The appalling public murder of George Floyd has ignited a storm of protest. What I am protesting and trying to draw attention to is the substantive issue as I see it. This is specifically the oppression of black people in the USA and more broadly the oppression of black and coloured people in all countries governed by white people. Naturally, it is not surprising that white people are entering the fray to submerge this issue under vile racist rubbish, but what about black individuals agreeing with them?
It seems that some of the oppressed blame themselves for their predicament. They say that it is in their own hands to turn around their over-representation in prisons and other criminal statistics. They seem to believe that the solution lies in the oppressed lifting their game, developing self-respect and self-esteem, as if these things can be turned on like a switch. Some of them offer exotic pathways to becoming godlike enlightened individuals.
In my opinion, if you are given to telling people what they should do, you should be turning your attention to those people who are perpetrating adversity long before you preach to those who are facing adversity. It is unrealistic to preach to oppressed people to ignore the causes and effects of their oppression and turn to methods of personal fulfilment and elevation. Such preachers are on an ego trip. Even telling the oppressed to take an example from those individuals amongst them who have risen above their adversity and excelled in their lives won’t do much good. Over-representation in criminal statistics has as much to do with the presumption of guilt as anything else. How many African Americans have been charged, imprisoned, even executed for crimes they did not commit?
The weight of oppression is heavy, especially when it has the power of institutions like police forces and even governments behind it. Most oppressed people have no choice but to accept their lot. Surviving the day can be a struggle that will sap the energy of even the sturdiest individuals. Bigoted systems are poisonous. The longer they are allowed to exist, the longer it takes to undo the damage they inflict on human beings. Even after the oppression stops, healing can be long process spanning many generations. This is true of Australia’s First Nation people. It is true of South Africa during apartheid. Every African American alive today, every Australian Aboriginal person alive today has been born into a society in which they are institutionally regarded as inferior, unworthy, even sub-human. It doesn’t matter that a handful of them have risen to prominence even as high as the President of the USA. It doesn’t matter that many of these people are excellent role models.
It is always distressing to see members of any oppressed minority slagging off at each other. It opens the door to the racists. Racism is irrational, subjective, and a deeply held, but in reality, a superficial basis for hatred which says a lot about the perpetrators and nothing of substance about the victims. Such poisonous beliefs cannot be reasoned with. They have to be squashed, proscribed, punished.
It is vital to remember this if ever we decide to confront racists. We have to be prepared for a shit storm. We have to deride their abuse, laugh at the emptiness, stupidity and witlessness of their insults. We have to be blunt in calling out their racism. Remind them of what they are. They hate that.
Damaging impacts will not go away until their causes are rooted out. Healing of oppressed communities cannot properly begin while they continue to be oppressed.