As a white man, I cannot begin to comprehend the anger that has been simmering within the black community. While there has been an obvious shift from the derogatory racism that we have seen in the past, we're still a world that is in need of progression on the subject of race.
Certain outlets have been fronting the dangers of anarchy. While some of these outlets are responsible for the systemic racism that is faced within today's society, they do raise a valid concern. The Edward Colston statue should have been taken down years ago but that doesn't mean it should have been destroyed in the way that it was.
These thoughts were shared by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, and, while he took some criticism for saying it aloud, his sentiments were fair and sensible. Acts of vandalism and violence may be supported by the Far Left, but they may incite a forceful response from the Far Right. According to a YouGov poll, only 1 in 3 people wanted the statue to remain standing. Personally, that's 1 in 3 too many but it does show that the majority did not care for the statue, only the manner in which it was destroyed.
The Black Lives Matter movement is reaching huge numbers on social media. Petitions are being signed, money is being raised and people are more people are talking openly about this uncomfortable topic. People are gathering in their numbers and peacefully protesting. While that may go against the social distancing guidelines, it is difficult to argue their right to protest when beaches in the UK have been packed to the rafters.
There is so much emotion within this movement and emotion is difficult to contain. Many black people have felt racial injustices, themselves, or seen their family suffer from it. It had become the status quo. Society has come along way since the 1970s, a period where people were openly racist and didn't think anything of it. Now, there are more opportunities for ethnic minorities and people do think about what they say more clearly.
We are in an era of populism and that means there are a lot of Right-wing thinkers with less sympathy to protests from the Left. However, that won't be everybody on the Right. Referring back to that YouGov poll, 14% of people were undecided on what they thought about the Colson statue incident. Those that are undecided during this time represent people who could help sway the momentum on the need to confront systemic racism.
Like it or not, the majority of the population need to be on-side with this or we could be at risk civil war. Violence and anarchy on the streets. Far Left versus Far Right. Black people are fighting for a genuine cause. It is difficult to be heard amidst populism but the answer is never to stoop to the level of the Far Right. Looting, vandalism and forms of violence will not endear them to those that do not believe in their movement.
It might be a minority of the minority who are partaking in these actions but that is something an activist like Tommy Robinson would thrive on. The opportunity to reinvigorate his narrative of hatred against a community. Spurred on by his supporters, Robinson would portray himself as a vigilante and his opposition movement may gain traction once again. At that point, confused white people are offered two choices: side with their "own" or side with a different community.
To many, the choice is quite obvious. Many people have their eyes wide open and are striving to make society a better and more equal place for everybody. However, not everybody has had the privilege, and I hesitate to use that word, of seeing the world for what it is. Their understanding is formed from what they have heard.
Walking a tightrope
It's a really tough situation, especially tough for Boris Johnson. Many believe that the Prime Minister is a racist and Johnson will want to lose that tag. At the same time, he doesn't want to look like he's passively allowing a community to rise above the law. A penny for his thoughts right now!
My message to the black community would be to not give their enemies a chance to burn them. Kill them with common sense. Kill them with honest debate. Kill them with the truth. Of course, a powerful argument would be that they aren't given enough opportunities to do this.
The media must give a platform to minorities because, otherwise, many people will only be hearing negative stories and views about them. In fact, the very lack of transparency on the black community is probably the reason why some people will not condemn these recent lawless acts. They're sick of being talked down to and they're sick of being ignored. Violence and aggression is not the solution but it comes when voices continuously fall on deaf ears.
Nonetheless, as Michelle Obama once said: "When they go low, we go high." These words remain as true in these times as they ever have. Attitudes will not shift overnight but there is no quick fix without unleashing chaos. Persistence and patience is absolutely vital in order to never lose sight of what is right, and what is wrong, in the pursuit for the greater good.