Updated: Jun 8, 2020
The last few days have been rather difficult for me, and millions/billions of other's I'm sure. But I won't for a second assume to speak for anyone else but myself.
If you are not aware of George Floyd and Amy Cooper then you probably don't use social media, watch or read the news. And I envy your blissful ignorance.
Now let me start by making it very clear, both these incidents are sickening. And infuriate me to the core. And I am wholeheartedly empathetic to all people under oppression as many black African people around the world have been for centuries.
I have for the past 2 years taken a massive step away from both FaceBook and Instagram. I schedule posts to my Facebook page and Instagram profile but I don't go onto the platform and engage with others. I put no effort into trying to build my audiences there. Which as a self-employed person doesn't make great business sense?
However, I was finding that I could go onto either of these platforms in a great mood and find that within 20 minutes, I'm feeling shit.
I have removed Twitter from my life (I think I may still have an active account but haven't bothered with it for ages) It completely does my head in!
I Pin to Pinterest quite regularly but again, spend little time there.
The platform I do spend time on, whether I'm posting myself or engaging on other posts and growing relationships with my connections is LinkedIn.
However, the more time I spend trying to engage with my network, the more I'm subjected to humanity, or specifically, the apparent lack thereof.
Lack of humanity
It seems like homo sapiens like nothing more than to judge each other. But many will be quick to tell you how they don't judge.
Right now, social media is filled with anger about the death of George Floyd. And rightly so. LinkedIn is no exception. With many people making posts with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter
I made the mistake a few days ago, when I commented on one of the first posts I saw with that hashtag.
I stated, "I'd argue #alllivesmatter"
Little did I know in subsequent days, there would be many posts about how if you quote, "all lives matter" then you are a racist or are complicit.
I wonder how many of these racism activists who shoot down anyone who states "all lives matter" have stopped to think that some saying that could be Buddhists? Or non-racist religious folk? Or simply, just have different life experiences?
In the Western World, people of colour are typically the minority.
However, if like me, you're from Africa (South Africa to be precise), white people are the minority.
South Africa has a murder rate of 54 people killed a DAY! A DAY FOLKS!
To put that into perspective, in England and Wales, for the year Dec 2018 - Dec 2019, 670 murders took place, with 39 of those being unfortunate souls of the Essex lorry deaths.
Every 13 days South Africa has more murders than England and Wales have in a year.
These murders are committed by all ethnic groups, but primarily black on black crime and black on white crime.
I personally don't have a family member or friend who has not been affected by crime in South Africa. These range from carjacking to rape to attempted murder and murder. During my 27 years there I had a few house break-ins but fortunately, we were not home at the time.
In all the cases that have occurred to my family and friends, the perpetrators of said crimes were black people.
I was born in Durban, South Africa in the early 70s. For all my childhood we had a black woman and her son living with us in an annexe. I spent a lot of my toddler years playing with this woman's son who was a similar age to me. She would cook lunch for her son and I and sit and eat with us. She was my black Grandmother. I loved her and her son like they were family.
It was only when I hit my early teens that I started 'paying attention'. That I realised she wasn't family, that she was, in fact, our maid. It didn't change the way I felt about her and her son. They were still family to me and when she retired and stopped working for my mother, I experienced my first real loss in life. But it did start me questioning the world in which I lived.
I played football in the park across the road from my home with mostly black kids (the white kids were pretty shit at soccer/football). I never knew about Apartheid until I was around 13 and opened my eyes to the world around me.
I'm not entirely sure why I didn't realise it earlier on in my life. But for some reason, it took going to high school to make me realise I was surrounded by white folk.
As the years went on, I found that I had fewer and fewer black friends. The kids I had grown up with had either moved on with their parents or sent back to townships to attend school themselves.
By the time I was in my late teens, I sadly can't remember having one black friend in my peer group! It was a very white world I found myself in.
When the anti-Apartheid movements started in South Africa I participated where I could. I voted to end Apartheid in the 1992 referendum.
I think, like many others of my generation in South Africa at the time, we foolishly thought things would just somehow be better. I was foolish. You don't just get over Apartheid and centuries of oppression overnight.
Apartheid was a god awful oppression.
One I only fully got to understand years after it was lifted.
However as the years went on, the more crime was becoming a thing in my life. It started with car-jackings, where unfortunately more times than not, your car wasn't simply taken, so was your life. Due to the Apartheid inequalities, it was generally white people who had cars worth stealing.
Then it was house invasions. Where totally atrocious crimes were committed on the inhabitants including woman and children.
Crime became something you heard about from someone you encountered on almost a weekly basis.
It's not necessarily that crime got worse, it's simply that previously, during Apartheid years, the crimes were happening in Townships outside of white cities and suburbs. Much of it black oppression by the then Apartheid government.
My ex and I landed in England in Jan 1999. For what was intended to be a two-year working holiday of the UK and Europe.
As fate would have it, we got pregnant within 18 months of being in England and made the decision that for the sake of our child, we would extend our stay within England. This was the toughest decision of my life, and I'm sure of my exes also. We knew no one in the UK. Neither of us had family here. We were both subjected to the whole, "foreigner" thing and the, "Oh, you're South African, are you racist?". The idea of raising a child in a foreign country wasn't exactly what we had planned just 18 months before!
