The chaos of whiteness cost Black lives
On Sunday 23 August 2020, a number of people witnessed the shooting of Jacob Blake, some of these witnessed included his own children. One can only (or rather not) imagine the deep-rooted trauma sustained when watching your own parent being shot at and you are rendered powerless to do anything, unable to speak or take action, just in case they might shoot you too. Jacob Blake was yet another unnecessary shooting of a Black person at the hands of a white police officer, there have already been several this year, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Toni McDade and these are the ones we know about. The year 2020 has show that Black death is a state-sponsored affair, from Covid-19 to the already piling police shootings of Black people; Black people across the world are being forced-fed images of our own death or what Teju Cole refers to as death in the browser tab. Our legalised killings has proved that not only is white supremacy a global system of power that functions on chaos, its chaos is powered by annihilating Black life. Admittedly, this is not a new phenomenon. There have been countless Black deaths facilitated to us via technological devices over the last 100 years, from lynchings to political assassinations, racism is a technology that is both ancient and futuristic, that constantly updating itself for the next generation.
In 2014, Patrice Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garzia (three Black queer women) created the hashtag #BLACKLIVESMATTER in response to the unlawful killing of Michael Brown. The creation of this hashtag ignited a global movement that organised to dismantle white supremacy and its foot soldiers: capitalism, imperialism and patriarchy. In 2015, the #rhodesmustfall campaign began in South Africa and caught momentum in the UK and rest of the world, sparking not only debates about the memorialisation of statutes in public spaces, but also the need too #decolonisethecurriculum. Whilst I prefer not to discuss these movements within the linear timeframe they supposedly occurred in because they are both bounded up in decades if not centuries off global Black thought and activism. We cannot ignore how two of the biggest social movements in our current zeitgeist has occurred as a result of Black people challenging white supremacy. Highlighting that Blackness is not only a global diasporic identity connecting African descended people through our shared history of colonialism, but also showing that Blackness exists ahistorically and cuts across temporalities and our transnational collective activism are deeply tied to how our bodies move across space and time, which Gilroy would describe as “[…] the transcultural formation of the Black Atlantic.” What unite these various movements is their demand for justice: the politics of epistemic violence and the politics of state-sponsored-violence. Both are inherently connected, Black Lives Matter because Black knowledge production matters, providing visibility for Black scholarship means providing visibility for Black lives.
In May 2020, the death of George Floyd disrupted the techno cultural flow of whiteness. It was as if white people had “discovered” police brutality for the first time and the last six years of Black Lives Matter existing just simply did not happen. white supremacy is very chaotic this became more and more apparent in how white people reacted to George Floyd’s death. I saw how white people experienced a temporary glitch in their psyches, their previous ability to consume Black death without guilt was compromised. It strange observing white people and whiteness re-orientate within lockdown and being physically being disconnected from other white people watching their collective psychic bonds weaken. I personally believe white people responded with such furore because they were vulnerable, white panic and despair was so heightened with white people re-evaluating how whiteness could possibly work without them physically taking up space, their attention was briefly diverted to something they perceived as being far worse off than them. For many white people they were confronted with a video that lasted for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in content, but really watched 400 years of anti-black racism. In some way, Derek Chauvin (the white officer who killed George Floyd’s) reminded them of all the times they literally and metaphorically strangled the life out of a Black person. Perhaps it was the guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger, shock, that one of their own, (like the countless times before) was so candidly caught committing such a heinous act they needed to distance themselves from that kind of white patriarchal power and lockdown meant there was no unseeing it. George Floyd’s death (and others) consumed all of our technologies devices, we were all confronted confronted daily with Black death, they was no excusing it, un-watching or un-reading of it, the ugliness of racism a stink that would not pass. I like to envision white people have a global whatsapp group for themselves, where they constantly redefine the borders and behaviours of whiteness. I suppose that is how whiteness works, whiteness is a set of psychic bonds that get subconsciously activated in number ways where they decided what the appropriate response should be and how it should always remain in their favour. This time it was collective outrage. A collective outrages so powerful that it was able to colonise Black pain. The coopting of Black trauma galvanised some of the UK’s largest cultural and academic institutions to produce for the first time public statements in support of Black Lives Matter. Many of these institutions wrote about responding to the “moment,” as if it were the first time an “moment” of this kind had happened. Many wrote self deprecatingly statements, that acknowledge a public statement did not concede itself as action, and they had previously been slow in delivering their diversity and inclusion plans but deeper action is required now. They all pledged action to anti-racist work and practices and to better serve Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff, artists and audiences, even though the person/people who died were Black. None of them explained what any of this truly meant or how they would be materialising any of these actions. For instance, inherently racist institutions were making public declarations about actions they should have already been doing. Whilst white supremacy is serious as it is ridiculous, the whole performance felt like a really shit round of charades. white cultural and academic institutions colonising #blacklivesmattter, not only flatten the movement by de-centring Black lives, it also reproduces the politics of the plantation, Black bodies become equated to set of measurable outputs which benefit the same white power structure, a strategy to declare non-committal action, responsibility or accountability for everyday and institutional anti-black racism. The real crux of the matter is, it is near impossible for white people to ever be able to deliver justice for Black people when their entire racial identity and social structures are designed in their favour. How can inherently racist institutions quantify the immeasurable impacts of anti-black-violence into deliverable actions? How can white people even think they could possibly determine what racial equity should be to Black people? Surely that is racist in and of itself?
It needs to be stated that white people dictating racial equality with the absence of Black people is not only insulting, it is an act of epistemic and state-sponsored violence. In light of such fuckuries, I imagined what racial equity would look-like for Black people, along the lines of black-futurist, feminist and speculative thinking. Some of the below demands were dreamed in conjunction with friends, where I asked them, “if you could get reparations what would you want? Please note, it is not an exhaustive list but a starting point to initiative a real conversation about what institutional change and racial equity really means for Black people.
Black Lives Matter: Bitch Better Have My Money Statement
Equitable Power and Accountability
1. All cultural and academic institutions need to produce an anti-black racism action plan and strategy which apologies to every single Black person that has set foot within their institution by accepting how they have perpetuated anti-black violence both consciously and subconsciously. This action plan will holistically compensate (money and therapy) every Black person who has experienced anti-black racism whether they have officially reported it or not.
2. All white directors, senior leadership team, trustees and those with institutional power must resign with the immediate effect of this statement being published. They have proven themselves to be ineffective in dealing with anti-black racism within their respective organisations, they have failed every single Black person that has ever stepped foot in their institution.
3. In light point 2, white directors, senior leadership team, trustees and those with institutional power will not have access to redundancy nor any other form of financial incentives, rewards or gains. All material assets will be seized and redistributed to Black communities in the UK and wider afield, foregrounding Black people who exist in financial precarity due to white supremacy.
4. In light of point 2, all academic and cultural institutions will be led by all Black staff in particularly those of intersectional identities this structure will exist temporarily, whilst transitioning to a flattened, non-hierarchal and equitably distributed with the most excluded group of Black people receiving power in relation to their historical and contemporary marginalisation.
5. If any white directors, senior leaders, trustees want to remain in employment, they will be expected to undertake the labour of those who worked at the very bottom of their institution’s hierarchy, i.e. as cooks, cleaners, waiting staff, invigilators, security and the other forms of precarious employment Black people find themselves in. They will also be expected to undertake this labour for free.
6. The salaries of all white people within the institution will be equitably redistributed amongst Black staff with the acute understanding that who experience the most percauity due to class, gender/ gender identity, immigration status, education, sexuality, disability, afrocentric features and phenotypes and any other indicator of marginalisation will receive the most materially and holistically. We know that many of these groups are not employed and when they are it is in the most precarious and disposable roles.
7. The white people who accept the conditions of the point above, will receive 80% reduction in their salary in order to fund Black people not working. This is to address historical bias of white slave owners receiving compensation for lost of “property,” and how this money enabled these families to build their wealth, whilst those who were enslaved African and their descendent are yet to receive reparations in any form. As an addition, the descendants of slave owners must bequest all funds, assets and material wealth to the families their ancestors enslaved.
Equitable employment and holistic working culture
8. No white person will be hired ever again in any academic or cultural institution to redress how the historic and continuous unemployment of Black people in particularly in cities where there are significantly large non-white populations.
