, we’re feeling rather put-upon at the moment.

And that’s quite aside from the day-to-day unseen, unheard, and unfelt (by the populace at large) reality of casual racism that permeates professional, cultural and societal norms throughout the Western world. Most BAME just accept it, ignore it, get on with life and continue to work harder, better, faster to prove our worth.

But we shouldn’t have to keep proving our worth though, should we? Not after all the contribution, skill, talent, dedication and sacrifice BAME has devoted to the world – from Empires lost, to World Wars won, to fighting on the frontlines against a vicious virus. Remember #BlackLivesMatter because without them we wouldn’t even have made it this far in the short history of humanity.

So let’s be brutally honest. As a grand symbolic gesture, #BlackOutTuesday was monumental, but it’s quite easy to post a black square, and switch out your Facebook profile picture for a bit. What’s harder is to make a conscious and deliberate decision to  strengthen the foundation of that sentiment with the fast-drying cement of sincerity, out of which should emerge renewed and refreshed behaviour patterns and actions, that ensure we enact tangible differences for the better in our fragile world.

To do so, take a moment from looking outwards on social media and turn inwards to self-examination. We are all prejudiced to some extent or another. It’s an unavoidable by-product of our upbringings and our environments. We pick up prejudices and preconceptions along the way, some are even enforced upon us. They become ingrained and instinctual. They could be against the hue of skins, or the books of belief or the choice of genders and orientation, and even against age, income, lifestyle, or just which side of town someone lives on.

Yet we must understand and realise that these are short-sighted and misguided notions that should have no place in the modern world. We may be stuck in our ways, but we don’t have to remain there.

I would be lying if I didn’t confess to having to repress and reprogram my own opinions and natural instincts, to pulling myself up sharp when preconceptions reared their ugly heads, to working hard to be open-minded to all and treating everyone as I would want to be treated myself.

And therein lies the key to how to overcome these prejudices. Having been the victim of them myself throughout my life, I know just how destructive (physically, emotionally, psychologically) we can be to fellow humans – even though all we really are, are just insignificant beings inhabiting a floating marble in space getting steadily smaller as it gets increasingly crowded.

We absolute have to be more accommodating, accepting, charitable in our understanding, forthcoming in our gratitude, and eager in fellowship. However this needs reinforcing, and a black virtual square will not suffice. It needs to be followed by action.

Physically force yourself to confront any prejudices you may harbour and replace them with positive action towards BAME people – that could just be a smile, a handshake, a moment of genuine joviality; it could be an outright acceptance of differences and convincing yourself to celebrate not fear them; and it could be unfettered generosity with guidance, advice, mentoring, referencing or even financial assistance.

Remember the reason BAME people arrive at the receiving end of police brutality or a vulnerability to viruses is largely because of the socio-economic circumstances corralling the subjugated section of society, till its back is against the wall and a do-or-die scenario ensues.

Between the virus and the riots, perhaps we can all can hit a reset and learn to forge a new future in which we refuse to be distracted by colour or creed, and instead focus on working together to create a more considerate, constructive and collective narrative more becoming of an enlightened 21st century for humanity.

For all our sakes, let’s pray for peace, plead for progress and push prejudice to the past where it belongs.

Also read

Racial intolerance

Racism is ignorance

Hate the Hate, Push for Peace

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