By Dr Neals J. Chitan
‘Black Lives Matter’ is the common social awareness mantra which is now belting across the globe, driven by the recent knee-in-the-neck death of George Floyd to the hands of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020. The vivid picture of a nonchalant Chauvin digging his knees into Floyd’s neck and chocking the airway into his lungs as the world listened to the ebbing sound of “I can’t breathe,” has sent the world into a mad frenzy for social justice.
Since it’s inception, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ mantra has repeatedly come to a head-on collision with another mantra ‘All Lives Matter’ which was skillfully engineered to tone down the serious specific call for social justice for blacks in North America, throwing it into one homogeneous mixture of human issues. With a specific objective to derailed the attention from a perpetrator to victim focus, the arguments continue about semantics rather than putting our shoulder to the wheel ourselves and healing the social dysfunctions that will ensure that black lives do really matter in every sense of the word. Instead, we show up, protest, and go back home to our same old same old waiting, for another incident to come back out and protest again.
And so, several questions come to mind as I look across the Caribbean and see racism’s unjust cousins digging their knees into the necks of our people. Here are just a few:
(1) Do ‘Black Lives Matter’ when as Caribbean people we make darker skin people feel so underprivileged that they resort to bleaching their God-given, health privileged, ebony hue for the fairer complexion, just to be accepted?
(2) Do ‘Black Lives Matter’ when a young teenage black girl who grew up to the hands of abusive black parents gets pregnant and must continue the cycle of parental neglect and domestic violence without any form of social interception?
(3) Do ‘Black Lives Matter’ when a black teenage boy is wrongfully blamed by a black teacher, negatively profiled, suspended, expelled as a trouble maker and pushed into a life of crime by the same school system that is saying that education is important?
(4) Do ‘Black Lives Matter’ when our black students go to school hungry, traumatised, and emotionally abused and still expected to focus and learn?
(5) Do ‘Black Lives Matter’ when a black child is sexually molested and killed by a black stepfather who was supposed to be her protector, but instead abused her to fulfil his warped sexual desires?
(6) Do ‘Black Lives (really) Matter’ when a black man is dumped into a jail cell with no form of relevant social rehabilitation to help him get back into society successfully thereafter, thus feeding the cycle of criminality and recidivism?
These are just a few of the issues I face as a Social Skill Interventionist daily where homes, schools, community and society at large have failed our citizens, making them believe that their black lives don’t really matter. As a result, another popular mantra “Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the talk” needs to be adopted if we indeed believe that black lives do matter.
Our efforts, finances and programs would have to be ‘walking the talk’ towards social reform that will make ‘black lives matter’ believable. Hence, along with marching the streets with ‘Black Lives Matter’ placards for social justice, we will also be marching and chanting with our children, youth, men and women to the celebratory drum beat of social progress, accomplishments and achievements.
Systemic racism has no problems with protests and marches. As a matter of fact, they will even join us to make us think that they are so interested in our progress. However, the victory for them is that after making noise on the streets we return to our homes, schools and communities to continue the cycle of self-hate, jealousy, abuse, revenge, anger and criminal activities that keep us self-victimized and socially subservient.
And so, my question still is, ‘Do Black Lives Really Matter?’ If the answer is unequivocally in the affirmative, we will see a significant paradigm shift in the way we speak, relate, respond and encourage each other, thus rising from the ash heap of social dysfunctions and degradation to the mountaintop exuberance of social awareness and empowerment, indeed reflecting the fact that our ‘BLACK LIVES DO REALLY MATTER.’