Monday, June 8, 2020

A Freedom Worth Fighting For

Soooo...I guess it’s been a while! How’ve you been? This is a bit awkward, isn’t it? I should probably explain where the hell we’ve been. 

As we travelled back to the UK last year, started to make our home in Wales and get down to the serious business of growing food, my focus on addiction and how it’s affected me seemed to shift. It no longer occupied my every thought, my priorities were changing, and The Freedom Junkies blog just kind of got left by the wayside. Or got put in a box and packed away into the loft and left to gather some serious dust. Metaphorically speaking of course. There’s no loft in the van. That’d be cool though... 

There’s something else that happened as the fog of addiction lifted. I started to see the world again. And not just see it, but start to engage with and care about what was going on in it in a way that I haven’t in a really long time, if ever. Right now, I really fucking care about what’s happening in the world, though it can be hard to interact with it from a van in a field in the middle of deepest darkest Pembrokeshire. But even from here I can see that since the death of George Floyd on 25th May, something has shifted. People have been protesting this shit (and by shit I do mean white supremacy and systemic racism, just so’s we’re clear) for generations, and the feeling of refusing to lie down and take it any more is palpable. 

I want to play my part in bringing about real change. This week I’ve learnt that I’ve got a lotta learning to do. I want to share what I’m learning with other white folks who might find it useful on the anti-racist journey we all need to be on. I’ve got a lot of listening to do. I want to amplify the voices of those I am listening to. 

White people, we need to be talking to other white people about racism. I chose to resurrect The Freedom Junkies and make a blog post about this so that it can be a conscious choice for people to read if they want to, rather than a social media post that takes up space that could be used to share a Black person’s voice. 

This week I’ve taken part in in the #amplifymelanatedvoices challenge on instagram started by Alishia McCullough (@blackandembodied). The aim was to mute the white content creators you follow on social media, and take the time to amplify Black and Brown voices. I chose to do this by reposting content created by Black-led projects and Black creators (mostly women), in areas that I have previously been engaged with, such as feminism, environmentalism, and anarchism. During this week I’ve made a conscious effort to step back and be quiet, to listen and share. 

Before I get into it, I want to acknowledge a few things. Firstly, I recognise that sharing posts on social media is not going to change anything, that it’s actually pretty passive and far from being enough. As someone who lives in the middle of nowhere who’s financially a bit fucked right now, protests and donations are not possible for me at the moment, and I wanted to do ‘something’. However, I think keeping quiet this week was a mistake. It started out as giving space, but my fear of speaking over meant that in a few cases I didn’t speak up. This is not just unhelpful, it puts the labour of difficult conversations back onto the people who are being affected by racism. I’ve taken that on board and reached out and started those conversations now. It’s unpleasant and frustrating and I’m tired of it already and it’s only been one day of communication. Multiply that by a lifetime, and we start to see the ways that racism kills that’s not just bullets and batons. 

Secondly, I am embarrassingly late. My engagement with intersectional feminism meant that I ‘knew’ this was a problem, and thought that knowledge was enough. It is not. Ally is a verb. And in case we need reminding, verbs are ‘doing’ words. And if what we are ‘doing’ is congratulating yourself on how we know shit, but we’re not changing shit, then we’re not doing shit. So, with that in mind, here’s a few things I’ve learnt this week: 

  • I realised that the majority of activists and ‘influencers’ I follow are white - I had to mute a lot of people. 
  • Muting white voices on Instagram has made it a completely different place than my Facebook feed. In just a short time ‘business as usual’ has returned to Facebook. Anti-racist work IS ‘business as usual’ for all the voices I’m now exclusively exposed to on Instagram, and it never stops. 
  • Nothing terrible has happened because there are less white faces in my feed. I haven’t noticed a lack of voices speaking about the things I’m interested in, because now I’m following Black people in those areas instead, and it’s all still getting being discussed. 
  • I previously considered myself pretty ‘active’, in that I found people to follow and curated my feed so I was exposed to a variety of views and learnt about things that interested me. But I realise I’ve been very passive, absorbing information but not amplifying and sharing it. I had to learn how to repost for this challenge. Likes are not enough. 
  • Acknowledging that someone else has said a thing better than you can is hard. Directing people to the source of the sentiment I want to share has highlighted how much I learn from others, and how I don’t give credit enough. 
  • The amplifying of voices, sharing and cross promotion of people within the Black community is beautiful and inspiring. I’ve seen so many women using their platform to lift up and raise awareness for other women. 
  • There are massive holes in my ‘activism’. The things I’m interested in - feminism, environmentalism, anarchism - all have Black and Brown voices that I’m not hearing because of all the white noise. Having those voices come through has brought more depth to these topics. 
  • There’s no such thing as single issue fights - everything is connected. Standing in solidarity with this movement does not distract from the others, it moves all movements forward. 
  • I’m starting to realise how many different ways there are to say ‘all lives matter’. No matter how we phrase it, if this is what we are saying then it is a problem. 
  • Muting white posters and listening to Black people has made me realise this is ongoing, never-ending, show-up-every-day-and-do-better work. As a white person I have a huge amount of unlearning and relearning to do. It starts with the individual and it’s the responsibility of white people to do the work. 

My dream of starting a land-based eco-project is all about trying to create a better world. That new world is only worth creating if we make a conscious effort to not bring the discrimination and oppression of this world with us. During this week I’ve come to realise that there’s a lot of work to do within myself first. If anyone else is starting on this journey and wants to chat, I’d like that. When I make mistakes please tell me. Let’s do better and hold each other accountable.

Here's a list of some of the resources that I am using:
Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge
Me And White Supremacy - Layla Saad


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