Who Have You Been Listening To?

Dear readers,

I want to wrap up today on the Black Lives Matters protests that are sweeping the world right now. Not because I’m okay with racism, but because I stayed up until 4AM scrolling through videos on Facebook, and you know what? I’m not convinced that we’re really achieving anything when we’re out there, shouting at one another and smashing the place up.

I’d say you, but just as racism is a ‘we’ problem, violence is, too.

In the last 24 hours, I have seen and watched a lot of things that have really got my brain ticking over. I have seen a post that said George Floyd had a criminal past, I have seen a black American man (in the above video) say that ‘gentle gient’ George Floyd had a criminal past (including armed robbery against a woman) and I have seen the young man below pull out the statistics, and I’ll listen to these men until you can give me reason not to. Why? Because statistics matter, and I have some statistics of my own which may shock you.

In 2005 in the UK, I studied sociology. More than that, I particularly studied crime as my topic of interest. I handed out 30 anonymous surveys at a local café and collated the responses. Who do you think the real victims were?

If you guessed black people, you would be wrong.

Of the seven black people who agreed to took the survey, three of them reported being victims of violent crime (although most of them reported having been victims of racial slurs). My studies concluded that the average victim of violent crime in Bristol is a white male between 20-30 years old. Damning, isn’t it?

I’m married to a white man who was a victim of black-on-white violence when he was young. He was targeted for nothing more than the fact that his father didn’t buy him nice things. He couldn’t afford them, he had a tobacco habit. They beat my husband so bad, they put him in the hospital. My husband is still terrified of black people to this day, and I know that the vast majority are harmless, but my husband still believes they are out to get him. He still believes that they will harm him, and that saddens me.

Do I hate black people for that? No, because those are the actions of a few, not the majority. I had a social worker when I was young, a black man who I idolised. I’ve also worked with people from all kinds of cultures and like to spend my free time on Slowly, making friends with the world. There are good and bad in all communities, just as Terrence K. Williams says.

My point is, these aren’t white people telling us that racism doesn’t exist or that black lives don’t matter. These are black men telling us, the white people, that we’ve got it all wrong. They are telling us that saying they our saying they are repressed is making them repressed. They are telling us that we are massaging the facts, that Black Lives Matter have got it all wrong. They are telling us that these problems start in the family home. Family problems don’t know race, but racist mentalities do decide who gets social support and who doesn’t, and that’s when the problems occur.

In the news yesterday, a page appeared for a live feed for opinions following the removal of the statue of Edward Colston here in Bristol. As I scrolled through, the narrative was painfully clear – the BBC didn’t care what the white people of Bristol thought though, all that mattered was the opinions of black Bristolians, particularly the ones who felt oppressed by the statue. For every mention of black Bristolians, there was probably only one white person, and even then a majority of those agreed that the statue should go. Typical media bias.

But not every Black Bristolian feels that way, and not every white Bristolian does, either. Where are their voices in this? Why doesn’t their opinion matter for the future of our city?

For some black Bristolians, it is despicable that it’s happened in their city and they stand with white Bristolians who say that it still remains as a part of our history. For some, their ancestors weren’t slaves at all but refugees from previous international conflicts who sought safety in this city. Where are their voices in this, and why are you racially stereotyping that every black Bristolian is an ancestor of the slave trade? That’s racist.

By eliminating the voices of white Bristolians, the BBC only adds to the problem of racism in itself. When white Bristolians don’t feel heard, they will turn against the black community and that won’t be good for anybody. I’ve said it multiple times in the past two days and I will say it again. Friends, Bristol has a history. We have an atrocious, bloodied, horrific past with some unthinkable stories. We aren’t proud of it, but we’ve moved on by learning from it, and many, many Bristolians feel passionate about remembering the past so that we can look forward to our future. Even if Colston’s statue does belong in a museum, Bristol needs to decide its fate as one – as a modern, diverse community, not one fed by media bias. Please don’t listen to the media if you want an opinion, listen to the people of the town.

Friends, these voices matter, and to overcome the scourge of racism, we need to be willing to listen to one another. It’s great that we care about one another, but we need to listen to each other and we need to tackle the real problems affecting black lives, together. Black lives matter, but black voices matter, too.