The silence was deafening

Jade Sullivan on George Floyd, racism, why a murder in America is affecting black people worldwide and why Black Lives Matter is so important

I am of mixed heritage: my mother is white English, my father is black Jamaican. My mother is very pro-black and taught me my black history, alongside my father. I choose to describe myself as black, as that is the way the world sees me, and I believe as long as there is racism in the world, the shade of my blackness shouldn’t be separated into a box.

Mixed heritage people are the fastest-growing group of people in the UK. Within 30 years, white people will be the numerical minority in the USA. Racism in England is different to the overt segregated racism in America: it’s very subtle, alongside the class system. The two are used daily and work hand-in-hand to wear black people down. It’s a dismissing of racism: ‘you’re too pro-black’, a disapproving look, a stare, the way you are spoken down to, how you’re treated in the playground, disowned by white families.

When the parents of your best friend since you were five years old – staying at each others houses constantly – tell her when you become teenagers that she can no longer be your friend, for fear that by hanging around with you she will end up with a black man. Or going to Norwich when you were aged nine to visit your white school friend who had moved there from London, and being called a nigger at the swimming baths.

Yes, as a mixed, lighter-skinned woman there is colourism, and I am afforded privileges over my darker hued brothers and sisters. I choose to always stand in solidarity with them, due to my family sharing of knowledge and stories, the way my dark-skinned black grandmother was treated totally differently to her light-skinned, blued-eyed sister. I have educated myself in world history, and have BA and masters studying fashion, style, black culture and the social construct of race.

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

Martin Luther King 1967

Dear white people, your silence was deafening.

But there’s something different in the air this time. Maybe it’s the coronavirus effect, but there’s something very different going on here. This time all locked in our homes has given us all a chance to reflect on what really matters. We can see more clearly, can observe more closely than when we were rushing around in the rat race.

Watching governments lie and contradict themselves, on a daily basis. Worldwide chaos. Then we see the brutal murder of George Floyd by a policeman. Held under the knee of a white policeman for 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds, whilst clearly stating “I can’t breathe” An independent autopsy concluded he died of asphyxiation from sustained pressure.  The digital technology is such that this horrific murder was shown across the globe on all mobile phones, that are now glued to all of our hands, all of the time.

I’m probably the only person I know that follows 7,500 people, the maximum you can follow. I like to watch observe social media, the digital advertising and marketing world I worked in pre the birth of our twins + 1. I have watched people grow from nothing to huge stars, with sponsorship and book deals galore, all selling us stuff, left, right and centre on these little squares. Now with live stories, everybody effectively has their own TV shows. 

Yet checking my Instagram feed in those first few days, I was horrified to see no white women with huge followings, so-called influencers, mummy bloggers, celebrities (unless they have mixed / black children or family) showing any acknowledgment, or enraged about this horrific public murder. The same women that proudly posted about outrage on women’s rights, flexible working, feminism & LGBTQ rights. What about this #blacklivesmatter, cold-blooded murder, we are sick-and-tired of everyday racism issue? Silence. 

So I’ve watched you post about everything, I know when you’re on you’re period, your dog’s name, I’ve seen your husband’s ass. Now why haven’t seen is you speak up and be in unity with Black Lives Matter? A man being killed by a policeman on film, is murdered saying he can’t breathe, and no one says anything? Why? What is it? Is a black post going to dirty your squares? Or do you just not care? Do you enjoy the life our racist society affords you to get ahead? To make money. To keep flogging me products I don’t need and can’t afford? Is it going to detract from the pretty, perfectly manicured squares, where you dress up to look like a Vogue model? Unfortunately, life isn’t a pretty picture for us black people. We face injustice and inequality EVERYDAY based on the melanin in our skin. I’m scared for my children, but your children aren’t black so you don’t care? Silence. 

We see you. Why has it taken so long to post? Two days too late. Although better late than never. You’re actually like sheep, what now you feel you have to, because that other influencer has posted? It’s a square on a page! Are you more worried about the look and feel of your page, rather than to really care about what’s going on in the real world? Or I’ll post something on my stories, but it definitely can’t have a square. I mustn’t pause or distract from the brands I’m trying to get you to buy. Seriously, please get over yourselves! I don’t get it. Are people just so selfish, self absorbed, with no empathy compassion, for humanity?

