George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police brutality in Minneapolis has sparked protests and efforts around the world, with thousands demanding justice and change for the African American families and communities that have suffered too long under a regime of systemic racism and oppression. How many times do we have to see news like this until real action is put into place? Why is racism only spoken about after these tragic events are caught on camera and spread across the internet?
If you think what’s happening in the States has nothing to do with us in Malaysia, think again. Racism is not just black and white. We’re just as complicit in our country and the problem of anti-blackness racism here needs urgent action. Silence is not acceptable. Lives depend on it.
People of all ages, races and sexualities are mobilising both online and off to address the issues of racial injustice and police brutality, including celebrities and brands who have spoken up (albeit some are doing the BARE minimum) and showed solidarity through social media posts. Let it be stressed that self-serving, one-off displays on Instagram are simply just performative if that’s all you’re doing and NOT in any way enough for tangible change to happen.
Following #BlackOutTuesday, social media users flooded the ‘gram with lines and lines of black squares, rendering the #BLM hashtag useless by burying critical information and resources that were being shared to help the movement. The day was originally organised by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two Black women working in music, who wanted to call on industry members to “take a beat for an honest reflective, and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community”.
Not only has this shown the sheer power and reach that online users have when efforts are collectively directed to a single cause, but also how dangerous it can become when handled mistakenly. In the case of #BlackOutTuesday, the sharing of black squares became counter-productive. Next time, take a step to pause before you hop onto the trending bandwagon and reflect on what your actions are really saying, and doing before you hit share:
- How are you contributing to the cause?
- What good does this act do?
- What are you doing beyond that single post?
True action needs to occur on a day to day basis, not just when it trends online.
There are numerous ways for you to do your part as an ally. Donate, sign a petition, speak up. Call out your friends and family. Support organisations spearheading campaigns for immediate and long-term solutions. Make an active effort to learn and reflect through intentional media consumption and communal conversations. Don’t simply rely on mainstream media to colourise your views—look around you and question everything.
Like us, you may feel overwhelmed, uncertain and uncomfortable, and depending on our emotional capacity, personal circumstances and physical abilities, the work that each of us does will look different. But what matters is that we recognise the normalised behaviours and views that perpetuate institutional and internalised racism and make a real effort to purposefully contribute in our own ways. Only then can necessary, long-term change towards antiracism start to take place. Though it may not feel like much at first, every meaningful step can make a difference to dismantle systemic oppression. It is our responsibility to do so.
Ahead, we’ve compiled a few resources to help you get started:
If you want to contribute financially, make sure you’re also taking the time to learn what each organisation is doing and why in order to understand the issues they’re tackling and what needs to be done for effective change to occur. Here are a few organisations, funds and initiatives that could benefit from your help right now:
George Floyd Memorial Fund: Set up by Floyd’s brother, this fund will help his family shoulder the funeral and legal costs following his unjust death.
Reclaim the Block: This community-led initiative campaigns for a safer Minneapolis by calling on city council members to “move money from the police department” and into the communities that need it. It also aims to reduce community reliance on the police across the city.
Colour of Change: One of the largest online racial justice organisations in the US, Colour of Change campaigns for an end to the various levels of injustice faced by Black communities in the country through efforts that bring about change and long-term solutions.
Black Visions Collective: A Black LQBTQ+ led charity dedicated to change against the state’s justice and political systems by empowering black people on local levels.
The National Bail Out: This is a Black-led, Black-centred collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists who are focused on ending systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration, to support the community.
Black Lives Matter: With outposts in the UK, US and Canada, this organisation is focused on action against white supremacy and raising awareness for others to do the same. Many of the protests currently happening around the world have been organised by them.
For other funds and organisations that support the Black community across the states, read this masterlist made by Jaloni Owens here.
If you are unable to contribute financially, worry not—you can still invest in the future for free. YouTuber Zoe Amira has created a video project that accumulates donations through ad sales.
All you need to do is stream the ad-filled video above and you’ll be contributing to bail funds through ad revenue. 100% of the advertising proceeds embedded in the video will be dispersed between a huge list of BLM organisations across the US, including bail funds for protestors. Make sure not to skip any ads and let the video play continuously. In an accompanying description, Amira also encourages viewers to share it so that it can reach more people. You can also loop the video on repeat in the background of whatever you’re doing to accumulate more donations by allowing the views and revenue (donations) stack up.
Instead of posting a black square, the quickest way to show your support is to sign an online petition.
Created less than a week ago, the Justice for George Floyd petition demands that the officers involved in his murder are held accountable for their actions, and has already gained over 11 million signatures at the time of writing this article.
There are many other petitions asking for urgent action across different levels of justice not only for Floyd but for Breonna Taylor, Belly Mujinga and the countless other African-American individuals who have suffered at the hands of police. Twitter user @dehyedration has created a useful Black Lives Matter Carrd page, with a masterlist of linked petitions, how you can sign them from overseas and why you shouldn’t donate to Change.org here.
