Jess Glynne’s tweets were well intentioned. She did what we’ve been telling so many stars to do over the last few years; stand with us and state explicitly that the systematic murder of black people at the hands of police officers is wrong. Her series of tweets started so well. I balled my hand into a fist, felt it rising into the air. “To the policemen who think they can do whatever they want cause they have a badge…You are truly sick.” Just as my fist touched the sky, high and proud, my eyes skated over the dreaded words #ALLLIVESMATTER A familiar sense of anguish washed over me.
I pulled my fist out the air and lamented how effective three words were at erasing the grief black people were collectively suffering on Twitter that day. From Glynne’s perspective, and that off the proponents of All Lives Matter, the statement is an immutable fact. From the perspective of black people, especially those of us in Britain who know the only reason the only reason we do not die at the hands of law enforcement at the same staggering rate as our brothers and sisters in America is because of our tight gun control, the idea All Lives Matter is just that- an idea. A myth if you will. A lie if you must. Jess Glynne sharing that untruth with her quarter million followers on a day when we voicing our pain, frustration and anger was an act of unconscious erasure.
Imagine for a minute a car has a flat tyre (it was unarmed and shot by the police). This flat tyre represents #BlackLivesMatter. In this analogy #AllLivesMatter works by shouting “ALL TYRES MATTER!” at the flat tyre. #AllLivesMatter proceeds to replace all the other tyres, ignoring the flat one then tries to drive the car wondering why the flat tyre isn’t operating like the others.
Almost in frustration and under duress, Jess Glynne caved and finally stated #BlackLivesMatter after being read for filth but it was clear she didn’t fully understand why people were hurt. “All you naive people need to shush and read what I've said. Enough hate!” We read what you said, Miss Glynne, that’s the whole problem. Like with Justin Timberlake, the irony lies in the fact that it is Miss Glynne who is naïve. As a white woman who is clearly heavily influenced by black music and culture her reluctance to, in that first instance, state emphatically that #BlackLivesMatter is galling. You could almost hear the “Oh.My.God! Fine! Black Lives Matter! You happy? There! I said it!” And don’t misunderstand me, I don’t need any celebrity to say it because I say it everyday. I live it everyday. I am underlining that singing a genre of music that would otherwise not exist without black people and using the slogan that was created to silence our calls for justice and equality is an act so audacious, it beggars belief. After a 48 hour period which saw 2 black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, murdered by police, if you're going to support us, say it with your chest! It's like there's almost a level of shame attached with acknowledging black lives are worth something.
Glynne has since (kinda) apologised “My sentiment came from the heart and was in no way meant to be disrespectful to anyone. No one’s struggle should be belittled, ignored, downplayed or made to feel less important.” Okay, sis. I’m glad we could come to an understanding. It’s a shame we had to go through all this but I'm happy we got here.
There is a pervasive school of thought that questions whether #BlackLivesMatter’s tactics are counterproductive. This article on The Toronto Sun’s website (as discussed on this week’s The Read) suggests that #BlackLivesMatter is “creating divisions.” Could it be possible that by pouncing on every and all opportunity to correct those who use the wrong hashtag is stoking fear in those who could help us by stopping them from coming forward and lending their voice to our cause in the future?
Listen. If being corrected by black people about #BlackLivesMatter scares you into silence, you never really wanted to support our cause. You aint bout this life. In the words of the Right Honourable Prophet Jesse Williams, it is not the duty of the brutalised to comfort the bystander. We are telling you that #BlackLivesMatter and any attempts by you to adjust our narrative to appease your delicate sensibilities is a wilful act of first sabotage and second erasure. We are grieving and trying to understand how to function in a system that hates us. Either stand up fully, say it loud and proud BLACK.LIVES.MATTER or stand aside. And do it quickly too, we’re tired of telling you.
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