When will black lives matter?

June 18, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The brutal regime of Apartheid in South Africa was not original to South Africa in 1948, when it was instituted. It was the result of studying the oppression methods of other countries, including – just before we say “it could never happen here” – Canada. The South African representatives travelled to Canada to see how we treated our “natives.” 

They went to the States, Australia, Israel, places of colonization, and India, where the laws of segregation are based on class: the family into which you are born is who you are and where you will stay.

That was the plan for South Africa: divide the masses by colour, give them their place in the structure of the society; everybody tucked in with their own kind and the whites could run the show and stay rich. This arrangement was maintained with very severe policing.

Enslavement and, sometimes, colour didn’t come into it, is part of our life history as a species – nothing new there – same old brutality; same old lack of reason – why? Just because there are fortunes in it? Yes. Just because of cheap, free, labour? Sure. Just because one of many wants to safely have power and control over others? Definitely.

Like all the major wrongs that we are born to commit endlessly, as human beings: oppression of those who are different, those who come from the wrong end of history; pain, war, deprivation: this is a cornerstone of who we are.

Most of our news stories about protesters filling the streets, in countries around the world, protesting about yet another murder, in full view, of yet another black or indigenous person by mainly white police, are re-runs of news stories from over so many decades and our protesters are the great, great grandchildren of the people who have walked and chanted in the streets for too many generations. 

Too many voices have been heard but not heeded. Black people and, here in Canada, Indigenous people, are still being shot: in the face of the protests, when you might expect a cooling of police violence, the unauthorized, unprovoked, where no police life was endangered – that killing continues, exactly as though there was no one in the streets.

Exactly as though those protesters are irrelevant. Just so many ghosts, echoing their long, lost predecessors.

My daughter tells me this is different, that this has to be the biggest story until it breaks the back of the story and brings it down. Like anything that finally had to change: women getting the vote; movie producers finally going to jail for all the women they abused; so did more male abusers, even when the abuse was decades earlier.

Patricia claims, definitely, this is Black Lives’ time. Yet, In spite of stemming of the flow of the sexual abuse of women, more have died in domestic situations this year. Even in the face of the Me Too campaign, history runs deep and deadly and hangs on to terror. This is at the base of what Black Lives and its internationally increasing numbers of supporters must face: history.

The specifics of racism by authorities toward Blacks, here in North America, undoubtedly spring from centuries of slavery: they came here as slaves; Europeans came here as conquerors, more savage than the so-called savages they met. They came to North and South Americas and ravaged the people and the land, then considered themselves heroes, widening the horizon for their “civilizations.”

Burning down that Wendy’s did not bring back the poor young man, with too much to drink in him, who was shot in the back just outside the store. Burning it down is not going to change the world. Very rarely does random violent protest change much. On the contrary, it encourages the outrage it is trying to defeat.

What is the way to bring the immense power of injustice to its knees? 

Complete upheaval, storming the Bastille, has brought down governments. True revolutions have moved the course of history.

However, social justice, like winning the right to vote, the end of slavery has come about by the powerful and, even famous. Power. Those are the people that have to come on board; people with the influence and the weight to change laws, to lobby and make things happen. To go on television and be the person everybody listens to and cares what they’re saying. Trevor Noah is doing all he can with the Daily Show; Barack Obama is back pedalling.

Even in South Africa, the regime changed by negotiation that saw the status quo could not continue. The powerful men in the country knew and pushed for reform. International pressure was brought to bear.

Without strong leaders, known and respected, who can direct the grass roots, negotiate on a high level and can survive assassination attempts, protesters can walk the streets until their shoe leather is thin but their grandchildren will still have to keep on marching. 

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