It’s very easy to be sitting in my Zimbabwean home, in my Zimbabwean room, yacking at my keyboard with my slow Zimbabwean internet and screaming “Black Lives Matter”. It would make me feel like I’m making a difference in the world, like I’m fighting for a cause, like I’m woke. Cool stuff.
See Black Lives Matter was primarily created to counteract police brutality and systematic and institutionalised racism against black people in America. And it’s easy to shout at the danger from thousands of miles away. I can very easily scream “Black Lives Matter” because I know there isn’t a single white cop in Zimbabwe and also because I know there aren’t enough white people in Zimbabwe to build a racist system that is as strong as the United States. Therefore, even as I yell and protest via my keyboard, I know I’m not putting myself at any real risk for the cause.
So for me, a person screaming “Black Lives Matter” from Zimbabwe is noble but it also feels a lot like going to the desert and then advocating to save the blue whale. Is it a worthy cause? Absolutely. But is it your cause to support? Probably not. And not because you are insensitive but because you realise that although the the blue whale is endangered (and it is tragic), it is wiser for you to advocate for the equally endangered Saharan Cheetah because this is where you are and you can make an actual difference for the Saharan Cheetah.
Maybe my analogy sucks but here is the thing. You can’t be fighting American cops over killing a black man when you have no tolerance for your next door neighbour just because they speak a different language. They too are black, does their life not matter? I want to get into the whole conversation about xenophobia but that would just trigger me and it’s too early in the week.
Some of us hate our fellow black people and call them names and shame them and borderline abuse them because they believe in a different God, or they have a different sexual orientation and we attack them just because we have differing opinions from theirs. Others will go the extra mile and hurt other black people because they belong to a different gender.
See being back is just the beginning of it. Nobody is just black. We are all black and… Black and female. Black and young. Black and Muslim. Black and Queer. Black and Kalanga. Black and Sudanese…all of that. When you say black lives matter, you are pledging that despite these differences these people are first and fore most your brothers and sisters and they need to be protected and fought for regardless of what their “and” is.
There are about over 2 billion black people in the world. That’s who you are advocating for when you say black lives matter. Charity begins at home. So if your plight is for black people, start close by. Try your neighbour-the ethnic minority, your classmate-the religious minority, the kid in your church-the sexual minority. Sometimes a placard and hashtag are too elaborate. Sometimes all you have to do is treat people better