No Person’s Land

Do black lives matter? Of course they do. But my reaction to the movement of the same name is less definite. Because the movement is less definite.

My experiences while living in an area of Bristol with a strong African and Asian presence left me, as someone who doesn’t speak an non-European languages and presents as Caucasian, with good evidence that being in a minority can feel oppressive. While I didn’t experience abuse, there were moments when, for example, I wondered whether the comment a Somali shopkeeper made to the Somali customer after glancing at me, was about me. So, while I could walk for 15 minutes and be in an area filled with mostly English voices, I have some inkling of what it might be like to be a visible minority.

So, I definitely agree Western society should be taking a closer look at whether there is disproportionate violence toward minorities.

However, the BLM movement – as with all protest movements – is mostly the voices of the loudest, which is not necessarily the majority of people affected. Which emphasises passion over problem.

Having been bullied (slightly) at school, I know how easy it is to polarize against the other: to go from several rugby players bully me to all rugby players are a problem; and to further polarize because my decision to avoid rugby players meant the ones I met were less likely to be the mellow ones who left people alone, thus strengthening the bias. So, I understand why some members of the BLM movement are levelling accusations at everyone who isn’t black (including mixed-race people).

And this isn’t a black thing: I saw the same issue in the gay community (as it was named at the time) when straight and bisexual people were labelled Other even as they tried to help.

But understanding and not judging isn’t agreeing. While I support people’s right to be angry at injustice, fixing the problems cannot be about two armies screaming across no person’s land. I want a society that meets the needs of the people who are afraid to protest, who do not block streets as a protest because they believe making the life of another worse is not the answer to the issues they face, who aren’t part of a movement for any of a myriad other entirely justified reasons.

So, I believe that black lives matter. But I believe the ones who don’t join protest movements matter just as much.


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