If you are white, you can choose to ignore this because it doesn’t directly affect you in your everyday life, your children, your husband, your family, your friends.

When you are black you are five times more likely to die in childbirth due to racism – five times more likely to die, simply because of the melanin in your skin. Four times more likely to die of Covid 19 than your white counterparts – the silence from the government and prime minster on this is also deafening. Imagine if those statistics were white people – definitely front page news and a press conference – Nada! You are four times more likely to die from Covid 19, as you haven’t got the leisure of a middle class job, and can work from home. When you are black, your work prospects are poorer due to institutionalised racism, the education that you are taught about world and black history at school is inaccurate, I could go on, but I’m tired and angry. Black people have had enough. Your silence speaks volumes.  

It seems white people do not care, because the way the institutionalised racist systems of this world are set up to benefits their lifestyle, to have all the money and the power. Too much, for too long, we need equality NOW, this has been going on for hundreds of years. We are now in the digital era where everyone on Instagram literally has their own TV show, so speak, find your voice. Educate yourselves, show up, speak up, stand with us please, for the sake of humanity. Your ancestors created this system you benefit from, it’s your time to deconstruct it NOW.

Race is a social construct made up by white men to put black people in boxes. There is one race, the human race.

So why are we all still playing this race game? It’s like a dance we flirt with. Why? because it suits the worldwide system of institutionalised racism, based on colonialism. Which needs to be upheld to drive consumerism, economic wealth and power, capitalism. 

So let me get this straight: you love our music, our fashion, our style, our food, our skin tone, our lips, our dancing. You love Beyoncé you went to her concert, was at a drunken zoom call last night dancing to Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson and you can take all the colour and joy that our culture brings you, but yet you’re ignoring our pain? 

As Michael Jackson sang ‘All I want to say is that they don’t really care about us”

It feels like same shit different year, but something about this feels very different. Time to wake up, people. We are angry, heartbroken, exhausted, and in severe pain. Scared for our children, our husbands, our partners, our brothers, our sisters. This is a war of the people; your silence is not an option. The vision for 2020 is that you need to wake up and change. We are not the racists; the change is up to you.  

Yesterday, on Tuesday 2 June 2020, the music industry and black people we are observing ‘Black Out Tuesday’. We used this day to reflect and plan actions to support black artists, black creators and black communities. Jay-Z, the most powerful black man in the music industry has released an album, ‘Songs For Survival 2,’ on Tidal, the company that he bought and sold and he and his wife Beyoncé own equity in. I urge you to listen to it, it has old songs by different artists and new songs and Beyoncé talking.

We are not just hashtags and singers; this racism is a daily struggle that keeps us oppressed. This is war of the people. Everyone need to stand up and be heard. The time for silence is over.

Further viewing

If you want to educate yourself and listen to one thing, watch Jane Elliot, American anti-racism educator since 1968, and her ‘Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes’ race experiments below, and all her tireless work. Visit black Briton Nova Reid @novareidofficial – a Tedx anti-racism speaker who runs courses to dismantle racism. ‘Change your channel’ by Mallence Bart-Williams at TEDx Berlin Salon will teach you all you need to know about racism in relation to Africa – The Motherland where all humans originate, and the white charity we do not necessarily need.

You have a world of knowledge at your fingertips on your phone, please use it.

The Silence is Deafening

The inequality is there
The silence says to me, that you do not care
‘The Angry Black Woman’ finally someone owned it
Like the elephant in the room, it’s out for all to see
You see no one is speaking, and to me that shows indifference 
Why aren’t you enraged like me?
Because your skin’s not black or brown like me?
Because this world, it suits you
In your white nuclear family 
This is not our problem
We cannot fight this alone
Because I’ve woken crying 
For my golden children
And all the shit I’ve faced
I don’t want it for them
It’s everywhere we go
It’s schools, it’s jobs, it’s hospitals, the streets
The danger, every corner of the globe 
You’re the only ones that can change this 
We’ve been waiting years
So here we are still waiting for you all to feel enraged
Yet I still hear nothing, let’s not rock the boat 
You don’t know what to say
Dig deep and find the words

©Jade Sullivan 29/05/2020 

Pass the Mic is a series where we hand the Mother Pukka platform over to other voices to share their perspective. Each piece is edited as lightly as possible and contributors are paid the going editorial rate.

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