2020 has proved to be a rather busy year, and not in ways most people had hoped for. From Australian bushfires to the death of Kobe Bryant, Donald Trump’s impeachment being acquitted, the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused millions of infections and thousands of deaths, an alien invasion and the crash of multiple economies. Okay maybe not the alien invasion but with the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised haha. It’s safe to say that we’ve been through a storm as a global population…and we’re only 6 months into the year.
Most recently, the spotlight has been set on a disease that has been present for centuries. A disease that is spread through oppressive ideologies and unsought social hierarchies based merely on the colour of one’s skin. You guessed it, this disease is called racism.
Racism has negatively affected the lives of black people around the world for far too long, this isn’t news to anyone, but I think the murder of George Floyd opened many eyes to the world we live in. People had, for the most part, become desensitized to the oppression because of how often it happens. We hear of black people being killed and wrongfully arrested all the time and often see those in power choosing ignorance because it is easier than taking accountability. It’s easy for us as humans to prefer not to disrupt the status quo when we’re living under an abundance of privilege, but surely we should be able to leave our comfort zones if it means protecting the lives and rights of our fellow human beings.
In recent days, the Black Lives Matter movement, founded in July 2013, regained its spark, with the murder of George Floyd being the catalyst. By now I’m sure you’ve seen the horrific video of George Floyd, who was 46 years old, being murdered by ex Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, literally taking his life right before our eyes.
Similarly, 40 year old Collins Khosa, a resident of Alexandra, died after having altercations with the SANDF and Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Officers. This happened after they forcefully entered into his yard and allegedly poured beer over his head, hit him with guns and choked him. Systemic racism and police brutality have been used to shape black people into what they “should” be rather than allowing the black community to live freely in the democratic system it entrusted its rights with.
Racism is alive in pretty much every industry in the world and we’ve seen this time and time again. Most of these issues can be attributed to some white people being ignorant to white privilege, which isn’t a term used to attack white people but is a term used to point out what should be obvious to them.
In a recent Instagram live, Na-Kel Smith (@thatsonme) highlighted racism in skateboarding and how it has affected not only him but almost every black skateboarder he knows. He, alongside Mikey Alfred and Kevin White, explained how team managers would make sure that the black skaters would always be there when someone wanted to skate a spot with a lot of security so that the black skaters could fight them off. They also mentioned how managers would make the black skaters do things like dance in skate parts as a way to “brand” them and how they’ve used the N – word on numerous occasions.
The skate scene in South Africa is no different, with the main problem being that even really good black skateboarders don’t get sponsored or go on trips as often as their white counterparts. Skate Society Soweto founder Sechaba (@idkthebakersman) brought up a point saying “how can, in a country where the majority is black and the majority of the skaters are black, 99% of your skate team be white?” The playing field simply isn’t level. The black man still has to work 2 times harder to be considered as an equal.
It’s really up to skate companies and skaters with influence in the industry to make the difference and empower black skaters by giving them equal opportunities. It’s already hard enough trying to make it as a black skater in something that was (and sometimes still is) deemed a “white” sport.
With all that has happened in the past few months regarding racism, it’s easy to find yourself asking “what can I do to make a difference?” Not everyone has the money to be able to donate to organizations, but if you’re reading this article, you have access to the internet, which is filled with petitions that were made to either level the playing fields, get justice and simply fight for equality. Most importantly, do not let your fight for equality and justice reside on the internet alone. In the real world is where it matters most.
Racism, white privilege, black lives matter, police brutality – these are all terms that have defined the second quarter of 2020 and have hopefully opened the eyes and minds of the general public. Although the idea of living in a utopia is seemingly unreachable at this point in time, it’s our duty as the diverse population that we are, to ensure that everyone is treated equally.
After all, our internal qualities are what make us human. We’re like eggs, different on the outside but the same on the inside hahaha.