A List of Frequently Asked Questions in South Africa from South Africans to U.S. Americans and from U.S. Americans to South Africans

Q. So when you all say Black Lives Matter, that means others don’t?
A. No, an assertion of one identity doesn’t invalidate another—and if it does, that means that identity is differentiated by the invalidation of the other, and is problematic. Black Lives Matter is a statement of equality not superiority. We don’t mean that black lives matter more, we mean they matter just as much.

Q. How come your movements die? How come the United States can’t sustain a revolution the same as [country that’s achieved long-term revolution]? How do we know this one won’t die.
A. I think it’s difficult to understand the variation within the United States without having lived in the United States. The countries you’ve spoken about share customs, traditions, religion, languages, race, etc. more similarly than the United States population. I imagine that foundations make it a lot easier to achieve that exceptional version of solidarity. At home, there are so many cultures, traditions, races, languages, religions, countries within the country. Our regions function like countries. There are state governments and politics that vary—the Gulf region is different than the west coast is different than the northeast. And black people, spread across the United States, aren’t the same. There’s difficulty writing a singular manifesto—Black Lives Matter was coined by queer black women and is supposed to function through a queer feminist lens and be inclusive of all black lives. But there are places where that isn’t practiced or where people would totally disagree. We’re a country in theory. And we can’t know that the movement won’t lose momentum, we can only hope/work that it doesn’t.

Q. So what happens when you’ve all gotten what you wanted, then what? Does the movement die; black lives don’t matter anymore?
A. Mmmmmm, Black Lives Matter isn’t a checklist or ransom, and it’s dangerous for any of us to think so. There are lists of demands, but there’s no resolute list that could solve the problem of black people in America, ultimately. I think where we get caught up in lists and legislation, we neglect racism’s cultural body. We can ask that police officers be convicted for rape and murder, but that doesn’t stop police from feeling threatened by, or sexualizing, black bodies, you understand? And as long as racism persists in the culture, it persists. Slavery was abolished; then freed black Americans were jailed for vagrancy and unemployment. Their labor was exploited, and so began the prison industrial complex. Racism will find a way to manifest itself without the dismemberment and reimagining of culture, and that has no ending.

Q. The information filtered to us in the United States, is, filtered. So how can we know about what’s happening in South Africa?
A. The information is readily available and can be simple as changing your twitter settings to what’s trending in Johannesburg. For anyone that considers themselves an activist and interested in activism in a global context, you have a responsibility to be active in becoming informed.

Q. Black Lives Matter seems so concentrated in the west and focused internally. We hear “black,” but don’t really feel like we’re included. Is the movement interested in black lives outside of the United States?
A. Black Lives Matter has every intention of being inclusive to black people globally. And if that hasn’t come across, we’ve failed y’all.

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One Response to A List of Frequently Asked Questions in South Africa from South Africans to U.S. Americans and from U.S. Americans to South Africans

  1. Erica Mena says:

    I’m super interested in the last question, and answer, because I’m so committed to specificity and context. Can the movement actually engage with the issues of black people outside the context in which it was founded? Is there a way to have allegiance to a specific context without being exclusionary or dismissing/ignoring the needs of black people globally? Or is the context that manifests in the USA a piece of the global context that allows for racism to continually reshape and manifest, and so the movement must be global in scope? I haven’t heard this discussed as much, and would love to know what you think.


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