Stop Coining Black Lives Matter a Political Issue

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

A quick google search of the word ‘politics’ will bring up Boris Johnson, COVID-19 or another Conservative party member breaking lockdown restrictions. Defined by the Collins dictionary as “Relating to the way power is achieved and used in a country or society”, the term ‘political issue’ has been repeatedly used to describe the Black Lives Matter movement, but I completely disagree.

I think this use of terminology is doing more harm than good, especially when it comes to educating individuals. Yet, an opinion is an opinion and I was interested to see what other individuals’ thoughts were on the matter.

I spoke with Naomi Amba, a UK-based YouTuber, who believes the UK government has a substantial role to play on the topic of racism.

She feels although BLM isn’t a political issue, politics does have an impact on its’ progression. Amba noted,”We saw plain and simple, the injustice with the Belly Mujinga case. She too was an essential worker yet, nothing has been done for her. Compared with a white police officer, who was also spat on. The person that spat on him, got arrested. What’s the difference between the two?”

Belly Mujinga was a railway ticket office worker who caught the coronavirus and died as a result of being spat at while on duty. Ms Mujinga’s family say she had been forced to work on the concourse despite her respiratory problems. You can read more here and act here.

She adds, “Christopher Kapessa, the young black boy, who was pushed into the river. No one wanted to proceed with this because the white boys, who did this, had a “bright future””. Christopher Kapessa’s family demand a public inquiry into the unjustly death of their 13-year-old boy. You can read more about Christopher Kapessa’s story here and sign the petition for justice here.

Amba states, “Politics plays a massive role, the people in power are doing nothing for Black people [UK], that’s the honest truth. The system wasn’t made to protect us. The system is killing us. The people who are meant to protect us, are killing us.”

A system that’s supposedly built to be a safe space for a community, is leaving countless Black individuals feeling quite the contrary.

Naomi Amba brings some key issues to light, certainly regarding how BLM is seen as a political matter, yet the power lies in the hands of those in government. Boris Johnson has acknowledged the movement with an “I hear you” but what is really being done?

US-based Freelance Writer, Dara Tafakari comments “Anything racial is political in this country. There’s a saying, ‘The personal is political,’ that underscores it for me. I would start with that phrase to better understand it. There’s a good Wiki on it that includes this quote by Prof. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw: ‘This process of recognizing as social and systemic what was formerly perceived as isolated and individual has also characterized the identity politics of African Americans, other people of color, and gays and lesbians, among others.’

Tafakari adds, “Basically, BLM [Black Lives Matter] is highly political because it is seeking to address the social and systemic issues that Black people face, and have faced for years. Those challenges require policy and political power to change the status quo. What I think you consider “politics” is the pejorative sense of the word that connotes an underhanded agenda from a political party.”

Founder of Aaron Wallace, Lina Gadi also shares her views with me on the so-called political denotation.

She tells me, “When you look at other humanitarian causes, you will often find that government inaction (or actions) are central to the issue. This does not make the problem in itself, solely political and I think the danger in labelling it as such is that many people who are turned off from politics will disengage from the problem and from the important conversation, and that is dangerous.

This is a humanitarian crisis and it is a fight for equal rights for Black people. For our human rights to be respected and upheld. The racism we are referring to permeates our everyday existence, it seeps into our experiences at work, in social settings, at school etc. it stretches beyond just politics. It is far bigger than that.”

Opening ourselves and each other up to conversations regarding BLM is how we can come together to educate and make change. But this requires remaining open-minded and neutral.

Lina Gadi has grown tired of educating white people on the topic of racism for good reason, she adds “In the past, the subject of racism has often been met with a huge wall of defence. The assumption being quickly made that they are being labelled as one [racist] and therefore must defend themselves and prove they are not racist.”

I would like to thank Naomi Amba, Dara Tafaraki and Lina Gadi for taking the time to speak to me and give insight for this blog post.

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Illustration drawn by © Carys Jones

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Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.

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