Seren Kiremitcioglu • 9 June 2020 • 12 minutes

How to learn about and help the #BlackLivesMatter movement

Disclaimer: I am half English, half Turkish and white. I have no concept of what it’s like to be a Black person today or ever. I will never pretend to know. However, I will always fight with Black people in any way I can, first by amplifying Black voices, educating myself, signing petitions, making donations, and standing up to white people with damaging racist views without apology.

It is my responsibility as a white person to stand up to other white people, but if I cross any boundaries or do something wrong, please know you can ALWAYS hold me accountable.

Over the past few weeks, people all over the world have been protesting in the name of #BlackLivesMatter, an enormously important movement which campaigns for the liberation of Black lives from murder, mass incarceration, discrimination, and more.

A mural of George Floyd on a remnant of the Berlin Wall, with the writing 'I CAN'T BREATHE' and hashtags #GEORGEFLOYD #ICANTBREATHE #SAYHISNAME
Photograph by Omer Messinger / Sipa / AP via newyorker.com

“#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”

Black Lives Matter
Black and white photo of protesters and police
Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

What are the 2020 protests about?

This new wave of protesting set the world alight when police officers murdered George Floyd.

Officers were called to the scene after Floyd allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill.

In response, Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while he protested not being able to breathe. Fellow officers J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao stood by and watched as George Floyd was murdered in front of their eyes.

4 photos of the officers involved in George Floyd's murder
The officers involved in George Floyd’s murder

Why don’t ‘All Lives Matter’?

All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter. It’s as simple as that.

In the U.S, police officers are free to discriminate against and brutalise Black people without penalty. Between 2013 and 2019, 99% of police killings have NOT resulted in officers being charged with a crime. (Source).

It’s not a case of one or two bad apples – the whole orchard is rotting. There were only 27 days in 2019 where police did not kill someone. (Source)

A colour coded calendar illustrating how many US killings took place in 2019
Credit: MappingPoliceViolence.org

Did you know that 40% of US police officer families experience domestic abuse, compared to the 10% national average? (Source)

In Stebbins, a city in Alaska, every police officer in the force (as of July 2019) was found to be a perpetrator of domestic violence. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Only one police officer had any formal training. (Source)

A major study found the following:

Twenty eight per cent of all persons stopped by Los Angeles police officers during the last six months of 2018 were black, while black people account for just 9% of the city’s population, the data shows. In San Francisco,the black population has shrunk over several decades to just 5% of the city’s total population, but 26% of all stops carried out by the SFPD from July through December of 2018 were of black people – marking the widest racial disparity in police stops of the eight reporting agencies.

The Guardian (Source)
Black and white photo of empty prison cells
Photo by Emiliano Bar on Unsplash

Why mass incarceration is a huge problem for the Black community

Racism is a systemic issue in the U.S. The moment a Black child is born, they are set up to fail by the system.

The following statistics have been lifted directly from NAACP Criminal Justice Factsheet.

  • Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in America increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million.
  • Today, the United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has 21% of the world’s prisoners.
  • In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.
  • African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.
  • The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
  • Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court.
  • Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.
  • If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.
  • In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17 million whites and 4 million African Americans reported having used an illicit drug within the last month.
  • African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites.
  • African Americans represent 12.5% of illicit drug users, but 29% of those arrested for drug offenses and 33% of those incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses.
A placard with a painting of Breonna Taylor, the text says JUSTICE FOR BREONNA TAYLOR.
Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash
Protesters in Plymouth, UK. You can see the tops of people's heads, but the main focus is a man wearing a protective face mask holding a sign saying BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Credit: MargoR Photography

Why are there #BlackLivesMatter protests in the UK?

Racism is still an issue in the UK. Check out my blog on mental health stigma in 2020 to find out just how disproportionately Black people are impacted by mental illness.

Our own Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is guilty of racism. Indy 100 reported a whole list of his racist takes, but here’s two:

In 2010, he used the word “piccaninnies”, an extremely derogatory term, which he surrounded by an extremely derogatory take, saying:

It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.

Boris Johnson

In 2002, in yet another Telegraph column, he described black people in the Democratic Republic of Congo as having “watermelon smiles”.

Writing about a prospective trip by then-PM Tony Blair to the DRC, Johnson stated:

No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.

