A Reflection on the Rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement
There is not in the world one single poor
lynched bastard, one poor tortured man,
in whom I am not also murdered and humiliated.
– Aimé Césaire, Et les chiens se taisaient
On May 7th of this year, I was sitting in Kronenburgerpark reading Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks when I came across this quote from Césaire. These words hit me like a thunderbolt, as on the very same morning, I learned of the death of Ahmaud Arbery. I did not watch that dreadful video, I could not bear it. The only thing I saw was his face, the face of a beautiful, smiling, black man, whose life was taken in such a cruel manner. A cruelty that has been plaguing this world for so long that I cannot comprehend it anymore.
On that day, George Floyd had eighteen days left to live, eighteen days before the world was shook, woken up and stood up to say “no more.” I was already mourning, there was no need for me to wake up. I have experienced racism since I was a child; this was no news for me. It was a beautiful and saddening thing to see all the people around me suddenly caring, suddenly seeing how bad things actually are and to see them trying to make themselves and the world just a little better. It was beautiful because finally, people stopped ignoring reality. At the same time, it was saddening to me because I felt like everyone treaded so carefully, so hesitantly. I felt like I had been screaming on the inside for all my life and now that others finally heard me, it wasn’t enough. Because how riveting it must be to learn about racism, instead of experiencing it. To one day realise that there are racial divides and that not everyone is treated equally, even though you view everyone as equal. I was raised with all this knowledge within me, it was cast upon me by the society I grew up in. I am the minority and that has always been very clear to me.
After George Floyd’s death there was a call to action. Black people from all over the world had had enough, we have had enough for a long time. Protests erupted all over the world, with America as its epicentre. What I saw happening in America was beautiful to me. I saw people in the streets in great numbers, all bound together by the thing that had made them a target since birth, showing the world that they have had enough. The speeches, the marches, the chants, the riots; it was beautiful to me. I wished I could go out into the streets and scream, be angry, destroy things, find an outlet for all these emotions boiling inside of me. When I shared this, I had people trying to argue with me that violence is never good and that the protests would be more successful without the rioting. All I had to say was “white man, sit down.” You have no right to speak on black feelings, no right to tell us how we should deal with the fact that we’ve been continually marginalised since the day we took our first breath.
To feel like I could do something that mattered, I joined the Black Lives Matter protest here in Nijmegen. I opened the protest with a poem I wrote, talking about all my feelings around the matter. It was so beautiful to be up on that stage and see all these people that came out to say firmly that my life matters, that my brother’s and sister’s lives matter. To shout with my people, to stand for my right to live, to say “we are here and we aren’t going anywhere.” I feel like that day was the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement for a lot of people around me. After that, people started quieting down. Social media went back to its regularly scheduled program, protests became fewer and fewer; the Black Lives Matter movement had its fifteen minutes of fame in the Netherlands and was ready to quiet down. This was disheartening for me to see, as I live with it every day; not a day goes by where I don’t think of my race and the oppression of my people. But the trend was over, people wanted to move on. And I was tired. After months of having to be strong, having to educate the people around me, having to act like the voice for an entire race; I was tired. Forgive me, I am only human.
And now here we are, the end of August. The protests are still going in America, but what changes have been made? Have the protests been “successful”? All I can say is that a civil rights movement is a lengthy one, it is not just one single moment. It’s not just slavery, or apartheid, or lynching, or Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and so many that are regretfully to follow. The mind is not decolonized in a day. The world will not change in a day. All I can say is that I will keep fighting and I hope others join along the way, so that one day there will be a world where little black kids don’t have to fear for their lives. So that one day I will no longer be used to seeing black people get killed for being black. And simply because Black Lives Matter.