While the coronavirus crisis rages on affecting millions on its turf, the US is burning, erupting with online and street protests. The death of 46-year-old George Floyd while allegedly being restrained by Minneapolis police department officers has sparked outrage yet again over the centuries-old issue of racism. As usual, there are voices that are refusing to address the issue of racial profiling and resultant police brutality which has led to many such shocking deaths in the past.
Although in times of social media, the privileged class has whipped up a hashtag to repackage its ignorance: #AllLivesMatter. What’s wrong with this hashtag, a person oblivious to the entire incident or the broader picture of racial profiling may wonder (and there are a lot, especially on this side of the planet)? Don’t all lives matter? If you endorse equality, then shouldn’t you be advocating rights of all humans, instead of pandering to one community, race, gender, sexuality, religion?
How privileged does one have to be, to believe that we live in an equal world where everyone gets the same start, faces the same set of difficulties in life, and completely overlook the fact that these categories mentioned above, they enable certain people while disabling the rest?
But let us not exclude anyone here. Most of us have bought this argument at one point in their lives, haven’t we? Talking about equal rights, are you? Then what about men’s/”white”/heterosexual/religious majority’s rights? Don’t they matter? But when you look closer, one realises what is happening: a right cause was being peddled with a wrong sentiment behind it. Have you ever heard someone scream #AllLivesMatter or #MenToo or #NotAllMen? just randomly, on a day that is not relevant to any underprivileged or minority group? Why does #StraightPride soar during Pride Month? Don’t such hashtags come as a response when a cry against injustice is raised by a certain community, to point out oppression that they face? And therein lies a problem.
It is a tragedy that many so-called rights groups have reduced activism to a comeback. A whataboutery that wants to take away attention from one pressing issue to another, with the aim to distract you, and thus ends up doing justice to neither.
For instance, in 2019, Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 1.3 million women and 695,000 men experienced domestic abuse in the year 2018. This data tells us how prevalent domestic violence against men is. In a patriarchal society like India, it is difficult for men to even come forward and report intimate partner violence because then they will have to deal with the stereotype of being “namard” or less of a man.
Male victims of sexual abuse, rape, victims of reverse racism and communal hatred deserve better representation than the comments section under the tweets on #BlackLivesMatter or #MeToo.
That’s just one issue, from one section. There are many more across genders, race, caste and religion which shed light on crimes and gross atrocities that the communities labelled as a majority do face. Each issue, each atrocity matters. But what have majoritarian rights activists done? Instead of raising these issues in articles, features and even tweets on their own, they are reduced them to the comments section of reports on oppression that “the others” face.
Male victims of sexual abuse, rape, victims of reverse racism and communal hatred deserve better representation than the comments section under the tweets on #BlackLivesMatter or #MeToo. Also, there is always a time for everything. Three police officers physically overpowered an unarmed African-American in his mid-forties, one of them knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. “Please, I can’t breathe,” one can hear him beg for his life in the viral video. About 66 percent of blacks report high levels of day-to-day racial discrimination.
In his piece for The Conversation, Shervin Assari, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, writes, “As a result of racism, and associated poverty and injustice, life expectancy at birth of black men is 71.9 years, far bellow white women (81.2), black women (78.5), and white men (76.4). These are mainly because of black men’s higher risk of dying from several types of cancer, stroke, HIV, and homicide. Despite overall declining numbers of homicide in the U.S., homicide remains the number one cause of death for black males 10 to 24.”
This is just a glimpse into why Floyd’s death has riled the African-American community and equal rights advocates so much. So even if you have a good intent at your heart, no matter how strongly do you believe in #AllLivesMatter, ask yourselves, is now the right time? Now is the time to take a stand against custodial deaths, racial profiling and muse as a community, how has it come to this?
Don’t forget all the #AllLivesMatter banners that you may have made. Or the #MenToo ones. They are relevant and important, but you seriously need to raise these issues independently so that your well-intended activism doesn’t end coming across as whataboutery. [Picture credit: Fox News]
The views expressed are the author’s own.