Boris Johnson

Last year, while running for leader of the Conservative party, he was asked about these comments. And no, he did not apologise. In fact, he brushed it off as “satire”. We’re not laughing.​ (Source)

A white protester holding a sign stating THE UK IS NOT INNOCENT with the Black Lives Matter logo and the names of UK victims of police violence
Photo by Rachael Henning on Unsplash

If we look at cold hard facts, we can see how rife it is in our own country:

  • In 2018/19, there were 103,379 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales, an increase of 10 per cent compared with 2017/18 (94,121 offences). That’s an average of 203 per day.
  • This continues the upward trend in recent years with the number of hate crimes recorded by the police having more than doubled since 2012/13 (from 42,255to 103,379 offences).
  • While increases in hate crime over the last five years have been mainly driven by improvements in crime recording by the police, there has been spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU Referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017.
  • The majority of hate crimes were race hate crimes, accounting for around three-quarters of offences (76%; 78,991 offences).

(Source: GOV.UK)

A photo of a protester in Plymouth, UK.
Credit: MargoR Photography

We even celebrate ancestral slave owners.

A statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol slave trader responsible for the enslavement and transportation of 100,000 African people (20,000 of whom died in en route) was recently pulled into the harbour by protesters.

The question is, why was this statue ever made, and why is anyone surprised after years of justifiable upset over the Colston plaque, which read: “erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city“? (Source)

This isn’t the only statue or monument heralding racist sentiment of slave-trade glorification. Here’s an article that explores other monuments, such as the statue of Henry Dundas in St Andrew’s Square, and the mounting of Cecil Rhodes on Oriel College in Oxford.

Photo by Rachael Henning on Unsplash

It’s not just that. My incredible friend, Anna (@ahnuh_marie on Twitter), compiled a document which exposes how the UK is complicit in exporting various weapons to the US, including tear gas and rubber bullets that have been used on peaceful protesters.

Thousands of peaceful protesters in the US have been violently attacked by the police. So far protesters have had SUV’s driven over them, been beaten, blinded, and pepper-sprayed in the eyes at close range. They have had their face masks pulled down, and a police officer even shot a pregnant woman in the stomach. Donald Trump ordered the dispersal of a crowd of peaceful protesters through use of pepper spray and rubber bullets purely for a photo opportunity.

Protesters wearing face masks and signs saying 'Black lives matter' and 'IF YOU'RE NOT ANGRY, THEN YOU'RE NOT LISTENING'
Photo by Rachael Henning on Unsplash
A protester in Plymouth, UK, holding a placard 'if you are neutral in situations of injustice you chose the side of the oppressor'. The person is wearing a floral protective face mask.
Credit: MargoR Photography

How can I contribute to #BlackLivesMatter?

Write to your MP.

Demand them to speak out against the murder of George Floyd and the UK’s export of weapons to the US. Here is a great template – thank you Perkin (@perkin_amalaraj on Twitter) for compiling this.

Sign Petitions.

Sign as many as you can. It really helps. Here are some from Perkin’s document:

Donate to Black organisations that work to fight inequality and also help protesters post bail.

Examples from Perkin’s amazing Google doc of UK based fundraisers include:

A photo of protesters in Plymouth, UK, holding a variety of placards, the main focal placard saying 'BLACK LIVES MATTER'
Credit: MargoR Photography

Educate yourself.

Don’t ask your Black friends or family to educate you – they shouldn’t have to relive traumatic memories and ancestry for your education. Research widely – we have never had wider access to education than we do right now.

Read books, watch documentaries, listen to Black voices and amplify them.

Here’s a reading list by Dialogue Books, and another by McKenzie Jean-Philippe for Oprah Magazine.

Check out “14 of the best films and documentaries to educate yourself on racism and Black oppression” by Isabella Silvers for Digital Spy.

Don’t speak over Black people. If you are criticised or held accountable for something you say or do, do not become defensive. Allow yourself to be educated and make appropriate amends. This goes for anyone reading this blog – if I have got something wrong, I want to change it. Hold me accountable. I will listen and change.

Perkin also compiled the following list of courses and educational resources for those looking to self educate. I would really recommend sharing his Google Sheet document about racism in the UK:

A photo of protesters outside of the University of Plymouth. The focus of the image is a person wearing a protective mask holding a placard that says RACISM IS A PANDEMIC TOO.
Credit: MargoR Photography

Have hard discussions with your white friends and family.

It is our responsibility to hold other people accountable for their words and actions. Especially if you are white.

If you can, don’t delete people from your friends list. First, share the facts and open a dialogue with them. It’s the only way we can educate others on race issues and keep the conversation going so that people reassess their ideas and racism. It’s not enough to be ‘not racist’ – we have to be anti-racist. Every day. That includes challenging our peers.

(But if people delete you, we know who is on the right side of history – and humanity.)

Most of all, don’t forget all of this when the media focuses on something new. Support Black businesses. Support Black trans people. Support Black people with disabilities. Amplify Black voices.


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