COMMENT: Why we should all feel that Black Lives Matter

Sharlie Morais on the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in the US – and why we should all care in the UK.

People protest outside West Midlands Police headquarters
People protest outside West Midlands Police headquarters

Wow, I have never felt so empowered to be so honest in an article regardless of who I may offend.

In my previous articles I would pussy-foot around my truth, delete sentences thinking ‘oh, they might not allow me the opportunity if I address sensitive topics and talk about certain behaviour’, writes Sharlie Morais.

Well today I am compelled to just write with my heart, and say it with my chest! What will be will be, right?

I just have to get straight into it, I can’t build this article.

Sharlie Morais

Two things stand out to me on the topic of Black Lives Matter and I want to address those in this article.

Point one: I hear a few people saying ‘what is protesting and blackout Tuesday on social media going to do, what’s the point?’ Well this is going to take me a few seconds to answer!

Think about all the huge changes to humanity that have happened over the decades. Do you think the government officials woke up one day and simply had a change of heart? Do you think one day they all just decided “you know what, we’re bored of slavery, let’s make it illegal?” Do you think one day they decided “you know what I’m bored of just seeing my wife at home, let’s have equal rights?”

No! No is the answer, this was all through pressure from the people.

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Protesting taken place and people risked their lives to stand for something to promote change.

I have tears in my eyes as I write this and think my people protested for equal rights so that I can be the best I can be in my life.

So please don’t look at protestors as time-wasters, it’s done more for you than you can ever imagine. Social media has helped save lives, so don’t think “it’s pointless” - apply pressure, we will not be ignored. They can try, but we won’t be ignored.

Point two: The most frustrating is “but this situation happened in the US, not here”.

For those people who feel this way you need to educate yourself. We feel this through our veins, our blood is boiling from what happened to George Floyd.

Why? you ask. Because it’s alive and living here in the UK. Racism isn’t spreading like a wild fire, it’s been a wild fire and just hasn’t stopped burning.

Strong messages displayed during Thursday's Black Lives Matter event in Birmingham

The UK are up there rubbing shoulders with the U.S. Armed with guns or not, the UK are armed through other means that can equally destroy us!

You don’t think there is police brutality based on racism in the UK?

You don’t think that black people have been targeted based on our colour from every social level, the poorest to the richest?

Stop being sheltered if this is the way you think, speak to us and find out, we have stories to tell you I promise you.

You might say to yourself “but I’m not racist, I don’t see colour”, but unfortunately we need you to see colour because otherwise you’re blind to what’s happening around you. You need to realise colour of skin is getting people killed, abused, belittled, the lesser jobs. You need to see this is real and it’s happening around you.

People marching down Colmore Row during a Black Lives Matter protest rally

I’m from a huge family of strong beautiful black women and a lot of black males. I worry. I worry that their interactions when addressing a situation will be labelled as aggressive and confrontational. Nothing is worse than being told to “calm down” or “cut the attitude” when you’re being completely neutral, but that’s the go to comment served to a black person who merely disagrees. These are terms that are used to trigger black people, ignite the defence.

Let me tell you my opinion on how it feels as a black person. We have a voice, freedom of speech and all of that, but don’t use it too much, don’t be too loud, don’t go against the wind and if you get to a certain level “conform”. Ever watched Django? The character played by Samuel Jackson springs to mind.

I love other cultures embracing the black culture, it’s a beautiful thing. But you can’t take some and not everything. Stand up to racism with us. I embrace other cultures and I will stand up alongside, if they were under attack.

But that’s not hard why should we even be telling you to support us?? If this were animal cruelty the person(s) would be publicly torn apart, no questions. The recent Netflix show about a young man who murdered cats was an outrage, and rightly so, people were catching flights travelling for miles to find him. Black lives matter on the other hand is so misunderstood, but why? - it’s simple! You defend your dogs quicker with no certainty “it won’t bite, it won’t bite”, well neither will we, stand up for us!

Come on, protect us like you protect your dogs and cats. After all we score goals for you, we shoot hoops for you, entertain your days out at Wimbledon. Musically and comically entertain you, the list is endless, so stand with us in the UK and stop hiding behind your cups of teas.

