social distance

Our foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, would not take the knee except to his wife or the queen, sees it as a symbol of subjugation, thinks it comes from Game of Thrones.

We took the knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in the main road.  The traffic stopped and waited in silence.  It hurts to put weight on one knee that long.  It was an honour to do so: celebrating our common humanity, recognising and opposing White power and violence, being part of a 250 year-long history extending from the iconography of Josiah Wedgwood to the actions of Colin Kaepernick and others on the streets and sport-fields.

What is the value of such protests?  It seems remarkable that there was a rally, nearing a thousand-strong, in Solihull, a Tory voting suburb on the outskirts of Birmingham. The traffic hooted its support.  People of all ethnic backgrounds took part and gave witness.  This is reclaiming the history that belongs to us all but which is airbrushed from the curriculum and media.  At the war memorial we called on the handful of defensive men to join us, to champion the common values for which those soldiers died, fighting fascism. They refused, embracing their fearful myths and clutching themselves round the cold stone like it might hatch.

Does this raise consciousness?  Are White people on these marches just signalling virtue without challenging their relative privilege, without building a better future for all our children?  Its hard to know.  One thing I will say is this.  When you walk, you can chant “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice No Peace” and even “say his name George Floyd“, “say her name “Breonna Taylor“.  However, when you say out loud “I can’t breathe” and think, just think, really why we are saying that, then it becomes hard to breathe.







9 responses to “social distance

  1. It’s certainly a step in the right direction to acknowledge this history that seemingly has no end, and we should rightly celebrate it.
    The really hard part, though, comes in actually sharing our privileges, so others can have the same things that we do. We might have to give something up to make things more equal. Our leaders know that, which is why they won’t share.

    • Thanks. We have to own this stuff. I am not ashamed of who I am but we need to know our true history to be grounded. Black Lives Matters is important for white people because to acknowledge and change the injustice of racism we also challenge our own myths that imprison us and the assaults on freedom and democracy that also threaten us. So it is too with LGBTQ+ Pride I think but that is another conversation.

  2. Thanks for doing this, it’s so important. The sketches are great. Interesting that it was such a large gathering in an affluent suburb. Thanks for the info on Josiah Wedgewood too 🙂

    • Actually I don’t know how affluent it really is. Its really mixed. But the Tories won the last three elections here not least on the back of Brexit which cuts across socio-economic groups. It’s ethnically very diverse also.

  3. One of the most impressive things about these rallies has been the mix of ethnicities, it is not just people standing up for for of their own, but a broad range of humanity saying things must change. Even if people joined the rally as something to salve their conscience then forget about it, the idea is there and the thoughts. Hopefully the world-wide momentum will make a difference. Well done for being able to sketch under those circumstances too, I know its not easy to do!

    • Thanks.
      On the sketching thing perhaps I need to go back to basics and learn, or relearn, techniques for drawing people.
      On the marches, I have been trying to work out their importance. Is it just being a disinterested ally in someone else’s battle?
      I think we are at a tipping point. A crisis is coming with pandemic and climate change, both human made, sending waves crashing on us. We could so easily doze our way into fascism, anarchy and war. To not do so takes work, and that means taking responsibility and owning our society, our history and our democracy. It starts with Black Lives Matters, because if we fail that one, so glaring an injustice hidden in plain sight, we have not even taken step one.
      Art plays an important role in this too. Art is witness and actor.

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