9. The outsourcing of labour will come to an immediate termination with effect of this statement being published.
10. All cultural and academic institutions will provide full employment rights and benefits, lobbying governments and enact holistic equitable employment and working cultures to dismantle capitalist extractive labour practices.
11. Black staff are not expected to work and any form of labour of emotional, intellectual and psychic labour will be duly compensated. Black staff will be allowed to rest and will receive a full-time salary and other financial perks.
12. Cultural and academic institutions will be responsible for providing comfortable, safe accommodation and travel for Black people especially precarious Black people for life. (Requested by Chloe Ayo Deji Filani).
13. All Black people and their descendants will receive lifelong pyscho, somatic and embodied therapies facilitated by Black professional to undo the epigenetically inherited traumas from slavery and colonisation.
14. Cultural and academic institutions will be responsible for maintaining the happiness, health and wellbeing of their Black staff with the understanding of how anti-black racial bias has disproportionately affected the quality of life for Black people. This includes unlimited holidays in particularly when our Vitamin D levels reaches a critical low. As well as those who experienced mensuration will have time off as designed and full assistance as required. (Requested by Chloe Ayo Deji Filani and Dre Ferdinand).
15. All Black trans non cis-gendered people will receive compensated and fully assisted recovery for any surgeries, treatments, services they desire. (Requested by Chloe Ayo Deji Filani).
16. All Black disabled people will receive compensated and fully assisted recovery for any surgeries, treatments, services they desire.
17. The physical layout and pyscho-geography of all cultural and academic institutions will be restructured for fat, larger, disabled and non cis-gendered bodies to comfortably move and navigate within. Communication, the working day and time more generally will be centre how neuro-diverse people understand and process the world.
18. An official day of rest and mourning for Black souls. This is in addition to acknowledgement and tracing (Requested by Dre Ferdinand).
19. FUCK HR.
Dismantling the colonial nation-state and the hostile environment
20. Academic and cultural institutions will not participate in racist monitoring enforced by the Home Office.
21. Cultural and Academic institutions will ensure all Black people who are not British citizens will receive citizenship. Cultural and Academic institutions will successfully lobby the government to end racist immigration laws, borders and the nation state, thus ending notions of citizenships predicated upon racial exclusion and re-directing resources away from white bodies.
22. All cultural and academic institutions whose names denote allegiance to the concept of nationality and the nation states, empire, monarchy and other form of imperialism will be expected to abolish the concepts of these systems of power and redistribute wealth, resources, objects, artefacts and the myriad of other entities that stole from the countries, cultures and communities they colonised and looted. They will also need to apologise for how they benefited from the British Empire.
23. Cultural and Academic institutions will successfully lobby the government to apologise for the existence of the British empire, its crimes, cultural and land theft, displacement, erasure murder and other unfathomable actions that has caused the current demise of Black people, cultures, countries and those in the Global South. The British government will also apologise and pay reparations to all Black peoples affected by the British Empire, colonisation and slavery.
Dismantling white supremacist arts institution and cultural production
24. Cultural, curatorial and artistic produced by dark-skinned Black femmes, who are fat, trans, queer, working class, disabled or marginalised in any other way due to white supremacy will be the only work to be produced, curated or staged, pertaining to those past and present, living and dead.
25. No white artists will be collected, bought or exhibited or taught ever again.
26. white artists and or art movements known to who have culturally appropriated the aesthetics, stylisations of African cultures and people and to have directly and or indirectly profited from Black pain or trauma, representing Black bodies or the absorbing, inferencing of Blackness within their works must bequest all funds, assets and material wealth to the community they have stolen content from, this includes cultural institutions who have celebrated, supported awarded their work in direct or indirect ways.
27. All white curators and cultural producers who have built their careers and expertise off Blackness, anti racism, decolonisation and post-colonialism must step down from their posts and or research and give up their positions to Black curators and or cultural producers, especially women, disabled and LGBTQIA+ people and those with other intersectional identities.
28. Cultural institutions will be opened to white people on Mondays only. Cultural institutions will be closed on Mondays.
29. Cultural institution whose history connected are too slavery and or colonisation must financially, spiritually and culturally compensate the descendants of those communities.
