This Is How You Can Achieve Justice, Shift The Power Dynamics and Trigger Positive Change
Being the same ethnicity as those who hold the socio-economic power in society has inherent privileges against groups which are Othered. As the Black Lives Matter protests have spread across the world many were confronted with the theoretical and practical realities of White Privilege for the first time, splitting white society into those who are willing to accept and reform and those who deny and refuse.
Embrace Change And Create Equality
Our world is in continuous flux. People constantly change too. Emotionally and intellectually mature people accept that they will effectively remain in a state that is near child-like – a constant process of learning and adaptation, and with it, what can be termed ‘growth’.
A significant flaw in our societies is that we prepare children for adulthood on the premise that once a certain age is achieved, they will be fully formed and ready to be released on the world. Some of us will disregard this theory and continue to develop skills, seek knowledge and accept that life is in continuous flux. However, many will not, which will result in the crystallisation of education, their beliefs and outlooks.
When we are combatting inequalities of today, we are actually often fighting the battles of the past. We are fighting people who are both unwilling to change and lack the skills to change their already formed identity, which is deeply rooted in our white colonial past.
We all have to accept that we have to change and that if we don’t the subsequent generations may look on us with abhorrence and immense disappointment. We must rectify the wrongs of the past and present, such as institutional racism, climate change, wealth and health inequality, to name a few of the many.
Climate change is an important example: we use vast amounts of power made from non-renewable materials. We heavily rely on mobile phones and other electrical devices to run our lives that need large amounts of precious metals that in turn enshrine poverty, funds conflict and poisons the environment in Central Africa.
We overeat while others starve and abuse finite land and water supplies. A plantation owner of the past was explicitly evil – we merely outsource it to hide our shame through denial or ignorance.
White Privilege – Meā Culpā
White Privilege is real, and the fact that sections of society have acknowledged this and wish to change their insights and behaviours is a positive thing. But it is a step, not a goal. If someone is focusing solely on their White Privilege and not taking other steps, then they are in part enshrining that privilege even further.
We are in the midst of generational change – and black people have once again been able to shape events as they did in the civil rights era, the ripples of which are being felt across the world. But the focus needs to be far more significant. It is not only White Privilege, but the systemic black disadvantage that needs to be addressed, and urgently so.
A white person sitting in front of the mirror, morally masturbating while whipping themselves in a frenzied mea culpa for the performance of righteousness solves nothing. Being a keyboard warrior has little impact and burns mental resources too often for nothing. Because arguing online against someone who lacks the will or capability to change their beliefs and set identity is wasted effort. In fact, it is the same as throwing petrol onto a burning car and hoping it will stop burning.
How to Shift Power, Race and Wealth Dynamics
In any given situation, there are usually multiple power dynamics at play. The race is a major dynamic, especially in societies that are overtly and covertly racist. However, race is often combined with other dynamics. Male/Female, Rich/Poor, Educated/Uneducated, Straight/LGBQTI+ are just a few possible power dynamics which can intersect with race and a systemically racist society.
Age dynamic is an interesting example. In many circumstances, the Young/Old power dynamic favours the young – they are economically active, likely to be healthier, and better educated. However, older people are also far more likely to vote than younger people. This gives them vast political influence as they are a constant and reliable sector of support. Creating policies for people who only may turn up to vote makes less sense than creating policies for people who will definitely turn up to vote.
Another powerful dynamic is homeownership and wealth. In places of high housing costs, homeowners own little debt due to the differences in markets at a time of purchase – economically this makes them powerful too as they have potential access to wealth in the form of assets.
In Western society, wealth is often the most important power dynamic at a macro level. Black people are especially disadvantaged in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries because they lack economic power due to systemic racism. The nature of our political systems, involving the influence of lobbying and donations, means that with economic power comes political power, and therefore to lack economic power is to lack political power.
