The full title for this short film is “STOP – a message to my beloved allies,” because when I thought about how I felt watching THE video and then worldwide protests, there was anger and despair but also I glimmers of hope and love.
3 days after George Floyds’ death I was surprised to find myself in a group of about 30 people, walking in single file along the sea front, lead by and surrounded back and front, with white allies. Kneeling down for 9 minutes on the pavement at Warrior square with mainly strangers was unexpectedly emotional and also reassuring.
A week later when “Hastings rally against racism” organised a protest in Alexander park, expecting only 200/250 people and over 1000 turning up, I felt almost moved to tears. There were a handful of people of colour, but the overwhelming and predominant group was white.
White people had come out in solidarity of Black Lives Matter but all of those who spoke and many of those that were listening, came as allies – allies with Black people to end Racism. The speeches were not peppered with shocking statistics of abuse and oppression, the stories weren’t designed to pull at the heart strings, or blame; Instead the audience was encouraged to channel their outrage at what had happened to George Floyd (and countless other black men and women) into a call to action. It was time to stand up and speak out against the structured inequalities, the systemic racism and the continued attempts to steal our humanity and keep us, black and white, separated.
Of course this is not new, for decades there have been vocal and active allies working to end racism. It is well documented that some of the key supporters and organisers during the 1950s and 1960s in the civil rights movement and the struggle for social justice in the USA were for example, frequently from the Ashkenazi Jewish community.
What is different this time is the scale. The access to mobile phones and the growth of social media means that the whole world has the potential to be informed and involved. Hundreds of thousands of white people have taken to the streets around the world to protest about the treatment of black people. The oppression of racism is more understood by a greater number of people than probably at any time in modern history.
In cities where there are large black populations it looks like black organisers have taken the lead, but there are a remarkable number of protests and marches happening in communities with relatively few black residents.
Hastings is one of those communities and sitting in Alexandra Park on Sunday, 7th June, surrounded by a sea of white faces all looking determined to work for change, I felt our deep connection and it was new and exciting feeling.
Unlike many previous movements, Black Lives Matter continues to stay in the news with new development and initiatives.
Allies are mobilizing inside and outside organisations. There is an appetite for change – and it’s fantastic!
All the black people I’ve spoken to recently are all engaged in or by the movement But interestingly, although for every person there is a different story, we all seem to have one thing in common – we are all tired! Actually most of us are completely exhausted. Our white friends and allies and sometimes-complete strangers, stimulated into action, feel compelled to ask us what they should be doing. Many of us, if we are not careful are quickly being dragged back into one of the key components for maintaining institutionalised racism, namely keeping black people busy with the needs of white people!
If we are going to be effective and work together for real change, white allies need to risk getting it wrong then cleaning up the mistake by asking black people questions. But there is a big difference between taking action and then asking for help or support and not doing anything until a black person has endorsed it, or waiting for them to lead you.
So perhaps ‘STOP’ is my way off getting the ball rolling!
In fact, since its inception ‘STOP – a message to my beloved allies’ has evolved into a project . Ill be posting anditional information, interviews and short films all of which which I hope will go someway to clarifying the important role of Allies and how we [black and white], can most effectively work together to end this inhuman and artificial division between us.
I’m tired… but extremely hopeful!
Maggie Scott, July 2020