30. All cultural artefacts stolen from the continent of Africa or any place with significant Black population most be returned back with immediate effect along with financial compensation for the spiritual and cultural harm this act of theft caused. If the Black people do not want their cultural object returned back to them for whatever reason, you must still provided financial compensation for the spiritual and cultural harm caused. The white descendants of those who stole the objects (and or their estate) must bequest all funds, assets and material wealth to the community those objects originally belonged to.
31. Cultural institutions that depict, stage, curate any work that is directly or indirectly connected to slavery or colonisation (literally and metaphorically) will remove the work and redistribute funds gained to the descendants of the enslaved. The white descendants of the artists (and or their estate) must bequest all funds, assets and material wealth to the descendants of the enslaved.
32. Cultural institutions will provide free tickets to Black people to ensure equitable cultural engagement.
33. Cultural institutions will financially, strategically and politically resource existing and future Black cultural organisations and institutions.
Dismantling white supremacist academia and knowledge production
34. No white authors will be bought or read ever again.
35. white authors, academics and researchers whose knowledge-producing materials have direct and or indirect anti-black racist content, appropriated the aesthetics, stylisations of African cultures and people, representing Black bodies or the absorbing, inferencing of Blackness within their works and or have directly and or indirectly profited from Black pain or trauma, must all funds, assets and material wealth to the community those ideas originally belonged to. This includes academic institutions who have celebrated, supported awarded their work in direct or indirect ways who most recall these actions and equitably redress Black creators have historically and contemporarily been overlooked.
36. All white academics who have built their careers and expertise off Blackness, anti racism, decolonisation must step down from their posts and or research and give up their positions to Black scholars, especially women, disabled and LGBTQIA+ people and those with other intersectional identities. This point also relates to white Ph.D students.
37. The curriculum, knowledge production will centre the works of Black people. Any literature produced by white authors regardless of its content will be disposed off.
38. All Black young people between the ages of 5 – 18, will receive a free annual trips to any African or Caribbean country of their choice. The trip will be fully compensated, including accommodation and expenses. (Requested by Stella)
39. All Black people can attend any university of their choice for free regardless of their grades or lack of qualification, this is to address the current algorithm that has ruined the chances of some Black (especially working class) student to attend university.
40. All Black people will automatically leave with a first class degree. This is to close the supposed “attainment gap” aka assessment gap aka the racist under marking of Black students. (Requested by Stella)
41. All Black people will have access to any lifelong learning opportunities, free resources and materials, tuition. (Requested by Stella)
42. All universities must redistribute 90% of their profits to alternative Black education provisions rooted in political education.
Abolishment of Cultural and Academic institutions
43. Cultural and academic institutions will work towards abolishing themselves and will be led by Black people across multitude of roles to be told how they need to be reconfigured and centre Blackness as their modem operandi.
44. All national funding body will towards abolishing themselves, disseminate all their funds to Black knowledge centres, scholars, researchers, artists, curators, cultural producers and other people who have previously been denied funds and or institutionally under funded.
45. All Black artists, researchers, academics, curators, cultural producers and or any other individual who produces cultural content will have their own working spaces independent of their homes or living space, will be financed and resourced by academic and cultural institutions taking into consideration those who want to work collectively and or individual.
46. Cultural and academic institutions will actively address the impacts of colonisation and how their appropriations of cultural objects and racist knowledge products informs our current environmental crisis. All institutions will develop anti imperialist environmental strategies and practices funnelling money and resources to those in the Global South most impacted and affected by climate change as result of 500 years of white supremacist extractive capitalism.
47. All white people will have to unlearn, dis-embody the epigenetically learnt entitlement inherited from their ancestors. They will commit to life-long deconstructing of white supremacy within themselves, others and society and actively work towards racial equity and dismantling of white supremacy.
48. Cultural and academic institution will be accomplices to abolish the police, prisons and any other form of state-sponsored-anti-black surveillance culture and policing practices, including the hiring of Black security guards to police their spaces.
49. Cultural and academic institution will act as accomplices to abolish white supremacy.
50. All cultural and academic institutions will stand in solidarity with all oppressed people across the world.