Politics and Feminism
Indifference causes as equal damage as racism. The bad guys are racist, the good guys are naïve and condescending. Black Lives Matter!!
Police brutality has always existed. But this movement really started with the death of George Floyd by police brutality and the consequent protests all over United States. So much cruelty against a human being shocked me. Not only because I saw black people being harassed, discriminated and murdered on the news, several times. But also because this time I made the exercise to look at my own experience, as a person with an Hispanic background, but regardless of this, as a person with privilege.
Privilege is when you think, or better, when you know, that a situation does not affect you because you are not directly involved. White privilege is even worse, because it involves racism, it also involves bias against another person, usually a person of a different race.
The world privilege scares the hell out of me, because I am not indifferent. Because I cared and I felt blessed whenever I had the opportunity to help racial and other minorities through my job as a justice officer for the Colombian and Australian Government. Because I still care. A lot. But I must accept, we must accept, that if we are not black, if we are not part of other racial or gender minorities like the LGBTQI community and/or if we are not a refugee, for example, we are definitely privileged.
I grew up in Colombia. You all must think (correctly) that must of us are of a mixed race. You must think that white, black, indigenous and mestizos live together, happily, sharing the land and resources, as short as they are. That our problems of violence must only be originated by different causes. That corruption is what it is eating the country, and no racial matters are seriously enough to be considered, because white people are really the minority in Colombia.
Thinking in retrospective I grew up in a very racially-homogeneous situation. I only realised there were no black people in my neighbourhood or school when I started university at 17 years old and there was only one black student from another city. It startled me. Where the hell where the Afro-Colombian students? After I finished law school in Colombia I went to New York to study English. Leaving in Queens and working as a shop assistant in Manhattan made me aware of the racial richness I was missing out. I was happy to live in such a multicultural and multiracial city. Once at lunch, a group of young black people were talking about a white manager who offended one of them. One girl in the group told her friend to stop talking thinking I was white. In my naivety I didn’t understand why he couldn’t speak, but I clarified that I was of Hispanic background and they relaxed. I shouldn’t had let it pass. I should have asked if someone needed my help, or my moral support, I should have asked how could I help. I was still learning the language but the hell with it, even with signs I should have made my support understood.
When I came back to Colombia from Spain where I got my masters’ I was determined to make change. There, I studied the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and African history. I was disgusted with the world and with my own blindness. But instead the conservative society that got me back didn’t really appreciate my opinions. Everybody felt accused, instead of included in the conversation. ‘I love my black nanny’, or ‘my caddy is black’, or ‘the lady who cleans my house is black’, therefore, I am not racist. They didn’t realise, as many people in Colombia, that this is racism, and classism, at its purest. It broke my heart when I acknowledged that besides the caddies and nannies and cleaners, most of the Afro-Colombian population is concentrated in Choco, the poorest administrative department of the country. There, the food sent by the Central Government had sometimes been given to feed the pigs in farms, instead of reaching the hungry children.
Luckily, through my job with refugees I canalised my desire to be of help. But again my naivety played its part. A lot of Africans where entering the country to seek asylum. There were programs in place, from giving visas, to support with education, health and shelter. But most of them didn’t want to stay in the country. They wanted to go to United States. I was furious. Why wouldn’t they like to stay in Colombia? The answer was that they didn’t feel welcome. They were still part of the outskirts and this was never going to change. ‘The American Dream’ was their only objective. Basically all of them left, seeking a better life for them and their children. Sitting today writing this, I fear for them, I fear for those lives they wanted to improve, I fear for their children.
But I also feel relief, because the great opportunity to support the end of racism has come along. It is now!. I might not be on the streets, but I am committed, to ‘listen, learn and take action’. I will keep writing on this issues, I will educate myself better, I will educate my kids to be inclusive. This is the moment to speak out, for me, for all of us. The wave that have created this rage cannot stop now. it cannot decrease. I won’t stay silent no more. I won’t keep quiet no more. Black Lives Matter!