10 (More) Habits of Someone Who Doesn’t Know They’re Anti-Black
In May 2020, I channelled my rage over the unlawful murder of George Floyd into a blog post entitled 10 Habits of Someone Who Doesn’t Know They’re Anti-Black. While many companies were posting Black squares and writing performative ‘solidarity’ statements, anti-Black microaggressions continued, unchecked, within their (virtual) walls. Companies and media outlets jumped on a pivotal and galvanizing socio-political moment to seem ‘woke’ without first addressing their complicity in white supremacy.
While there has been an uptick in anti-racism training and bookshops across the country are still selling out of their books by Black authors, the mainstream focus on Black Lives Matter quickly petered out.
The sparkly new anti-racism initiatives that suddenly got funded (and let’s be real, were probably suggested by Black women a decade ago) may go some way to helping Black folks, but are unsustainable if they address neither institutional racism nor individual anti-Black bias.
Even the most well-intentioned allies are still beholden to white supremacy and, when their comfort is destabilized, fall quickly back into the anti-Black narratives they have been taught. You may be spearheading a marketing campaign with more diverse models, organizing an anti-racism workshop for your team, or offering free tickets to Black folks as reparations and yet… You are probably still anti-Black.
Here are ten (more) habits of someone who doesn’t know they’re anti-Black:
1. You refer to Black Lives Matter as a cultural moment
In reflecting on the previous year, many remembered the murder of George Floyd as a tragedy that exacerbated existing 2020-esque trauma. Some, however, remembered it as a ‘cultural moment’, like CNN who slotted the Black Lives Matter protests in alongside ‘Megxit’ and viral Instagram trends
The Black Lives Matter movement will turn 8 this year. The movement for Black life – as in, activism and advocacy that confronts the injustices that Black people have always faced – is literally centuries old. Abolitionists, civil rights leaders, Black Panthers, the Combahee River Collective were all saying "Black lives matter" through different words and actions.
BLM is not an event. The murder of George Floyd is not a pop culture reference to "throwback" to as we reflect on 2020. Certainly, a stunning and unprecedented explosion of support for BLM and mainstream outrage in response to police brutality occurred this summer. Yet to refer to that as an "event" or “moment” confirms what every Black activist feared: You've already moved on.
2. You show up for rallies and not blockades
In June 2020, I braved the outdoors for the first time in months to attend a protest in downtown Vancouver. Over 10,000 people attended - it was incredible. I felt proud of my fellow citizens.
Yet something felt weird about it. A combination of the people spending more time taking selfies than listening to the speakers and others carrying pink, glittery ‘BLM’ balloons really rubbed me the wrong way.
The frustration really kicked in when another protest was announced later that same month. This protest was a blockade fighting for specific and tangible demands that planned to shut down the Georgia Viaduct - the bridge that caused the displacement of Vancouver’s Black community. The peaceful blockade went on for several days and at its highest was around 100 people and at its lowest just a dozen.
What happened to the crowds of 10,000? You really begin to lose hope in allyship when it turns out to be just as performative as you predicted.
3. You compare Black Lives Matter protestors to white supremacists
Currently, white supremacists are storming the Capitol in Washington D.C., angry that their leader has been legally and democratically replaced.
The contrast between police tactics towards this group versus police violence towards Black Lives Matter activists is immediately transparent. As flagrant acts of domestic terrorism occur in broad daylight, it is impossible to forget how many Black and brown activists are arrested, put in choke-holds and killed for simply defending their human rights. The same perpetrators stand by as their friends storm government buildings.
However, it is important to make the distinction that Black Lives Matter protestors should not be compared to angry white supremacists. This conflation implies that both groups are fighting for different types of justice - they are not.
“We are fighting for humanity and equity. They are fighting for absolute power and dominance,” says Monique Melton.
4. You don’t fight for ALL Black people
Intersectionality or bust.
My affinity and admiration for the Black Lives Matter movement stems from its role as a pivotal turning point in Black activism – from activism that centred Black cisgender men, to a global, intersectional, diverse Black liberation movement. Finding a space to be both Black and queer was essential to me - so much so that I did a TEDTalk on it.
The 2015 article by Brandon E. Patterson, Why You Can’t Be Pro-Black and Homophobic at the Same Time is still just as relevant today. Although directed at the Black community, the article’s message is universal. You cannot leave out Black people who are women, LGBTQ2S+, disabled, poor, neurodivergent, immigrant, from your activism.
5. Your support for Black lives ends in North America
While the Black Lives Matter movement and many of the more well-known Black liberation groups and leaders are US-based, Black people exist all over the world. Furthermore, anti-Blackness is a global phenomenon. Historical projects of anti-Blackness like slavery and colonization in fact required the convergence of many European and non-European nations.
Many of us (myself included) need to work on de-centring America from our conversations about Blackness (and many other things). While African Americans have many important contributions to Black culture, scholarship and activism, this narrow lens means we exclu