Black Lives Matter; The Pain of an Empty Vigil

Yesterday evening I attended a Black Lives Matter Vigil with a couple friends at the Uni. While it was not ’empty’ in the sense that literally no-one was there, I am sticking with the title. In many situations I can understand why people do not attend some, shall we say, politically veered movements. Moreover people are busy, people have things to do and also some people do not know what is going on. Yet standing with around 45 others in a 13,000 student University pained me more than I may have expected.

Firstly I would like to clear up the first misconception of events such as this…it is not one of those ‘politically veered movements’. Not in the typical sense anyway, there is mention, understandably of the wrongs that many suffer in America at the hands of everyday and more severe racism. We all know many of the stories of police brutality leading to fatalities most specifically in America but also in other countries including the UK. These stories are shared, liked, favourited and captioned with disgust “this is terrible” “when will it end?” but, as discussed at the vigil last night, it seems that on more than one occasion the statement Black Lives Matter is seen as merely a hash-tag. I’m not just referring to last nights vigil, because there are a lot of people I personally know that didn’t know about it or were busy – nevertheless 13,000 people can’t not have seen it leaving only 50. The vigil last night and ones like it are not created by anti-white protestors who want to posit their side and encourage violence against police or the white race in general. Not at all. Vigils are organised to pay the respects to the dead, and to let those that hear about it, that see it, know that we have not given up on change and that we will keep trying. For me, it is also a much more spiritual movement, in the sense that it is not a protest but a way to connect (if you believe in such things) with the spirits of the deceased. It is, without a direct connection (I don’t believe in that extent of things) showing them your dedication and love and lighting a candle in their memory.

Even half way through, as I stood looking around, I saw people walk past, hearing the speeches filled with passion and continuing their laughter filled conversations or far worse approaching before decidedly ignoring it. I stood there, not only upset at the situation that we still have some form of casual, institutionalised or autonomous racism alive, but also holding a great hurt at the lack of people. Lighting the candle, and placing them down on the steps, standing silent before hearing the sole vocals of a local singer/songwriter (Chisara Agor) it was powerful in two ways. One, seeing the candles flicker, and thinking of how they cannot amount to anywhere near the deaths of those lost to racism, and yet how connected we felt to the people those fires represented.  Two, how the small amount of candles showed a more disturbing truth: that the movement does not contain so many members as first thought.

People are supportive, people are outraged and I implore people to continue, but more than that I implore them to go to events when they can, to support in every way they can and to make their own opinions up on what it represents. The latter of my statement there seems to be the biggest detractor, in my opinion. It is not the people who did not turn up last night that I blame – at least not the majority – but the media, the racists and the way that much of society views justice. The biggest problems in the perception of The Black Lives Matter movement lie within defeatism and representation.

  1. Defeatism: People hear the movement, they hear they can do things but they do not believe enough people will do it, they don’t think that their voice, their presence will make a change. “A vigil? Well I have other things to do and I don’t believe my turning up will affect how racism continues or, preferably, doesn’t.” etc It, regrettably, is an understandable point in this argument and no doubt is a large contributor to the lack of support. This world often goes round in circles and the fact we are once again fighting against racism shows just that, but just like before history is still to be made, and it cannot be made in a day. It is made with a domino effect, people upon people being angry and deciding to do something, without that support there is no way it can go further. It is such defeatism that, ironically, defeats the ultimate goal.
  2. Representation: I mentioned this briefly already. The Black Lives Matter movement is seen as something bad, something violent, that represents anger towards all whites and demands that solely Black Lives Matter. It is, if you will, the feminism effect. How so? The same works for feminism – you cannot have equality, without first fixing the issues against females and effeminate men. With Black Lives Matter, you cannot say “All Lives Matter” until first concentrating and understanding that it is black lives that are most at risk. If we lived in an equal world, if we could start this world over again and have everyone on an equal balance then we could call it “All Lives Matter” but that is not the truth of this world. Yes, All Lives Matter, but they wont if we are driving one race to, practical, extinction.

There is support to this movement, especially in those that did not turn up, but on more than one occasion they are made to feel as though they should not go. They are made to feel that it is more than just a group asking for justice and for a kinder world, that they are a radical group fighting in retaliation. It is disgusting to see but it is the way that many people deal with those that look for justice in corruption. I reiterate people are busy, people forget things, people don’t know things are going on. But it cannot be a coincidence that events like the vigil and like those killed outside of America by Hurricane Matthew have been so shamelessly ignored. This is still an important subject. Never stop talking about it. Never give up. Do what you can and ask others to do the same.


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