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Do Black Lives Still Matter When Clout's Not Involved?

Following George Floyd's murder, many organizations and individuals pledged their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Two years later, we ask what's changed.

TW // Police brutality

In September 2016, while scrolling Twitter, I saw #LukeCage trending. I instinctively thought the police had murdered another Black person. I say another because, several months earlier, on July 5th, Alton Sterling was murdered in front of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for selling CDs. And the next day, Philando Castille suffered a similar fate during a routine traffic stop in St. Paul, Minnesota. Despite both incidents being recorded (along with countless others), many people still weren't convinced that the U.S. had a problem with police brutality. Then, four years later, in May 2020, George Floyd was murdered, inspiring a global racial reckoning not seen since the Civil Rights Movement. As I reflect on what's changed since Floyd's brutal murder, I can't help but think that Black lives don't matter when clout isn't involved.

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, organizations flocked to social media like never before to make copy-and-paste statements supporting racial justice. Some made internal commitments to promoting diversity and inclusion, while others made external commitments to advancing racial equity. Between June 2020 and May 2021, more than 1,100 organizations committed $200 billion to racial justice initiatives (McKinsey report). But, what they failed to mention was how the monies would be accounted for. Instead, the organization's promises would be "self-audited," meaning they would mark their own homework. Today, we still see companies that believe diversity is having a cisgender, white female on the executive team. However, without external and accountable tracking of the progress and effectiveness of these companies' commitments, one questions how serious and genuine these promises were in the first place. And if they still are.

One of the most painful realities has been the decreased interest and participation in the fight for Black liberation by non-Black people. At the height of the movement, people of all walks of life, races, genders, and religions, marched worldwide hand in hand, shouting, "Black Lives Matter!" The protests were the most significant display of "people power" I'd witnessed, and you could tell that our actions shook governments, the media, and the establishment. But unfortunately, many non-Black people who joined the struggle moved on with their lives when the world opened back up. In the end, perhaps, many must’ve felt there was no real incentive to stay engaged and committed to the cause. American author and social activist bell hooks, summarized my thoughts concisely in her essay, Love as the Practice of Freedom, “Until we are all able to accept the interlocking, interdependent nature of systems of domination and recognize specific ways each system is maintained, we will continue to act in ways that undermine our individual quest for freedom and the collective liberation struggle.”

For so long, I’ve wanted to believe that people understood why we protested, marched, and fought for Black liberation. But, when the momentum of the movement waned, the Russia & Ukraine war provided me with a poignant reminder that anti-Blackness exists worldwide 24/7/365. Initially, when the war broke out, I breathed a sigh of relief, believing that Black people would be sheltered from the trauma. However, it only took several days for footage to emerge of Black people being refused entry at the border, and being pushed off trains in favor of white people and in some occasions, even animals. I realized that even in war we can’t escape racism. We wear our skin knowing the fight against racism and anti-Blackness is not an option but a necessity. And, performative actions to gain clout will never lead to sustained change or liberation.

The fight against systemic racism and inequalities will not be resolved by Black people alone.

The marathon continues.

How long will you march/walk with us?

Jonah Batambuze is a Ugandan-American, interdisciplinary artist, storyteller, and the founder + CEO of the BlindianProject. His experiences as first gen born in Chicago and raised in the cornfields of central Illinois are the foundation of his work today, centered around; community, identity, and belonging.

Following a successful collegiate Basketball career (Lewis University, 2001), an opportunity to study International Business in Dublin, Ireland, changed his life. In addition, a chance encounter with an Indian princess (that would later become his wife) and exposure to new and diverse perspectives were seeds that led him to create the BlindianProject community years later.

Based in the U.K. since 2007, Batambuze's practice consists of creating symbolic works that are often participatory, center marginalized identities, and foster change at the intersection of Black x Brown culture.

Join us for an end-of-year workshop, on November 19th, where we reflect on the importance of our continued fight against anti-Blackness, Indophobia, and Stop Asian Hate.

The BlindianProject is a social impact media hub and global community at the intersection of Black x Brown culture.

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