A couple of things recently have triggered my interest on this notion and the results of which have made my mind wonder how broken and dysfunctional we were as a human race, going back generations. If we are still debating this in 2020 it shows that we clearly have not come on the leaps and bounds that the mainstream media and the government would have you believe. I spent my past week watching the new documentary on Malcolm X on Netflix and see the most jaw dropping and eye-opening performance from UK rapper Dave at the Brit awards. The United states and the United Kingdom, corners of the world still gripped with division based on class, race, gender, sexuality etc. I am going to breakdown both displays in a historical, yet appropriate manor, offering both solutions to the current climate, and providing people with the reasoning behind the history being so very raw for many people around the world.
The documentary on Malcolm X that launched on Netflix the past few weeks intrigued me. Although I was taught about the civil rights movement in secondary school, it was wholly centred around the rise to prominence of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King JR, Malcolm was mentioned but never in the same importance as the prior. Looking back, the reason for this is clear. MLK and Rosa Parks advocated peaceful protesting, gathered a mass movement and demonstrated a message of unity and potentially cohesion that the States had never seen before. Although the message was successful, it did isolate many people and almost told the men who experienced police brutality, unlawful sentencing and frisk searching for no reason other than the colour of their skin, that we are not going to fight back. Where Malcolm’s campaign thrived, the people fed off the anger of a repressed group of people. They were empowered by the aggression, rebellious nature of the protesting and the middle finger to the system attitude this embodied. The media to this day, do not want to show you that violent revolution against repressive masters not only work but it plays a valuable part in the history of the region and the movement. One thing I learned from the documentary that I never knew was that the men who were jailed for Malcolm’s murder weren’t all guilty of the crime! Talmadge Hayer was the man with the .45 pistol who fired at Malcolm, he attempted to flee the Ballroom after the shooting and was tackled my members of the rally and he later confessed for his crime on the stand. He did however say that the 2 men he was put on trial with her innocent and he had never met them in his life. The FBI and NYPD convicted the other 2 men and sentenced them to 20 years to life in prison. When Talmadge Hayer wrote his affidavit, he only then for the first time revealed the real names of the men who assisted him kill Malcolm that day. The FBI didn’t deem this to be enough evidence to reopen the case. Forgive me for the story telling, but the real reason behind the explanation was to show that Malcolm’s death was always seen by the FBI because of his actions and when this did finally happen, they showed contempt to the whole community. I have never seen a more institutionalised racist system that holds unbelievable power in public office. And so, to link it back to the title, the FBI at the time were 85% white Americans. They fundamentally do not have the right to tell a Black, Asian, Traveller, Muslim man or woman when they can and can’t feel offended and abused. The reality that those people do not want to hear is that if they were born 50 years earlier, they would have been cracking the whip and partaking in the same bigotry they claim to have erased. The fact I have based this on events from the 1960s doesn’t mean to say that this isn’t still a major issue for everyday life.
The other big event of this week that allowed me to tunnel in on this opinion was Dave’s performance at the Brit awards. I first listened to the song “Black” when the album first came out and I was immediately struck by his ability to create imagery with the lyrics. But when the piano projected the images I had already imagined when closing my eyes, it brought everything home. The newspaper articles, the radio edits, the photos displaying famine and tribal warfare. “Black is so much deeper than just African-American, our heritage been severed, you never got to experiment. With family trees, because they teach you ’bout famine and greed and show you pictures of our fam on their knees”. It brought me back to Black history month that we had at school and it got me thinking, why do we need to diversify from what type of history it is? History is history, whether its centred around the slave trade, the ancient Monarchy, the second world war it is irrelevant whether it is white or black history. The fact of the matter is that on the front line in the Somme were white and black men. If I want to study the work of Huey Newton, why not call it “History” instead of “Black History”. The scheme was brought in to try and portray an image and a reflection on our flawed past, colonial heritage and apartheid. All it did was strengthen the divide and this demonstrates the errors of the white person in the race debate. They think that the struggle is over, and that differentiation and equality is the end of the road. What the fight was about from the beginning is equal opportunity, education, basic rights and living conditions. Not to have their own month dedicated to just black heritage. I am not going to make this a political discussion because frankly, previous Labour governments, Conservative governments and the Liberal Party governments have all neglected race equality issues. It does however paint a vivid picture when the nation can still elect a man that used the words “letter Box” to describe Muslim women, Watermelon smiles in reference to black people and so on. I am not saying that he is the reason for this, but it creates an environment where people who kept the views to themselves now feel they have a platform to vocalise bigoted ideology. If we as a nation cared about these issues, it would be impossible for a man who said these things to rise to such prominence.
I obtained a lot of inspiration for this article from an exceptionally talented author and publisher called Reni Eddo-Lodge who wrote the article “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race”. She speaks from a compassionate perspective who has experience institutionalised racism in her upbringing as a black woman in the UK. We need to be asking the victims of racism what they deem to be racist, in the same way we won’t ask a rapist what constitutes as rape and what doesn’t. So, I guess my main question is, when did we favour the accused over the accuser? When England went to Bulgaria to play in a football match, the black players on the field were hounded for the full 90 minutes and the FA came out immediately and pushed for the largest possible sanctions for the people found guilty, as they should do. However, a few weeks later a game with Chelsea and Tottenham was marred with allegations of racist abuse fired onto the pitch. Neither Chelsea nor Tottenham were charged as a result. Racism in all forms is disgusting and has to be eradicated but passing the buck and kicking the can down the road only elongates that end and allows the bigot to be presented. The nation needs to shoulder the responsibility of what is happening between it’s borders before we point figures and interfere elsewhere.