I have experiences of racial inequality. I have been treated a certain way and I haven’t yet opened my mouth. I haven’t laid out my CV, yet I have been judged.

From a young age we as black people have been trained, some subconsciously.

It is so imbedded in the UK we have learned to adapt. We have learned to adapt who we are. I have been trained by my parents how to operate to avoid my skin colour causing me a problem, yet sometimes it’s unavoidable.

Trained to remember black will put you steps behind a white person with equal or less ability. We have been trained to be aware that some teachers only see us as loud and thick with no futures.

We have been trained that we have to give 200 per cent at an interview because our colour has already knocked a few points off. We have been trained that some police officers already think we are criminals when they look at us, and stop us based on colour assumption. We have been trained that when we walk into a shop to take a hat off or take our hands out our pockets because our colour has already made us look suspicious. We have been trained to never forget that our passion and assertiveness is seen as aggressive and intimidating.

This is real life and this, above is why is “white privilege” is a tiny example of ‘white privilege’ exists, it’s the act of doing something without fear of your colour being a negative factor.

People joined the protest to show solidarity

On my social media I only choose to empower black people and this is not because I don’t love other races, because I do. It’s because we are already at a disadvantage in the world I need to lift my people we are the public enemy number 1.

Nowadays there are opportunities aimed at minority groups. I can’t help but feel upset at this. Yes these opportunities are a step forward. But take that thought a little deeper. Remember why the opportunities are so focused now, and why we need to fill in the equality forms on applications. There’s a time when we were not given a look in and now Mr/Mrs Human Resources in the company needs to make sure we do, or at least manage the flow.

I’ve heard so much institutional racism, And not said a thing. I remember overhearing a conversation of a male politician say a black politician was going to try get the black people vote. I was disgusted, and thought but why not?

I have a voice and I will be using it from this day forward.

I often hear people say “but slavery days was over along time ago, things are so much better”.

I’m 34 and never lived in slavery days so this is the the new age slavery in my eyes. Difference is, you whip me I fight back.

Black men are being killed and abused and it’s hurting us all. Let’s not forget who birthed these men, let’s not forget the sisters, the girlfriends the wives. Let’s not forget it’s happening to black women.

We black women love hard, I repeat we black women love hard and our hearts are breaking the stress, worry and fears are killing us.

We black women often face racism in the place we are trying to progress - WORK!

People watched on as the rally gathered in Centenary Square

I have been there, I remember for a while thinking, agree with everything or you’ll be seen as a problem. In my previous job, a colleague and I had a difference of opinion and protocol. He forced his points across the meeting table his face lit to strong shade of red, expressing his anger at my concerns. I, the young black girl, was intimidated, but I guess the opinion is I can take it. I was not defeated, I expressed my opinion back professionally but struggled to hold my point, as the manager shut me down when I spoke. I was later told that in their planning meeting I was described as “very aggressive” and he was described as “passionate”.

This is a drop in the ocean compared to the dirty disgusting racism others have faced on a daily basis.

My mother has given her life to the UK when coming over here and studying to become a qualified nurse and working for the NHS. My mother has experienced years of racism. The stories would amaze you and deeply sadden you at the same time. Black nurses were given the worst jobs, had longer shifts, were completely segregated. But in true black woman style my mom pushed through. She treated every patient with care and consideration and often spoke out when others weren’t doing the same. Look at our current situation of Covid-19.

Thank you mom, thank you all black nurses.

I’ve experienced racism from not just white people. What black person doesn’t know the punjabi word for “black”? We know, because we’ve learned to understand when we are being targeted.

I urge my black brothers to stop colourism today in your songs etc, you are entitled to your type but not at the expense to belittle your own. Artists such as Dave, Kano, Stormzy and Bashy talk frankly about black issues, go take a listen.

We are going to be making changes – real life changes. Anyone who is treated differently because of the colour of their skin should speak up and that person, company, institution should be held accountable. May the sentence be as severe as their intent to bring us down because of our skin.

I’m young, gifted and black and I will use my voice, my talent and my blackness to help other black people.

  • Sharlie Morais is a writer, director and community activist from Wolverhampton.

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