9th August 2020
It is the year Two Thousand and Twenty and there’s a hashtag trending on the internet called #BlackLivesMatter. If I had to write to 1963 about this, I’d be telling Martin Luther King. Jr that not all are yet free on this planet.
As the weeks in the past 4 months have ticked through winter, I’ve sat here on my couch on the other side of the world and watched Americans rage through their cities in protests. I’ve watched that rage spread across the globe; Britons tore down statues of old Englishmen who had once brought much prosper to their nation, many Australians were forced to sit with how their First Nations Aboriginal population is treated by the same law that protects them.
I’ve sat here and scrolled through squares and squares of black solidarity on Instagram only to have them disappear the next day because that solidarity was actually blocking the movement. I’ve sat waiting for photos of acquittances at not permitted protest marches which they implored everyone else on their timelines to but didn’t actually go themselves. I’ve also sat here and watched Bollywood celebrities pledging support for BLM who’ve never spoken up for the dalit lynching in their own back yards. I’ve sat here and watched corporates jump on the bandwagon with brilliant ad campaigns promising more diversity and inclusion; corporates whose leadership board sits 7 men and 1 woman, all white. I’ve sat here as poor Karens in suburbias much to their bewilderment get pulled in line for something they’ve never been told otherwise; them reeking of racism. I’ve sat through watching the very people in Fiji who shout “go back to India” share the pain of “their brothers” in America. I’ve sat and watched people reprimanding, lecturing, educating, apologising, re-educating each other on the correctness of their woke-ness.
And after I had watched all the performative alliances of my community, I then had to sit through the dissection of the blackness spectrum of the BLM movement. Only to hear that the brown and yellow communities in western countries actually fell on the side of the oppressor this time around, not the movement’s. That not all POC had the same issues and that I may be part of a privileged minority! I then sat and watched people of other colours bearing BLM flags being told to stop hogging the limelight and making it about how they felt and to actually be quiet and let black people speak.
And then I sat and watched it all slowly fade away as everyone went back to their lives to re-watch the Avengers.
Remember the time we had a fight about that community initiative I was spending so much time on? I was so mad at you that I didn’t speak to you for a week! I couldn’t fathom how you felt that it didn’t concern you, that you didn’t feel an obligation to be part of the solution for a problem that wasn’t yours.
We’ve tangled our worlds even so more than it was in 1963; we’ve weaved so many more threads in that tangle and showing solidarity, engaging in difficult conversations, choosing a side of the fence to be on doesn’t really change things. The structural change humankind is seeking will take another 200 years to evolve.
I remember you asking me, Anand – if we had that long?
I think you were trying to tell me that day we fought is that we don’t need to be part of every war out there and that there is no guilt in staying quiet on the sidelines. Sometimes what people need is just the space to fight their own battles.
I wish it hadn’t taken me all these years to understand why you said what you said that day. I miss you.