School of Cultural Studies and Humanities
Leeds Beckett English Literature student shares her opinion on the BLM movement
Leeds Beckett English Literature student, Alexandra Thompson has written a comment piece on the Black Lives Matter movement.
The global uprising of Black Lives Matter protests and marches have been both inspiring and heart-breaking in the sense that I feel connected to the people fighting for justice and black rights on a global scale, but heartbroken by the loss, the murder and abuse it has taken for us to get to this point. The viral videos and varying opinions we’re fed on our socials can be tricky to wade through and develop your own stance on the issue, so I have recommended some insightful literature/films that have not only helped me to stay informed but, through digesting them, you will support black authors, artists, filmmakers and businesses.
I recently took to the streets of Parliament Square to join the thousands of people uniting to protest the injustice of racist policing in the US highlighted by the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Armaud Arbery and Tony McDade. The marching sea of thought-provoking banners and clenched fists in the air, mixed with the tears falling from faces of all colours, children chanting with the masses ‘Black Lives Matter’, was the most emotional and raw experience I have ever been a part of. Grief reverberated through each person. Among the politically charged banners there were also gut-wrenching words painted on cardboard, many wielding signs stating:
‘I will never understand but I will fight for you’
‘No justice, No peace’
‘Remember their names’
I wasn't just marching for people I had never met, I was marching because yet another black mother had lost a child, I was marching because 400 years of racism and segregation and still unarmed black men, women and children cannot walk down the street without being killed for the colour of their skin.
We have so much to learn. The issues in America can feel very far away from us here. The protests in the UK echoed pain and anger but were very much rallying against racism on our own doorstep, which we are quick to overlook and are many times overshadowed by the extent of American broadcasting. Racism is both born and bred in Britain, yet it isn't a subject that is delved into enough in schools or among white communities.
University is the first time for most students to learn about Black history, of British colonialism or slavery. On Sunday 20th of June many authors encouraged readers to purchase two books by black writers to demonstrate the power that lies in the publishing industry. The goal was to ‘blackout’ bestsellers lists with black voices. The importance of education could not be more imperative at this time.
While writing this I questioned whether I should be allowed this platform to speak on an issue that has never directly affected my wellbeing or my chances. I was born into privilege, I was born white and, in many ways, sheltered and shielded. I felt as though I was cheating. What do I, a white woman, know about black rights? What gives me the right to talk about these issues when I have never directly experienced them myself? This is a time for us white allies to listen rather than speak, to amplify black voices and to educate ourselves.
To reinforce the quote going around:
‘it is not enough to not be racist, we have to be actively anti-racist.’
Circling back to the (non-exhaustive) list of educational reading and film that I strongly recommend to my white peers to learn about anti-racism and the history of racism, they are as follows:
Powerful, poignant and educational books I recommend:
‘Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge
‘I Am Not Your Baby Mother’ by Candice Brathwaite
‘The Autobiography of Malcom X’ by Himself
‘White Fragiltiy: Why it’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism’ by Robin DiAngelo
‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ Maya Angelou
‘So You Want to Talk About Race’ by Ijeoma Olou
‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison
‘Homie’ by Danez Smith
‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty-Williams
‘The Warmth Of Other Suns’ by Isabel Wilkerson
‘Me and White Supremacy’ by Layla F. Saad
‘Black and British: A Forgotten History’ by David Olusoga
‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo
‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ by Zora Neale Hurston
‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison
List of specifically Black British Authors to research:
Zadie Smith, Benjamin Zephaniah, Claudia Jones, Andrea Levy, Helen Oyeyemi
Great and insightful films I recommend (mostly on Netflix) if books aren't attainable:
Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’
Spike Lee’s ‘Malcom X’
Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’
Trey Edward Shults’ ‘Waves’
T.J Martin and Simon Lindsey’s ‘LA 92’
Ava Duvernay’s ‘13th’ and ‘When they see us’
A James Baldwin documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro’
‘Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland’ by David Heilbroner and Kate Davis
Ryan coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station’
Podcasts (if none of the above mediums appeal):
1619 by the New York Times
About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge
The Diversity Gap
Intersectionality Matters! By Kimberle Crenshaw