Are you willing to become an ally to the black cause?

“Dear White People”

My name is Yasmina F. Edwards. I am a French American woman of Nigerian descent. I have been living in the US for the past 20 years. I am angry and I am fed up!

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Since the release of a video where George Floyd was killed by a white police officer (with the assistance of his colleagues), we have experienced an uprising in many American cities. In seeking to unpack my emotional vocabulary in relation to this occurrence, I have been mostly sharing my pain (and my outrage) with my black friends. Only two white friends have openly had a conversation with me about systemic racism in the US.

As a privileged black woman who was educated in both France and America, I have worked behind the scenes for years, fighting on behalf of activists and journalists advocating against police brutality both in France and America. I have had a front row seat to the repercussions of standing for justice and truth. Furthermore, I have had my fair share of encounters with the many “Amy Coopers” of corporate America. NYTIMES amy-cooper

As we seek to press on and find a redemptive solution to the recurring senseless violence and brutal killings of countless black men and women, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some important perspectives that need to be shared and taught particularly in relation to Black Lives and why they matter.

Contrary to popular belief, our history and future does not begin and end when we were forcibly dragged like cargo over the seas and when we finally witnessed “independence.” Our identity, like yours, begins with centuries of rich culture, and we share a common ambition for preserving our human dignity and creating inter generational heritage. See BBC article titled: Africa’s best kept secrets — its history

In the wake of the restlessness that has characterized our present socioeconomic reality, we, as leaders and as people, need to understand that things don’t just fall apart.

In America alone, we have seen so many traumatic occurrences that they were bound to result in political and social unrest. It is one thing to recognize this, but it is becoming more evident that we black and you whites have not adequately dealt with this pain.

From a black perspective, I believe we have been so scarred by these occurrences that, as a result, the hope, change and hashtags are now falling on deaf ears. This is happening because of our inter generational trauma, and also because of your — I am speaking to you my dear white friends — denialism and lack of empathy. As Marie Curie once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

It is in this context that I strongly believe a key start to challenging systemic racism is to acknowledge where you whites have been in denial:

1. STOP DENYING THE IMPACT OF POLICE BRUTALITY ON BLACK HOME LIFE

It is my deep belief that strong, healthy and sustainable societies are built in the home. In fact, a study by the American Institute of Family Studies found that children are most likely to thrive — socially, emotionally, and economically — when they enjoy the shelter and stability of a balanced family. A recent Aljazeera feature on the impact of police brutality on the lives of family members who lost loved ones sheds some light on this reality.

2. STOP DENYING THE IMBALANCE OF POWER STRUCTURE IN WHICH AMERICA STANDS

The plight of black Americans in their pursuit for socioeconomic legitimacy — a legitimacy we deserve — should not be an issue that only blacks deal with. Please stop compartmentalizing our hurts and acting as if it will not affect you. In order to fully understand the black journey for social and political emancipation — a journey I believe we are still on — you will need to delve deeper into issues of power and representation that have formed (and continue to form) the bone structure on which America stands.

3. STOP DENYING THAT YOU LOVE OUR CULTURE MORE THAN YOU LOVE OUR LIVES

The French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault put it so well when he said: “What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals, or to life. That art is something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists. But couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?”

This quote is a powerful encapsulation of the problematic nature of how you tend to interact with black culture. In seeking to know more so we can do better, I urge you to please apply sensitive caution to the power and impact of how we talk about and represent black people and what they do.

In the same way that power, in particular, economic power — both as a concept and as a social construct — has been central in reinforcing institutions such as patriarchy by its ability to endorse men as viable (and worthy) participants in the mainstream economy, blind white privilege (in its basic nature as a ticket for legitimacy) plays a role in exacerbating perspectives around power that we have worked and fought so hard to dismantle.

4. STOP DENYING THE SOCIOECONOMIC COST OF MISREPRESENTATION

The media plays such an integral role in society that we cannot assess and make recommendations about the landscape without looking at the roles of power and cultural hegemony. We need to vehemently oppose content that continues to entrench stereotypes around the male body as a symbol of violence, crime and anarchy.

You need to help play your part, whether it be through your ownership of a production house or in your capacity as a content producer, audience member, in representing healthy and positive intercultural representations of black people living within a multicultural society without over-venerating whiteness at the expense of annihilating blackness.

In order to FIGHT against Injustice and Police Brutality I am asking YOU to address your denialisms and become OUR ALLY.

As a start, many of us have been making collective efforts to donate towards funding racial justice. Here are a few incredible organizations we can support collectively:

1. George Floyd memorial fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

2. Minnesota Freedom Fund: https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/

3. Black Visions Collective: https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/

4. Reclaim the Block: https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/home

5. Campaign Zero: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/

6. Unicorn Riot: https://unicornriot.ninja/

7. Northside achievement zone : https://northsideachievement.org/join-us/donate/

Additional references

· https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-majority-of-us-children-still-live-in-two-parent-families

· https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/families-african-americans-killed-police-talk-trauma-191122063150679.html

WRITTEN BY

Yasmina F. Edwards

Founder of EGMNY- WEBSITE

Follow her on Instagram @yasminafedwards

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