#metoo #blacklivesmatter #stopasianhate There are some big hashtags that create big followings and a wave of people posting various quotes, images and other things on social media. After George Floyd died the music industry started the movement #TheShowMustBePaused which encouraged the industry to go silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the amount of time that police officer sat on Floyds neck. This spawned into the blackout Tuesday movement where people posted black images on their pages to set the spotlight on black accounts who could then post regular content on an otherwise dark arena. Businesses followed suit by promoting more black produced products, art, music, books etc.
This was a great movement that ended too soon if you ask me, and it was also very easy to participate. People took note in which businesses or celebrities refused to participate and they got cancelled or called out. We were all part of a mob from safely behind our screens. But did this online activism translate to our everyday lives? Yes, we showed up to marches and demonstrations and we did all we could to keep our pandemic distance while showing up. Maybe you read a few books by black authors. Maybe you got a little educated on the topic. But did you learn anything? Will you fight when it really matters? Have you been confronted with a situation where you might have to actually confront a family member, a colleague, or perhaps a friend?
I just recently had a tour of the Holocaust center in Oslo, Norway and the guide and curator of the in/visible exhibit that aims to show the invisible everyday racism was a white woman who was not shy to use the N-word in her tour. Acceptable? Would you say anything? Would you speak out on an authority figure like that? Surely this woman who is a senior researcher on the topic of racism who has quite literally written a book on racism knows what she is doing, or does she? I did a poll that asked if it was ok for a white person to use the N-word and it was split in half.
A few weeks later an issue arose in the office. Our trainee was denied access to the company safe where we keep the logs, access cards and credit cards. It is the trainees job to log these uses and receipts so by denying her access to the safe, she will not be able to do this job. I checked if the other trainees before her had access and they did. What was the difference between her and literally everyone else in the company who has access and the trainees who had access before her? She is asian. I called a friend (also a minority POC) in a rage and told her the story. She sounded annoyed and ended the conversation with “well, that’s not your fight”.
I had to step back for a second and think about that. Who’s fight is it, anyway? Why is it that we feel called to action to post inspirational quotes and black photos on instagram to show our support, but then drop the ball when we have the opportunity to face injustice in our community, at work, in our friend groups and even in our own families. Why is it not our fight when it’s our colleague? Will you only support these movements from behind your screen where it’s safe or will you put your own name, reputation, work, relationship or whatever it may be – on the line? Are you willing to Colin Kaepernick yourself if it comes down to it?
In the office there are 3 people of colour out of 150 people. Shouldn’t it be a given that we stick up for each other? Or are we smarter to keep our heads down? Being such a small number we’re surely not going to win by outnumbering the rest. When you play the board game risk you don’t go into battle without enough troops, with some luck you can win even if you are outnumbered, but the odds are against you. You’re probably going to lose if it’s 150 to 3 though, so is it worth sticking your neck out? Isn’t it just as important to hold and protect your position?
I don’t have the answers, and I doubt there is a one size fits all reply to all the different scenarios, but I spoke up. I talked to the researcher at the racism exhibit and I voiced my opinion at work. I don’t know if the researcher will think twice next time she uses the N-word or dismiss my complaint completely, but I feel better knowing that I took a stand. I expressed at work that I thought the case was racist, and that they should rethink their stand. They disagreed, until a white man said it was discriminatory, and then they decided to give her access to the safe after all. So I guess sometimes it’s not racist, but discriminatory. *rolls eyes*
But it proves a point that minority groups needs help from the majority to create change. So if we want to change things, isn’t it everyone’s fight?