But we made the choice for our child/ren. We decided that for their future prospects, for their wellbeing it would be better for us to raise them in England. When they are both adults we would have the choice of returning to South Africa.
We made this difficult choice despite our love of our country. Despite leaving all our family and friends behind. Despite having no support system.
We did it because we were afraid for our children's safety if we took them back to South Africa.
Since being in the UK I have noticed that where I live (near Cambridge) is very white. In fact, in some 4 years of doing portrait photography, I have only ever had one black client! But then I realise that I live in a country where white people are not the minority.
So when I commented, "I'd argue that #alllivesmatter" it wasn't an attempt to undermine the very serious issues of racism and the #blacklivesmatter hashtag. I was simply saying, based on my life experience, based on the fact I don't come from a Western World country where whites are the majority, where white people are often the victims of crime perpetrated by black people, that their lives also matter.
Racism isn't just something white people harbour. And not ALL white people are racists. I've encountered many people of colour in my life, or on social media who are clearly racist towards white people or people of other ethnicities. Not all black people are criminals. Which so many white racist people seem to stereotype black people as. Which is why, despite the number of incidents of crime against my family and friends by black people, I am not racist. I understand that to 'hate' or 'judge' an entire ethnic group based on the actions of the few is well, just stupid.
Please don't judge me as racist because I don't care what colour your skin tone is to think that your life matters.
I hate prejudice of any form. It is something that I have worked hard on myself with for the past 10 years.
I can't atone for the actions and decisions for my ancestors. I can attempt to sincerely apologise but I'm not entirely sure how much weight that will have with anyone suffering oppression.
What I can do is try to do better. Is try to raise children who do not harbour or voice prejudice. To try to educate myself and where possible those who are open to listening or distance myself from those whose prejudice doesn't sit well with my morals.
I am sure there are some people who may quote #alllivesmatter in an attempt to undermine the #blacklivesmatter movement, probably folks who are racists. However, we don't rid the world of racism by simply accusing someone else of being racist for having a different life story or view of the world.
What I feel doesn't help in the fight against racism is when those uprising or protesting become violent or turn to crime themselves.
The death of George Floyd and the very graphic footage was likely to turn many racist folks stomachs. Many may well have supported the #blacklivesmatter movement. However, I personally think, if you're trying to make a racist change their views of the world, you don't follow up a horrific murder of a black man by setting fire to shops, offices and peoples homes. You don't kill a retired white policeman during the riots. You don't destroy the very communities you rely on.
I understand that the vast majority of people taking part in the protests both in the US and the UK are doing so peacefully. With anger, rightfully, but they are protesting with their numbers and voices. Then you have those pockets of people who want to instigate violence. It's no different to white football hooligans at stadiums around Europe.
But it's these pockets of people, who then turn many who were sympathetic to the cause away again. Seeing British police, who are unarmed, wearing no protection, many of them black having projectiles thrown at them, punched etc doesn't encourage sympathy to the cause in those who already harbour racist tendencies.
I have seen MANY posts on LinkedIn by black people essentially labelling ALL white people as racists. It seems the irony is lost on these people. Some saying it is the duty of white people to change. Not only themselves but the whole establishment. And yes, I agree, there is a lot of work to be done, but it's work that needs to be done on ALL fronts.
Just like I, as a white man will have a go at people I hear making racist comments, or remove people from my life because of their racist views, black people need to be doing the same with those in the community who harbour racist views towards white people. Those who go out into the streets and perform these acts of violence and lawlessness which many then use to justify their racism.
It makes my work, in trying to get people over their racist views far harder when they are seeing the unnecessary violence and crime some of the protesters are committing.
George Floyd's death needs to be a catalyst for change. Killing in his name isn't honouring the man.
Already what we are hearing the most about on the news, are the riots in the US and the now escalating protests in the UK. George Floyd's name is being forgotten in all this chaos!
So as a homo sapien co inhibitor of this planet, can I urge everyone using terms like 'them' and 'us', or 'you' and 'me' in relation to black/white people. If we are to conquer racism and make real change, 'WE' needs to be the word used.
I honestly and sincerely hope George Floyd's death will not be in vain and that we as societies around the world can start understanding and grasping the concept that we are ONE RACE (check the science).
Old pirates, yes, they rob I Sold I to the merchant ships Minutes after they took I From the bottomless pit But my hand was made strong By the hand of the almighty We forward in this generation Triumphantly
Won't you help to sing These songs of freedom? 'Cause all I ever have Redemption songs Redemption songs
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery None but ourselves can free our minds Have no fear for atomic energy 'Cause none of them can stop the time How long shall they kill our prophets While we stand aside and look? Uh, some say it's just a part of it We've got to fulfill the book
Won't you help to sing These songs of freedom? 'Cause all I ever have Redemption songs Redemption songs Redemption songs
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery None but ourselves can free our minds Oh, have no fear for atomic energy 'Cause none of them can stop the time How long shall they kill our prophets While we stand aside and look? Yes, some say it's just a part of it We've got to fulfill the book
Won't you help to sing These songs of freedom? 'Cause all I ever have Redemption songs All I ever have Redemption songs These songs of freedom? Songs of freedom?