Black Lives Matter: “The backlash was a source of division like Brexit”


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Media captionNatera Morris says some of the comments on social media have made her wonder what her friends think of her

“I had a lot of the same friends for 24 years and that’s the only thing that divided us. “

For Natera Morris, 24, of Cardiff, the Black Lives Matter Movement spoke of differences she didn’t know existed.

The death of American George Floyd in police custody has captured worldwide attention, sparked protests and circulated hashtags.

And a Black Asian Minority Charity (BAME) said the fallout from the Black Lives Matter movement had been “divisive like Brexit.”

But, as the Welsh government works on a racial equality action plan, what caused the division?

“Have they ever really been my friend?”

“I suffered a lot from racism. Probably more than I have experienced in my entire life over the past few months, ”said Natera.

She said she found some conflicts on social media overwhelming and it was particularly difficult to receive hate messages from people she never expected.

“I had a lot of the same friends for 24 years and that’s the only thing that divided us, and it forced me to move away from some friends, which I never thought I had to do,” she told me.

“It makes me really upset. It makes me think ‘how did they really feel to me? It’s really hard and it’s not nice to have to give up a long friendship over it but [BLM] is extremely important to me. ”

She says she thinks people have the confidence to say what they want on social media because they can “pull away” from what they post.

“It surprised me because, in person, I would never hear them speak any part of the language they have posted so freely on social media. ”

The Brexit divide “has never been more personal than it is today,” Natera added.

“Instead of disagreeing on how the country should be run, I get insults or personal comments against me and my family, and that’s something I’ve never experienced before. “

“This reveals deeply rooted attitudes”

Rocio Cifuentes, chief executive of the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team (EYST) in Wales, said the rift had been “shocking”.

“It’s an uncomfortable subject that I think it’s good that we are talking about,” she said. “But it reveals strong attitudes and highlights the need for better education on this topic. ”

In particular, she noticed the divide on social media and on Facebook.

Ms Cifuentes said people who misunderstood the movement as simply wanting to bring down statues, and the “unnecessary focus” on physical congregations during protests during the coronavirus pandemic, had contributed.

“There has been condemnation of these congregations, however, we haven’t seen the same reaction to buyers’ gatherings or the opening of pubs, for example.

“The response to some people coming together seems to be selective and doesn’t apply equally to everyone.

“There are distinct racial motivations behind these different responses.”

She said now is the time to question yourself and “explore what makes us react to these different examples.”

Statistics show that people from black ethnic groups have the lowest percentage of workers in senior management positions, at 5%.

This needs to improve in order to encourage positive change, Ms. Cifuentes said.

‘I feel so mentally exhausted’

Joe Newman, 30, from Cardiff, said: “I spent a long time looking at my social media and asking myself ‘do I really want to be on this platform?’ ”

This came after he fell out with someone he “took under his wing”. Joe said he was explaining the problem to his close friend when they started using racist rhetoric.

“It made me feel a little sick. She’s someone I thought I knew. They didn’t even give me a chance to explain my views and help educate them – they just refused. ”

Joe removed six or seven close friends from his social media and reported posts that showed signs of racism.

He said he engaged with people whose messages he considered “uninformed” but that had taken its toll.

” I’m just tired. I feel so mentally exhausted, especially after you’ve had a debate with someone where you’re trying to educate them about the issues. It exhausts you, ”he says.

For Joe, education from an early age is the key to avoiding further division.

He said: “People are not born racists.

“A lot of people think that when you say ‘Black Lives Matter’ it means black people want to overtake other races, but you don’t. It’s about wanting to be equal. “

‘It’s personal’

Nadia Thomas, 25, organized the Black Lives Matter protest in Chepstow.

“The response has been incredible,” she said. “It restored my faith because I realized there was support in the community. It was important given how I felt from what I saw on social media. ”

Nadia understood why people opposed protests during the coronavirus pandemic, with Prime Minister Mark Drakeford telling people to ‘think twice’ before attending.

She said, “This is how serious this problem is. He couldn’t wait.

“We got kudos from the mayor for how safe it was, and we even got comments from people saying they felt safer at the protest than at Tesco. ”

But Nadia was surprised when she received a negative response from someone who had been in her life for years.

She said she received memes and articles every day making their opposing point of view, causing them to be out of touch.

“For me, it’s very personal and it was difficult for me to process it. I found myself getting pretty depressed, ”Nadia said.

“It shouldn’t be a debate. I don’t know why we are debating.

“But I think discussions need to take place with people who don’t have the understanding because it’s beyond their experience.

“Not all of those people who have a defensive stance are racist. It was just their defensive response. “

What is the Welsh government doing?

The Welsh government said Professor Charlotte Williams was leading a working group to “oversee the development of new learning resources” and “improve the teaching of Black, Asian and ethnic minority experiences and history” .

“We are developing a Racial Equality Action Plan for Wales which will prioritize cultural, economic, educational and social change to create an equal and anti-racist Wales,” a spokesperson said.

“This follows the launch of our diversity and inclusion strategy for public appointments in Wales. As part of this, we will recruit more experienced independent panel members from a wider range of backgrounds to improve the diversity of the public appointment review process. “


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