You’ll also find an additional list of places to donate to, various self-education tools and pointers on protest safety for those heading out onto the streets.
There are plenty of resources out there to read, watch and listen when it comes to the ideology and practice of anti-Black racism. Educate yourself about the history of systemic racism within America and indeed, the world. Recognise that our false ideologies do not benefit us and only serve to uphold white supremacy. Understand the context of the current protests, along with the many others that came before and why it is crucial to enact change right now through our individual mindsets, behaviours and actions and that of our communities.
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Davis: You may have already seen a quote or two by this pioneering activist circulating on social media, but there is a lot more to be learned from her writings beyond those Instagram posts. Freedom Is A Constant Struggle collates speeches, interviews and essays by Davis and highlights the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. From the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement, she provides profound insight into the legacies of previous liberation struggles, shows how they relate to today’s struggles through analysis and challenges us to imagine and build the movement for complete human liberation.
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: This book is a good place to start if you want to unlearn everything you think you know about racism. By highlighting how racism is a vicious, structural force engrained upon multiple levels in American society, Kendi shows that the act of rejecting racism is insufficient. Instead, each and every one of us must demand “persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination” and take action to build to the world we want to live in. The New York Times Bestselling author and director of The Antiracist Research and Policy Centre at American University has also published his own anti-racist syllabus in the Atlantic if you’re looking for further reading.
Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon: Philosopher Frantz Omar Fanon remains one of the most important thinkers and writers of revolutionary struggle, colonial and racial difference today. Among his roster of works, Wretched of the Earth is a classic and a good place to start diving into the heart of his concern. In it, Fanon offers an in-depth analysis of the psychology of the colonised and the path to liberation and will help you recognise the consequences of Western colonisation and how it seeps into every part of everyday life. After it, Black Skin, White Masks is a good text to complement your understanding of the colonial systematisation of racism and its roots.
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: The New York Times bestseller guides readers through subjects that range from intersectionality to ‘model minorities’ to open up honest conversations about race and racism in everyday life. Oluo raises issues on police brutality, cultural appropriation, microaggressions and more, connecting them through moving personal stories to offer practical solutions that will help inspire productive ideas and tangible efforts towards personal and societal change.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: One of Morrison’s most celebrated novels, The Bluest Eye tells the story of a young African-American girl who grows up right after the Great Depression in Ohio and is mocked for being different. As a result, she developed an inferiority complex and desires blue eyes which she associates with whiteness and beauty. The Nobel Prize-winning writer tells a tale of self-worth, while simultaneously asking questions about race, class and gender to show how the past continues to define the present.
Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde: This book gathers essays, speeches and poems by the American activist, poet and writer into a collection focused around key themes of silence as a form of violence, the importance of history and shifting language into action. Particularly resonant, Lorde offers various lessons on the struggles of individuals against racism, sexism and homophobia while inciting self-questioning to recognise the bodily fears or prejudices we carry both consciously and unconsciously within ourselves. Only after that are we able to move forward with the opportunity to voice out what we need to say, and offer others the space to do the same by listening.
Additional reading lists online:
- Racial and gender justice activist Brea Baker has also written a reading list of essential books on Black history here.
- Led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project is a rich resource of articles, educational tools and a podcast. It aims to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very centre of our national narrative.”
- Letters for Black Lives: Want to talk to your family members but not sure how to communicate it in a different language? Created in 2016 by second-generation Asian Americans and Canadians, the open letter project is a multilingual resource for people wanting to talk to their parents and communities about anti-Blackness, police violence and racial justice. It has since been translated into over 30 languages and contextualised into different cultural backgrounds and experiences. For those who want to help write or translate, an updated set of letters and translations is also currently being drafted for 2020 here.
- @newreadernet has shared a collection of ‘Black Revolutionary Texts’ from several influential black authors, activists and leaders compiled by @alijahwebb. Access it on Google Drive here.
- NYC-based Far-Near has also put together an ongoing drive of Black and Asian discourse here.
Anything by Ava DuVernay
An American director and filmmaker, Ava DuVernay is the first black woman to win the directing award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere and to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary feature for 13th. Here are a few films in her discography to start you off:
- Available on Netflix, 13th explores the history of racial inequality in American society and how white supremacy and subsequent oppression continues to disproportionately result in the mass incarcerations of black people today.
- DuVernay’s drama biopic, Selma, which is focused on civil rights leader Martin Luther King, is another powerful and educational film that was deemed 100% historically accurate in its retelling.
- Also on Netflix, When They See Us is also on Netflix is a 2019 mini-series based on the 1989 case of the Exonerated Five (formerly known as the Central Park Five) and follows the true story of five black men who were falsely accused, charged and prosecuted for raping a woman in Central Park.
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