If you haven’t heard of #BlackLivesMatters, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past years. This hashtag was created as a response to police brutality against people of colour in America, and has since spread widely through social media. In spite of wide spread and acknowledgment this remains a ‘touchy subject’ for many to take on. It is easier not to mention, not to react, not to take a stand, simply because “you don’t know”, or “it’s not in your place to say something”, but this attitude is a part of the problem. It is something we eventually need to face up to.
Acknowledging your white privilege does not mean that you get a free card in caring about these matters, in fact it is quite the opposite. Everyone have a social responsibility to react to injustice, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity, religion, gender or social class.
When authorities, such as police, abuse their power there should be consequences, instead we see people looking through their fingers leaving it up to the public to react. “Police have a duty to make people feel safe,” a participant stated in a protest group for Black Lives Matters. Yet safety seem to be a privilege these days, is this okay?
The anti-racism movement has spread worldwide through social media. I attended the ‘Black Lives Matters’ demonstration in Oslo, Norway, gain a wider understanding of the issue. Andrea Sjøvoll, spokesperson for “Socialist Youth” was one of the speakers of the day and I wondered how she, as a white person, felt about taking such a clear stand. “It’s the same battle, because I can’t be free, I can’t be the person I want to be if not everyone can be the person that they are. So I think it’s the same battle, a shared battle.” And of course she is right. There is no us and them in the fight against racism. Yet staying ‘neutral’ is fascinatingly alluring when facing up to this matter.
A common response used (by white people) against #BlacLivesMatters is #AllLivesMatters. Of course we are all fully aware that this too is true, yet this is not the point. This tag simply fails to address the core issue here, and using this response is quite frankly a bit rasist. It implies that we should not highlight that black lives matters. As a white person this can be harder to face simply because you haven’t faced up to the sociocultural divide the same way that black people have. #BlackLivesMatters needs to be addressed because it is seemingly a principle that not everyone stand by and that is why this tag, and not #AllLivesMatters, is crucial.
“If you take a neutral stand, you stand by the oppressors,” Agnes Viljugrein from the youth branch of the Norwegian Labour party stated in her speech. She points to something that many forget. Not taking a stand is ultimately also a stand. Should we let ambivalence, privilege, ignorance and the fear of stepping on some toes stand in the way of change? Or should we face up to the real issue and be a bit bolder, dare a bit more? Change is needed and we need everyone on board to make it happen.