What does #BlackLivesMatter mean in a Maltese context? And how can you support the cause?
There is no denying that some scary events are unfolding before our eyes right now. The amplified voice of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the States and all over the world is bringing light to the constant injustice that black people face on a daily basis.
The voice of the movement is amplified right now, but it is important to remember that this is not a new voice - the #BLM movement has been fighting for equality for years, and racial injustice has been taking place for much, much longer. Racial injustice is in place because, for centuries, the system has favored white people over people of colour. White people have been given a pass, or ‘privilege’. Having white privilege and recognising it is not racist. But white privilege exists because of historic, enduring racism and biases. White privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.
As a white (or white-passing) individual, you may be feeling a little bit overwhelmed at the moment. Why are people so angry? How do I know what to say? What to believe? What can I do to help? How can I help from home?
The truth is, there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer. There are, however, a number of steps we can take to support the fight and amplify the voices of those who need it most at this time.
Here are some steps you can take to ensure you are doing your bit in the journey towards equality. And remember, every little bit counts.
1. Learn more about the bigger picture
How did we get here? And how is it affecting the people at the core of racial inequality? The internet is chock-full of resources that can help you learn more about the history of racism and ways to combat it. From books and plays to podcasts and movies, here are just a few places to start.
How to Be an Antiracist, written by Ibram X. Kendi (2019)
White Fragility, written by Robin J. Diangelo (2018)
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, written by Beverley Daniel Tatum (2017)
Fences (Denzel Washington) - Drama; originally a play written by August Wilson
American Son (Kenny Leon) - Drama; originally a play written by Christopher Demos-Brown
Topdog/Underdog - a play written by Suzan-Lori Parks
What to Send Up When It Goes Down - a play written by Aleshea Harris
2. And the local one
You might be thinking, ‘okay cool, but what has that got to do with us here in Malta?’. Racism has many different faces, and whilst the main way to combat it is to just stop discriminating, it’s important to understand what local racism looks like. Keeping up with the news is always important - ideally through independent news sites. But it’s also helpful to look beyond our island, and try to understand why people from certain countries are fleeing their homes, and why we need to help them.
Inside Libya: Shocking video shows sniper attack in war-torn country (Times of Malta)
The Mediterranean Migration Crisis - Why People Flee, What the EU Should Do (Human Rights Crisis)
3. Speak up and engage in constructive dialogue
Standing up for others is sometimes a simple matter of saying ‘hey, don’t say that, it’s not ok’. However, it's not always as simple as that. It can be easy to get frustrated and emotional when engaging in conversation on such a political and sensitive subject. We can go beyond calling out racism by doing our best to educate those around us. Here we are talking about human rights, that will benefit society as a whole.
4. Listen Remember that our primary focus should be on amplifying and highlighting the voices of those directly affected by racism. It’s up to us to promote and support the platform, but not necessarily to be the ones speaking on it. Listen to black voices, understand what they need. Sometimes, even though we have the right intentions, we need to understand that we do get things wrong. Listen to stories, listen to requests, listen to problems. Listen to what they’re telling us and support them. Share content and articles written by black activists, refer to source material when speaking on the subject and always make room for black voices in your discussions and debates.
1619 (The New York Times, podcast)
5. Donate and volunteer
There are many organisations in Malta working hard to make sure that those who need it are given the correct care and attention. Malta is becoming more ethnically diverse, and there are many people are working hard to make it a safe space for everyone. It does come at a cost though. Here are a few local NGOs working hard to bring migrants to safety that could use your help, in any way you can offer it.
Jesuit Refugees Services Malta - Aid in supporting refugees’ legal and human rights as well as housing, food and healthcare. They also aid in sharing their stories through educational and community outreach.
Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants - Aid in housing migrants and integrating them into society.
Aditus - work to protect the human rights for all people in Malta, especially those discriminated against.
Integra - Set up in 2004 with the aim of facilitating the integration of minority groups in Malta.
Black Lives Matters Card - This page contains several links where you can donate to the victims, protestors, businesses and organisations in America such as the Minnesota Freedom Fund, The Bail Project, Victim Memorial Funds, Reclaim the Block and more!
Use your art to help spread the message. Whether you are a painter, a singer, a musician, a writer… art as activism is needed now more than ever. Remind people what, and who, we are fighting for in the best way that you can.
7. Remember that it doesn’t end here
The fight for equality doesn’t end when the protests stop. It carries on. Keep on listening, learning, educating, and supporting. Remember to check your privilege every single day and use it for the right reasons. And, if you are having trouble understanding what exactly ‘white privilege’ is - these links might be able to help you.
Above all, remember to treat people with love, respect, and understanding. Stand your ground, and stand up for those who need your support. This is true for EVERYONE - regardless of race, gender, religion, orientation. However, the black community really needs us to add our voices to theirs at the moment, so let’s lend a hand where and when we can.
Steffie Weenink, Alex Weenink, Luke Abela
Studio 18 Members