That economic power leads to political influence which can be exemplified by thriving minority communities, such as British Indias. ‘British India’ was merely a concept – there were many Indias, made up of many smaller states and peoples. Certain nations were favoured over others in a hierarchical societal structure, some for their martial abilities (such as the Sikhs), others for their business acumen (the Guajaratis). Indian Guajarati migrants in the UK faced tremendous racism, but became economically and educationally successful minority, resulting in increased political power. As a group, British Indians are more likely to vote Conservative, and they were the largest non-white group to vote in favour of Brexit. They have become part of ‘the Establishment’, and thus potentially face less systemic racism than other minority groups.
Race and wealth are intertwined. By many analyses, the best indicator for whether the police are likely to kill you in the US is not your race but poverty. Killing a poor person has few consequences – their families will not be able to afford good lawyers, nor necessarily have the resilience for years of trial and appeals. There will be more excuses available for use by an officer’s defence – a poor person is more likely to have a previous criminal record and more likely to have mental health issues. In the United States especially, but also in the United Kingdom, the already increased likelihood emerging from poverty is then framed in a context of institutional and systemic racism. You will get overtly racist officers who see no issue with killing a black person because they are seen as subhuman. Even more police officers who are not overtly racist are likely to have subconscious biases, such as the fallacy that black people are more aggressive than white people, which makes them more likely to use lethal force. And because they are likely to be poor – the consequences for those officers who kill them are often few.
You Must Become Powerful If You Want To Change Anything
To create positive change, you must strive to shift power dynamics in your favour. To create a just society, you must become powerful!
The Black Lives Matter protests have been a vehicle for triggering change. The act of hundreds of thousands of people, of all demographics, marching in streets around the world have sent a powerful message. The facts that this has occurred during a global pandemic, with greater restrictions and higher personal risk, have made that message more powerful than ever before. The fact that people did not stop marching even when faced with fierce and sometimes violent opposition shows that the power dynamics have begun to shift and wheels of change have started to turn.
This power is not just political but also economic. Big corporations and business have lined up to voice their support for BLM because they do not want to alienate the next generation of customers. Instead of cosmetic changes, which have often occurred in the past, many of these companies are actively addressing their own issues regarding race.
Amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic and economic meltdown, everyday people risked their lives and wellbeing to march the streets and demonstrate their beliefs. Actions speak louder than any words! Thus all large organisations and even governments were made to stop and listen and take action.
This is How You Can Increase Your Power
- You can create change through the ballot box – vote tactically. For every older person who is guaranteed to vote, ensure you bring 3 young people who share your views to the polling station. For every letter written to an elected representative, send two more. Drown out the power of your opponents.
- Choose how and where you spend your money – do it wisely and do it morally. If you are repeatedly spending money with a large company, find out their ethos, their actions and how they influence political power. If it works against justice, do not fund them.
- Choose which battles to fight – you only have so much time and so much energy, so use your mental energy wisely. If there is a protest where numbers are vital, make time to join it. If there is a trade union in your workplace fighting inequality, join it and support it. If there are charities that need your help, help them out in any way you can. Everyone can do something, and every little helps.
- Choose where you want to live carefully – in our political systems, the distribution of votes matters far more than vote share. Congregating in London, Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool, New England, San Francisco or Seattle diminishes your power by concentrating votes.
- Choose who you work for – Sometimes working for a private company where your economic power is greater might be more beneficial than working in the third sector for a much lower salary. In this current system, economic power leads to political power.
- Choose how you influence others – having online arguments with strangers often reinforces prejudices as people become more defensive and even less likely to be open to different information and views. Be understanding and combine facts with empathy. This can be utterly excruciating but is more likely to succeed than aggression.
- Choose your opponent’s carefully – not everyone will change some people are beyond reform. Time is precious, don’t waste it on professional internet trolls or people who are incapable of shifting their views. Instead, trust your gut feeling and target your approach to those whose minds you can change.
Black Lives Matter - London 2020
pictures by Ben Scicluna
pictures by Ben Scicluna