Like so many others, I’ve been thinking in recent weeks about the particular injustices that continue to be the experience of Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups.
I need to know how to speak and act with integrity.
Last year I read the book ‘Just Mercy’ about a miscarriage of justice in 1980’s Alabama. I wrote a song about it – ‘Just Mercy’
I did wonder at the time about whether it’s OK for someone to write about a situation/experience about which you know nothing ? How acceptable is it to create something – book, song, film, picture – about subject matter that relates to a marginalised person or group without some kind of permission ?
It almost seems arrogant.
So what do I, as a white, privileged male, need to keep in mind when I am talking, or writing about the Black Lives Matter issue ?
I had a conversation with a teacher yesterday who has been looking at the English curriculum in her secondary school, and being shocked about the almost zero representation of BAME writers.
(So much of the time we/I can be simply blind to what is out there, plain to see if only we would take the time to look).
The teacher above is now trying to raise awareness of this lack in the English curriculum, in the hope that syllabuses will work towards a more just representation of the diversity of authors.
So it’s not just about what goes on inside our heads – having the right attitudes towards the race issue, but about looking for ways to speak and act to address injustice.
The recent protests have thrown this into sharp focus. For example, we watched as the statue of Edward Colston (English merchant involved in the slave trade), was torn down this week and thrown into Bristol harbour.
The response in Bristol seems to be a way forward – the statue was taken from the water, and as Ray Barnett, head of collections and archives at Bristol City Council explained:
“The ropes that were tied around him, the spray paint added to him, is still there so we’ll keep him like that, preserving him as he was tipped into the dock, while the decision is made how to move on'”
The statue was then transported to the city’s M-Shed museum where it will be exhibited alongside placards from the Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday.
There are those who say the statue should not have been treated in this way. It represents a different time in our history and should not be removed. Yet history is being made every moment, and the spray painted statue will hopefully now be linked forever with the abomination that was the slave trade, and our complicity whenever we allow injustice to go unchallenged.