Black Lives Matter
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by U.S. police there has been a lot of momentum behind the Black Lives Matter campaign.
On North Ronaldsay, with an entirely white population, it could be easy to ignore what’s going on and not do anything about it. It’s all too easy to feel removed and powerless to help.
But if we haven’t done anything to change the system, if we live passively in it, if we’re not an enemy to the system, that makes us an ally to it. While many of us may not identify as a racist, it is not enough, we must be anti-racist.
So how does one tackle systemic racism from a small remote island devoid of racial diversity?
I’ll give a short summary on the points I’ve identified that I can work on below, with links to more detailed information. Most importantly, we should be listening to black voices. As a white person I want to use my platform to raise awareness and take you to black activists and educators, articles, books, podcasts, films and programs produced by black people.
There are 2 areas to focus on: Action and Education
It’s so important to do the work and educate ourselves on racism. We shouldn’t be relying on black people to explain and spend their time teaching us, unpaid.
There’s a wealth of resources: books, tv programs, films, podcasts.
There are also black educators to follow on social media. Some offer online courses. To ensure that their work is sustainable, purchase their books, pay for their teaching on Patreon, and send a Venmo/Paypal to compensate for the education you receive.
I am committed to consuming content produced by black people
Reading fiction and non fiction (including non-race related subjects)
Tv programs (documentaries and series)
Diversify your feed
I have followed more black people on social media, including authors, influencers, activists and educators. I am also committed to finding more accounts related to my interests such as hiking, permaculture, knitting, dry stone walling, etc, to diversify those areas too.
See below for resources
While educating ourselves, it’s important to educate those around us and have conversations about racism and white privilege. Talking with friends and family about these issues, it will likely get uncomfortable. It’s important to commit to and support the learning and growing of our loved ones, especially when it gets hard. Get comfortable with discomfort. “Some people are so used to privilege that equality feels like oppression”, which is why people get defensive when talking about racism and white privilege.
I’m not in a position of management or hiring/recruiting at work, so I may feel unable to influence decisions to employ more black people, or how those people are treated at interview or while their employed. Instead I can have conversations with managers and colleagues, “why don’t we see more black people in x sector”, what are they doing to appeal to black people in their job adverts and where they put those adverts in order to reach a diverse audience?
I may not employ anyone, but I do recruit volunteers. How can I appeal to black people in my volunteering adverts and where can I put those adverts to reach a diverse audience? How can I reach and support black students looking for work experience?
What would their experience be like when they got to North Ronaldsay, with its ageing and white population? Can I have conversations with islanders to raise awareness of systemic racism and confront micro-aggressions and unconscious bias within the community?
Companies that I interact with: I can ask them about the diversity of their workforce, especially those at higher levels within those companies. Who is earning the most, who is making the decisions, whose voices are being heard?
How many black business do I buy from? Seeing as I’m focussing on buying more local - and Orkney’s population isn’t diverse, probably not a lot. When I orders things from outside of Orkney, can I buy from black businesses instead?
If what I'm looking for isn’t available from a black business, is the business I’m buying from anti-racist?
As consumers we are responsible for how we shop. It might take a bit more research to find a black business to buy from, or to find out the anti-racist commitments of a business, but it’s imperative that we do the work.
Many of us are feeling the pinch during lockdown, however most of us can spare a small one-off donation to one of the charities listed below. Even better is a monthly direct debit to one of these charities, and income they can rely on to continue their work.
Donations aren’t the only way to support charities. Share their work with friends and family, and on social media. Many charities need help with admin or social media, so volunteering to help them remotely is another way to help from afar.
Please watch this video about how donating 0.7% of your income can "build a fairer, safer, more sustainable world for us all"
I was surprised to find a group on Orkney who are focused around the Black Lives Matter movement. Especially now during lockdown, more groups are moving online over face to face meetings. This makes it more accessible than ever to take part.
Action points might include:
local black history awareness
virtual book clubs
petitioning to remove blackface from events
petitioning to remove the statues and names of people who profited from the slave trade from buildings and streets
petitioning to introduce black history to the curriculum
writing to the local MP
raising awareness through newspapers, tv, radio, social media
A brief look at racism
Systemic racism creates disparities in many "success indicators" including wealth, the criminal justice system, employment, housing, health care, politics and education. It is embedded as normal practice within society or an organisation.
Problems in the U.S.
the U.S. locks up more people per capita than any other nation
blacks make up 13% of the U.S. population, but they represent about 40% of the prison population
when black people are convicted, they are about 20% more likely to be sentenced to jail time, and typically see sentences 20% longer than those for whites who were convicted of similar crimes
a felony conviction means, in many states, that you lose your right to vote
U.S. police brutality
Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime
Black people who were fatally shot by police seemed to be twice as likely as white people to be unarmed