Copy of the #TheSafeSpace Column published in the Times Of Swaziland, 2 March 2016.
Have you ever heard of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? What about Rosa Parks, Malcom X or Nelson Mandela? These individuals along with many others have each contributed in various ways to ensure that black people live in a world that truly values their existence and does not discriminate based on skin colour. At this point someone might be wondering why there is so much focus on black people. It’s simple, over the past 500 years or so, we have had a largely traumatic experience. We have been displayed in front of audiences like circus freaks, we have been denied basic human rights, we have been imprisoned for speaking out, we have been subjected to neo-colonialism, we have been publicly assaulted or killed, we have been segregated through housing projects, our CVs have been pushed aside due to melanin and we have been told to ‘forget the past and move on’.
As we reflect on this, let us not be confused by prominent black businessman, politicians, celebrities or athletes that seem to be defying the odds. We are extremely happy about their accomplishments but the fact remains, millions of black people worldwide still live through the same oppression that Dr. King and others fought against.
Three years ago the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was born on social media, primarily as a response to police brutality, racial profiling and racial inequality in the US’ criminal justice system. Since then the movement has broadened its approach to include other issues faced by the black community. As BLM gained worldwide recognition, a wave of ignorance and misinterpretation was born in the minds of its opponents. This has spawned responses to the Movement with phrases such as ‘All Lives Matter’’.
First things first; this Movement is not about revenge on police officers or saying that no else’s life matters. This Movement is about shinning a well-deserved spotlight on the various ways in which black people continue to be oppressed or marginalised and it is simultaneously a Call to Action for change. Consider this analogy; if they’re four houses on a street and one is ablaze, the fire department will be called. When the fire fighters arrive, they will ONLY channel their water cannons towards the house that is on fire. Indeed, all houses on the street are important but the focus is directed on the one that is in flames, the one that is suffering, basically the one that matters. I can’t deny that other races have their challenges, but none like black people. For far too long, we have the one burning house on the street hence it is important that we shift the focus in order to put the fire out.
If we continue to get stressed or defensive without adequately interrogating what Black Matter Lives and related movements stand for, we will fail to pay attention to the raging fire. If we fail to deal with this fire, it will spread to the next house and continue gaining momentum. At some point, it will be either too late or too difficult to do anything about it and the whole street will burn down. Can we really afford to risk anarchy because we refuse to address the challenges of a race that is simply asking for equal opportunity, rights and justice?
Feel free to share your comments with me through Twitter (@chr1sfleming), blog (www.chr1sfleming.wordpress.com) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org. Until we meet again, goodbye.
Cover photo source: Google