We’ve provided a brief context to what has been happening in the states, along with a list of resources of which you can donate to help Black Lives Matter and relevant organisations, plus some reading lists to kick-start your race studies and race-consciousness.
So, what’s happening in America? A very concise context:
On 25 May 2020 George Floyd, a black American man, was killed by a police officer while several looked on. It was captured on video and has now been watched by millions, globally. (As James Corden said in a great recent statement on white responsibly) If this was an isolated innocent it would be a horrific tragedy, and those responsible should be held accountable. But it is not a singular incident. This one of the latest (and there have been more since protesting begun) in several incidents of police brutality against black civilians.
To understand the weight of these protests is essential. This is not a recent issue, and anti-blackness goes way beyond this. In America, racial tensions, divisions, inequalities and violence against black bodies has been taking place since the first African was stolen from their homeland and forcibly given the identity, “slave”, and transpired in various ways since. After slavery was abolished, the Jim Crow laws were brought in, laws included segregation and denying black people the vote – it was in many ways, enslavement under a new guise.
Many of us are taught about the Civil Rights Movement of the 5os and 60s, where divergent protest ideologies of Martin Luther King and Malcom X and the Black Panthers brought serious racial change to US, resulting in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but we aren’t taught much else . We aren’t taught the detailed ways in which racist legacies persist in new forms and dominant structures today. Although black Americans were then given the vote, it was by no means the end of America’s racial problem.
To start to understand post-civil rights era systemic anti-blackness in the US, a good place to start might be Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness. She argues that the modern day criminal justice system in America, is essentially a contemporary ‘Jim Crow’ – a disproportionate amount of black people are incarcerated in America today, many for small crimes and the system, once your in, makes it near impossible to get-out (Ava DuVernay’s film 13th also is a great explainer on this).
“We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” – Michelle Alexander
Floyd’s tragic death belongs to a legacy of violence against black Americans. That’s not to say day-to-day racist actions don’t exist, they do, but we must see them as part of an enduring and morphing system – and see the protests in response many, many facets of repression, by extension.
This is also not just America’s problem. Although the African American experience is unique in many ways, the Black British experience is all too similar and the pervasive issue of racism in the UK is all-too real, and commonly ignored (Read more on this here and here.) You can read more about the Black british context in a great book called Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and use this GoogleDoc to find out How to Support Black Lives in the UK immediately.
“After all, you’re accusing a you’re accusing a captive population who has been robbed of everything of looting. I think it’s obscene.” – James Baldwin, 1968
So, what can you do?
IMMEDIATE ACTION – DONATE
Right now we can take tangible action to Black Lives Matter and related causes, committed to fighting racial injustice.
George Floyd Memorial Fund
Minnesota Freedom Fund
Black Lives Matter
Reclaim the Block
Black Visions Collective
North Star Health Collective
Community Bail Funds (specifically -– National Bail Out Fund #FreeBlackMamas
National Bail Out Fund #FreeBlackMamas
George Floyd Memorial Fund by his brother
Justice For Breonna Taylor petition & fundraiser
Justice for Tony McDade
UK Resources and funds here.
and many more HERE.
LONG TERM – EDUCATE
This is a systemic problem, in the UK as well as the US. Reading black writers work, and academics who have written about race is a great place to start in understanding how entrenched, engrained, and pervasive the issue is. Also how this (white hegemony and racist ideology) plays out in the cultural and pop cultural realms.
Women, Race, Class – Angela Davis
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander
The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
Notes of a Native Son – James Baldwin
I know why the caged bird sings – Maya Angelou
Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism – bell hooks
Black Looks – bell hooks
Reel to real: Race, Class and Sex at the Movies – bell hooks
The Signifyin’ Monkey – Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment – Patricia Hill Collins
From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism – Patricia Hill Collins
Between The World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
So You Want To Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
I will not be erased – galdem
What is this ‘Black’ in Black Popular Culture – Stuart Hall, in Gina Dent, ed., Black Popular Culture Journal
Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film – Ed Guerrero
The Souls of Black Men – Hazel Carby
Criteria of Black Art – W.E.B. Du Bois
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
Black skin, white masks – Frantz Fanon
Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America – Tricia Rose
Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop – Imani Perry
(See also this Master List of Black Revolutionary Texts)
Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee)
13th (Ava Duvernay)
Dear White People (Justin Simien) – Netflix
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011, Göran Olsson)
Daughters of Dust (1993, Julie Dash)
Fruitvale Station (2013, Ryan Coogler)
Selma (2014, Ava DuVernay)
Malcolm X (1992, Spike Lee)
Get Out (2017, Jordan Peele)
Speeches / music
James Baldwin on the Black experience in America
Angela Davis ‘on Violence and Revolution’
bell hooks – Are You Still a Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body
‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ – Gil Scot Heron
‘Fight the Power’ – Public Enemy (and article on Why It Still Resonates)
About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge
Come Through with Rebecca Carroll
No Country for Young Women
This Is Spoke
Say Your Mind
George The Poet on youth violence, representations and limitations of government
White: Essays on race and culture – Richard Dyer
White fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo
On Being White and Other Lies – James Baldwin
KEEP GOING – SPEAK OUT, CALL OUT, STEP UP
Call it out if you see it, and of course take tangible action. Take note of your circles and how diverse the world around you is. It might involve having awkward or difficult conversations you haven’t had before. Keep it going, day in, day out. Also going forward, take check of the images and words and stories told to you – how does pop culture – film, music, etc, engrain these ideologies? And how do structures and infrastructures work to keep certain people down?