Steps towards an equal future

5 June 2020

"Look around. See our society. It’s not an immutable truth. We built it. It has been this by design. And so, to step off that path is to see that this life that we have around us is simply a project in the way that nation-states are a project. In the way that ideology is a project. In the way that policing is a project. When you choose to align yourself with the project, it comes at the expense of yourself. Of who you are. And by extension, it comes at the expense of me". (Janaya Khan, 2020)

The biggest lesson we've taken away from this moment in time is that it is not enough to say "not racist", we now know that we need to be actively anti-racist. The black community can't go at this alone, they need us to stand by their side - to see them and the injustice they face every day by a system that simultaneously benefits us. That allyship requires education. Listening. Engagement. It requires introspection because being anti-racist means acknowledging the privilege of our skin colour. Racism isn't always outright and visible, it is institutionalised because a racial hierarchy is built into the very foundations of society. We realise that black people are tired of being asked, "What can I do?" because there are so many resources, books, films, lectures to explore that answers that question for us. We acknowledge that the education we've received so far on race is inadequate, so these are some of the resources we are currently finding helpful.

Janaya Khan, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada and an afro-futurist*, recently posted an incredibly empathetic and eloquent talk on their Instagram about the "the project of Whiteness" and how that system has been at the expense of the black community. Janaya came to realise that the word 'privilege' was often lost in translation as people became defensive, in the sense of: 'so you say I’ve never had hardship?’. They decided to reframe it as such: “Privilege is not about what you’ve gone through, but what you haven't had to go through". If you're looking for other activists to follow, check out: Kai Isaiah Jamal, George the Poet, Akala, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Patrisse Cullors-Brignac, Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza.

Author of How To Be An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, says "One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of 'not racist'. The claim of 'not racist' neutrality is a mask for racism". In his book, Kendi breaks down the myth of a post-racial society and constructs a new understanding of how to find, identify and eliminate racism in today's society. Other useful books to check out: The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale, White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (the author has asked if those who buy her book could match the price paid with a donation).

Most of the mainstream ways and tools with which we think about our world are euro-centric (often created by white, cis males). Post-colonial theory, a study of the legacy of colonialism and imperialism, offers to rethink the experience of oppressed people under imperialism; it allows the oppressed to reclaim their history from the oppressor. As Boys by Girls is a London-based magazine, we're keen to understand how issues of racism and inequality in the UK originate in British imperialism. Hence, we're adding Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala to our reading list. If critical theory sounds intriguing to you, we recommend reading up on Intersectional Feminism as well, which broadens the lens of feminism to include marginalised groups of women (read here, scroll down to section 2.3 Feminism and the Diversity of Women).

Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay just launched a learning companion to go with her Emmy-winning 2019 mini-series WHEN THEY SEE YOU, which was based on the 'Central Park Five', five black teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman. "My goal when making WHEN THEY SEE US was to create a project that could be a catalyst for conversation and change. Entertainment serves many purposes and the mission was to create something that might move us into action while challenging us to evaluate why we believe what we believe.” Previously, in 2016, DuVernay released 13TH, a documentary revealing the history of racial inequality in the United States through an in-depth look at the prison system that is disproportionally filled with African Americans. Here are some other films on racism by black directors: Selma (Ava DuVernay), 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen), Harriet (Kasi Lemmons), The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr), Mudbound (Dee Rees), If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins), Get Out (Jordan Peele).

This is just the tip of the iceberg of educational material that exists out there, but hopefully, these options can help provide a starting point.

Links to organisations you can donate to:
Black Visions Collective
(US)
Black Lives Matter
(US)
Ava DuVernay's ARRAY (US)
Reclaim the Block
(US)
Stephen Lawrence Day
(UK)
Runnymede Trust
(UK)
Black Lives Matter
(UK)
Generating Genius
(UK)
The Red Card
(UK)

*Afrofuturism = "Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic that combines science-fiction, history and fantasy to explore the African-American experience and aims to connect those from the black diaspora with their forgotten African ancestry" (TATE).

BLM
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