The Ferment view on BLM protests
Opting out is a privilege we can no longer afford
Tuesday 09 June 2020
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Despite the ubiquity of the terrible news coming out of America, we’ve struggled this past fortnight to know how best to respond. Ferment is a craft beer magazine, and our previous forays into anything political – on topics such as Brexit and broader social justice – have prompted some readers to argue we should just stick to beer.
Being based in the beer industry doesn't give us a free pass to avoid acknowledging the injustices that affect the daily lives of millions of people, many of whom are members of our beery community. In this respect, the argument that we should “stick to the beer” is itself emblematic of the problem: for those who don’t have the privilege of being white, the reality of racism cannot be so conveniently siloed away from any aspect of life, including beer.
As editor of Ferment, I have the double privilege of being white and having a platform, of sorts, to at least be heard. I want to use this platform to lend Ferment's voice to the global chorus of support for those who have been systematically silenced throughout history, continuing into supposedly modern liberal democracies.
But voicing support isn’t nearly enough; I also have to acknowledge that we are part of the problem. It’s a horrible thing to confront, but the extended team at Ferment is almost exclusively white, even if it’s reasonably diverse in other ways. My strong impression (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that this is reflected across the craft beer industry. When we ask ourselves why this is so, the comforting answer is that it ‘just is’ – if we’ve not actively done anything to exclude people of colour, goes this line of thinking, how can we possibly change our behaviour to redress the balance?
This misses the point that, for every would-be Tommy Robinson extremist, there are also a million micro-aggressions perpetrated every day by ordinary people; small discriminations that fly past unchecked and unseen in a culture of systemic racism, but that cut deep to those in the firing line. So, the answer has to first lie in accepting that even those of us who are avowedly anti-racist don’t have any real insight into the Black experience. This means we will get things wrong and, when we do, rather than try to justify our actions and further centering ourselves, we should learn from those mistakes and move forward with humility and greater understanding.
At the same time, we also have a duty to actively educate ourselves about the cultural and personal journeys that have brought us to this shameful point, where the only way for a group to be seen is for it to burn down its own house, even as many look on in incomprehension. As Trevor Noah brilliantly observed last week: “Think about that unease that you felt watching that Target being looted… now try to imagine how it must feel for Black Americans when they watch themselves being looted every single day.”
We have real work to do in the craft beer community. I’d love to use Ferment to specifically shine a light on the brilliant contributions being made by people of colour in our industry, and we may well do so, but ultimately that will just be a gesture. It’s incumbent on each of us to read about our place in history, to understand why the current order is far from equal, and to listen, even when what we’re being told challenges our ingrained view of ourselves and our society. A strong community is held together by collective values, understanding and responsibility, so if that’s how we want to see ourselves, we mustn’t shy away from this any longer.
Some suggested reading
There is a wealth of resources available online for anyone wanting to learn more. Katie Mather recently did a brilliant job of curating recommendations – many from thinkers and activists currently involved in the US protests – for her excellent weekly newsletter, The Gulp (http://tinyletter.com/shinybiscuit). Rather than re-curate a curated list, we’ve included the whole thing here, with Katie’s permission.
Books To Read
(I know I'm adding even more caveats here but if you can, please try to support local independent bookshops and radical bookstores where you can. If you use Amazon, consider using Amazon.Smile and supporting activist and anti-racist charities.)
● Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race -- Reni Eddo-Lodge
● The End Of Policing - Alex S. Vitale (Ebook is currently FREE here)
● The Portable Frederick Douglass
● Natives -- Akala
● Black and British -- David Olusoga
● When They Call You A Terrorist -- Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele
● White Fragility -- Robin DiAngelo
● White Rage -- Carol Anderson
● The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers
● On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life -- Sara Ahmed
● On Intersectionality: The Essential Writings of Kimberlé Crenshaw
● The Making Of The Black Working Class in Britain -- Ron Ramdin
● How Europe Underdeveloped Africa -- Walter Rodney
● Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent -- Priyamvada Gopal
● Witnessing Whiteness: First Steps Toward an Antiracist Practice and Culture -- Shelly Tochluk
● Race Matters -- Cornell West
● How To Be an Antiracist -- Ibram X. Kendi
● The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century -- Grace Lee Boggs
● Your Silence Will Not Protect You -- Audre Lorde
● The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House -- Audre Lorde
● Are Prisons Obsolete? -- Angela Davis
● Freedom Is A Constant Struggle -- Angela Davis
● The Tradition -- Jericho Brown
● Surge -- Jay Bernard
● The Hate U Give -- Angie Thomas
● From Caucasia, With Love -- Danzy Senna
● The Weary Blues -- Langston Hughes
● Beloved -- Toni Morrison
● Homegoing -- Yaa Gyasi
Articles To Read/Speeches To Watch
If you are new to the idea of anti-racism, or find conversations about it confusing because of the terminology and language used, a good place to start is: 11 Terms You Should Know To Better Understand Structural Racism.
If you are white, please take time to look through this impressive document filled with anti-racism resources for white people. It includes articles, podcasts, books and children's books, films, TV shows and other resources. I don't know who created the document, but I found it when Brittany Packnett shared it on Twitter.
UK-based anti-racist human rights organisations to follow and support
Where to donate money to support black protesters, communities and projects
Check links to see specifics, but currently these funds are being used to bail protesters out of custody, provide health and aid support to protesters (such as masks and hand sanitiser, and first aid) and support anti-prison abolitionist activism.
(There is a LOT here and it seems overwhelming. How can you choose who to support? Please know that your vocal support for all of the groups posted below is greatly needed and appreciated, whoever you choose to back with your cash.)
Bail Funds and Community Action Funds
City-specific bail funds and details of legal help and attorneys willing to offer pro-bono for protestors can be found in this document. I do not know the author of it, and found it when it was shared on twitter by kamaraxtaurus.
Social Justice Action Groups
Activist Groups to Follow and Support
● Black Table Arts | Website
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