Of course they do, it’s obvious, all lives matter. What most folk don’t understand is that people of colour whether American or not, have suffered and continue to suffer, because of the colour of their skin. They suffer because of us, not because we are penitent for passed insult and injury, they suffer because of the history imposed upon them. They suffer because of the legacies of that history.
We cannot wipe away the sins of the past nor can many of us clean our minds of prejudice. We all live with the burden of our ancestry and the tribal instincts and behaviour patterns bequeathed by them.
There are many levels of prejudice, of nation against nation, of neighbour against neighbour, of age group against age group, there is no end to our prejudice. However we are by and large able to hide most of our fears, for fears are what prejudice is. We are afraid of differences which we do not understand.
If I were born as a brown baby the same time as a white baby and we were brought up together without a mirror, the first image, on discovering a mirror, would be myself. I would be afraid because I was not the same as my companion since birth. Without external tribal influence that perception of difference would soon fade.
Yet, the world is full of prejudice, and prejudice against the colour of one’s skin is held the most widely. History has shown time and again that invading civilizations inevitably dominate and adopt a superior attitude from those they have conquered. It is in the nature of the deed – to conquer, to subjugate, and to profit from.
The Conquerors; from ancient times of the Indus Valley, China or Persia, to the European discoverers of the New World, these so called civilizations have laid waste and slaughtered tribes and races without number. It has ever been thus, even to today, where tribal friction continues in Messopotamia (The Middle East) where it all began.
Throughout modern times the world has struggled with religious and ethnic conflicts, the use of physical force being the most common but often fruitless method of resolution. There have been other forms of revolution which have been idealistic where folk for one reason or another have separated out, the Mayflower passengers hoping to escape religious persecution is just one example. Yet the Pilgrim fathers and the Puritan rulers of New England were slavers too, as were native Americans who enslaved other tribesman and women as well as European settlers.
Since the fifteenth century Europeans have enslaved Africans, often with the connivance of African leaders. Even Columbus had slaves from Africa amongst his ships company.
In the following years the European slavers hideously exploited the black slave market to the Americas, this is not the place for historical detail, but suffice it to say that millions of black Africans were exploited and on their backs, the British Empire was built. Over four centuries until the time of Wilberforce in the nineteenth century this hideous trade in human life continue unabated. The sheer numbers of the abhorrent trade and treatment of Black African slaves is only equalled by the slaughter and attempted genocide of the European Jewish Holocaust. In our modern day we’ve seen many other outrages from Syria, Rwanda to Srebrenica, all, when considered in the calmness of the moment, – hideous and beyond imagination.
The British during the days of Empire famously exported convicts, men women and children to the colonies. Irish indentured slaves were sent to the Caribbean, and so on and on. There seems little limit to man’s inhumanity to man.
The question arises of tense, of evolution of the human awareness. What was matter of fact in the sixteen hundreds, slavery, public executions, extremes of poverty are now abhorred, and in our twenty first century mindset it seems more than obvious.
The cessation of UK rule in the American continent signalled a huge change, at last, a democracy without class or prejudice. The American Constitution in 1789 and the consequent BIll of Rights, shone as the great new instruments that were to found freedom and democracy.
However, with disparate states in America and the universal greed of man, slavery continued, until the end of the Civil war in 1865, when the 13th amendment to the US Constitution said that no man shall be enslaved or constrained in involuntary servitude.
Essentially 400 years have passed when the great powers of the new and old order grew their economies on the backs of African slaves. So too, did the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the South.
In these brutal 400years there grew the pernicious belief that those enslaved were inferior to those who enslaved them. Economies were built on these beliefs, education, health and welfare were reserved for the slave masters who were almost exclusively white. Since that time and the heroic efforts of Lincoln, Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, Luther King and Mandela and many others, the huge momentum to change attitude and to hold up the mirror and ‘not be afraid of each other’ has moved sluggishly on.
Attitudes pervade many so called democratic societies, the caste system in India, the rank prejudice in Europe and America exacerbated by mass migration, the fear of immigration from Australia to Azerbaijan. Ignorance and fear still dominate so that we fear the difference of colour. As we grow to know our brothers and sisters of whatever colour, our fear will subside and our societies become more equal.
Can we not share these blinding injustices, and find it impossible to tolerate the rate of change? My friends of colour want yesterday as well as tomorrow to be their equal day. Until that happens, let us hope that BLACK LIVES MATTER stays in the hearts of us all.