Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked a plethora of opinion amongst the conservative, wealthy chaps. “The statue of Edward Colston, it does not really upset them, they are making it up”, I heard my father say from across the table. I am now forced to deliberate whether it is worth constructing an argument against my father. On one hand, the point of Black Lives Matter is to break the silence, to discuss the injustices and reveal racism in the flesh. On the other hand, my father will just remind me that I am going through a “left-wing phase” and refuse to listen. From previous engagements and debates, it is clear that anger is the product of weakness and as soon as you shout and lose your temper, you lose the argument. So, I slide in, offering the opinion that my father could not possibly know for certain how black people feel as they walk past the statue. It is not our right to dictate how others feel; no one can ever really experience other people’s emotions, additionally no white person will ever be able to fully comprehend the racist oppression faced. To soften the blow (and his ego) it is necessary to make some agreements. We could argue that taking down the Edward Colston statue may not have united humankind in common identity and perhaps has just generated more white guilt, which seems more counterproductive.
I see myself through the lens of my parents, a student yet to pay taxes, lapping up left-wing propaganda and seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Being constantly reminded that liberalism often makes you ironically, narrow-minded, because you refuse to accept the other side of the argument. So, I find myself telling him what he wants to hear: “also, you would be right in saying that we cannot rip down every monument or statue built on the exploitation of slavery; this would be removing the majority of structures from the British Empire.” This leads to the stereotypical response that “the British Empire did abolish slavery” followed by the mumble of the men agreeing and revelling in this pride. The information they never muster the courage to say is that this was after 400 years of brutal slavery.
Another classic discussion I often hear is that my father is downright exasperated by this “unnecessary political correctness” with regards to racial profiling, “we need to protect those more vulnerable in society, and calling out people most likely to attack is sometimes necessary to save time”. Wow, a fantastic insight. I offer the opinion that it would be idealistic to completely wipe out our inherent racial stereotypes, however it is necessary to avoid them at all costs, given that research demonstrates that the police force are trained to prioritize black people to arrest. Another man slams his port down on the table and declares that it is not necessary to check a random family man through airport security when a Muslim has walked past. Thus, he concluded that by rejecting racial stereotypes, we are effectively putting the lives of many at risk in airports by not checking the Muslim man.
Firstly, this mentality is giving into the fear terrorists set out to achieve through racial profiling. And crucially, by associating every Muslim person with terrorism, are we not wasting more time? Terrorists are masters of mind control. They kill so little and yet manage to terrify billions and shake political structures. Since September 2001, every year terrorists have killed 50 people in the EU and ten in the USA in comparison to, let us say, high sugar intake killing up to 3.5 million people annually.
The relationship that I have with my father in a political and social field constantly puts me between two sides of the boat, if I tolerate his views, I do not risk tensions to soar in our family. If I do not tolerate them, perhaps I will change my father’s approach to social progression. Must we simply accept that our parents were brought up watching comedy often at the expense of minorities, such as the notorious sketch by Rowan Atkinson as a police officer arresting a black man multiple times for his “thick lips.” Perhaps “back in the glory days” freedom of speech was less problematic as it is now. He is convinced, along with a lot of white men, that our generation “patronize” the LGBTQ and black and Asian communities. I would never disregard his opinion outright, especially given that without the turbulent online abuse giving so many “anonymous” a voice, there was less prejudice than we realize. But on the other hand, it does not seem a coincidence to me that the only people who think that “political correctness has gone mad” are white, straight, rich men. Lawrence Fox in a nutshell.
Amidst a volcanic eruption of the fake-news epidemic and our parents politics, (whether we like it or not) being a huge influence on ours, I find it is difficult to maintain faith in my own opinions. They are constructed on articles which may well have been directed to me by a certain political party paying Mark Zuckerberg. But there is news, then there is reality, and crucially, there are own experiences. So as I hear my parent’s friends discussing how girls who do not cover up on the streets must take some responsibility because “the world is a nasty place full of evil people and they should be careful”, I feel that injustice. We should be teaching men to not sexually assault, not teaching women how to not be sexually assaulted. Women wearing less clothes does not seem to attract the desire of homosexual women to the extent that they lose the ability to recognize consent.
It is important to remember that millennial activism often lacks the historical analysis to maintain power and ignoring parental perspective may be problematic. For example, they may remember how the suffragettes were only fighting in the interests of white, rich women, and if we are not careful the Me-too movement may also disregard minorities. My point is that, if they do not respect your opinions, it will only build your resilience for future battles. But, at the end of the day, the expression “he is a man of his time” is no longer an excuse.