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The importance of solidarity

The importance of solidarity - Finn Lansiquot

In late May of 2020, the COVID-induced lockdown was in full swing. The weather was beautiful, the days were long, and I was revelling in the fact that I wouldn’t have to sit my GCSEs. On one of these lazy Mondays, I opened Twitter and was greeted with a video of a Black man being strangled to death by a White police officer. The nonplussed, mocking reactions from thousands of people shook me to my core, and nothing in my life was ever the same again. I witnessed my peers excusing and downplaying the incident, and local politicians dismissing claims that institutional racism existed. I saw a grieving population denigrated as looters and agitators, and I thought to myself:

Why don’t they care? Do we not deserve to be safe from the threat of murder by random cops? Aren’t we people too? 

In the years that have followed ‘BLM Summer’, I’ve become increasingly aware of the many ways people rationalise their (lack of) support for various humanitarian causes across the world. The world mobilises for Notre Dame because it’s a cherished landmark, but is silent about the dozens of thousands of living people whose lives are ended or derailed daily due to war and genocide. And on some level, it is understandable — we are more likely to empathise with the familiar. But an inability to feel compassion for those outside of one’s community is a dangerous mindset, particularly in a globalised world where the actions of one powerful nation can make or break stability in countries a continent away. The notion that we are not responsible for dealing with tragedies that do not directly affect us is irrelevant when our taxes and our national representatives directly support the murder, starvation, and displacement of 2 million people. There is nothing commendable about staying silent in the face of clear injustice.

It is simply immoral to look the other way when our fellow man is being forced to endure horrific crimes against humanity. 

On top of this, it is beyond clear that racism has been weaponised against Palestinians since the 7th of October. The retaliation that followed the initial attack has been disproportional, relentless, and ultimately useless. Israel’s official mission of retrieving their hostages has not been achieved, nor have their takers been verifiably brought to justice, despite their claims. Instead what we have seen is the destruction of enormous swathes of Gazan infrastructure and the displacement, injury, and murder of over 30,000 people (a conservative estimate). Yet despite copious video evidence coming out of the region daily — whether from official news outlets, individual journalists, or civilians — people still question and mock the suffering, claiming that Palestinians deserve it and are fabricating stories to garner sympathy from the world. Even widely respected news organisations take part in this campaign of antipathy and dehumanisation, skirting around publishing headlines that explicitly state that Israel is killing people, or that children are children, not ‘young women’ or ‘people under eighteen’. 

This contrast is especially glaring against the media treatment of Ukrainians since the Russian invasion. People of all political backgrounds came together to decry the escalation of the war and open their homes and pockets to the displaced, citing their ‘civilised’ nature, ‘blue eyes’, and ‘Netflix accounts’ as reasons for their emotional investment in the cause. As a Black person living in Britain, I have spent a lifetime wincing at the racially weighted coverage of anything relating to my community.

Knife crime victims and perpetrators alike are treated as dangerous individuals from problem communities, with links to gang warfare, drug smuggling, and nothing else. We are not afforded personalities, dreams, or the depth that is consistently given to White boys who never age out of troubled teenhood until well into their 20s. Crime is a crime, but it has always been disheartening to see how little grace is given to us. These attitudes filter down into everyday life, and we live our lives constantly on edge around people who are trained to think the worst of us before they’re even fully conscious.

So it’s no surprise that in such an anti-Black environment, people will begin to say Why should we care about these people when they don’t care about us?. But if we examine the mainstream narrative, there is equally no nuance given to the actions of Hamas on October 7th — a situation that cannot be looked at without considering the 75-year history of forced expulsion, war crimes, seizure of homes and land, and apartheid.

The mainstream narrative is that of an unprovoked attack on Israeli civilians minding their business, of mass slaughter and rape. Naturally, such allegations generate outrage from the international community, despite their largely false nature, and Israel is lauded for their months-long revenge campaign. 1 in 50 children have been killed in Gaza, according to Save the Children since October, but this is not seen as a reason for Hamas or anyone else to intervene on their behalf.

Nor are the thousands of murdered children in the two decades preceding the attack seen as justification for their actions.

There is a clear hierarchy when it comes to determining which children’s deaths are worth avenging, and it is undeniably a racist one. So then, with this in mind: why would I not care? While not identical, our struggles are similar on several levels, and it would be hypocritical to withhold solidarity.

It’s for this reason I am willing to march in the streets, to boycott and petition and pressure — because it’s obvious to me that none of us are free until all of us are free

Written by Finn Lansiquot


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