Our CEO, Joséphine Goube, opens up to reflect on lessons from the Black Lives Matter movement. What role can (or should) organisations like Techfugees play?
It’s disgusting that Black Lives Matter has to sear itself across the world’s consciousness once again. Because it’s revolting that the murder of Afro-American people at the hands of police remains an accepted fact of life in the US.
Yet here we are again, though this time it feels different, like a tipping point.
Techfugees have resisted pressure to release a statement on the #BLM movement, but you’ll be able to guess our stance if you’re familiar with us. Instead, we’ve spent the time listening, educating ourselves, and reflecting.
Now, hopefully wiser from the experience, we can begin to articulate the questions which might get us somewhere.
How to amplify through experience?
On one level, Techfugees and #BLM fight the same fight. Racism and xenophobia are twin children of fear, ignorance and intolerance. To fight this fight takes organisation, principles, and a keen sense of justice.
To anyone who thinks that state racism is a problem of other countries.
How about the EU systemically preventing sea rescue off Libya? Letting people drown in thousands? Sending them back to civil war, kidnappings and torture?
Racism is a root of that.#BlackLivesMatter
— Carola Rackete (@CaroRackete) June 1, 2020
But even though we might look in the same direction, our causes are rooted in different backgrounds. BLM resonates profoundly with oppressed people, and we need to celebrate that. But how do we, Techfugees, work in harmony as a decentralized movement focusing on similar injustices?
How can those who work with other marginalised groups stand in solidarity with BLM without diverting the limelight?
How to be moral without moralising?
It is not enough to simply not be racist. We must be proactively anti-racist, and this is in Techfugee’s DNA as an organisation. It’s something we proudly shout about.
But with this mentality it’s easy to lapse into the belief that this is enough. That there’s no further depth at which we might question systemic injustice. To say there’s no room left for self-improvement is sheer arrogance.
“Rather than address the racism that continually denies black people any expertise or authority in the workplace, we instead deny them a promotion.” – @corinnelgray reflects on her @UN experience. https://t.co/2dUGmfOPOi
— The New Humanitarian (@newhumanitarian) June 23, 2020
This also needs to be crafted into a relatable message. Reactionaries are quick to accuse progressives of thought policing and smug moralising, of being out of touch. To many, the overbearing presumption of moral authority can be as off-putting as the vilest racism.
How do NGOs, non-profits, and impact organisations like us communicate an important ethical message with humility?
How to act from responsibility, not guilt?
I’m a white French woman from a happy family. Only once in my life have I had to present ID to the authorities, simply to justify my existence in a given place (it was in Siberia, long story).
When I began travelling for work and study, I realised what an enormous privilege it is to be white and to have a French Passport at border controls. The broader our perspective, the more we realise how good we have it in the west.
To me, this is a powerful motivator; we have a responsibility to ensure other peoples enjoy the same liberty as our own. Unfortunately, this is too often communicated as ‘white guilt.’
White guilt helps nobody. It loses votes, it alienates support, it adds to the authoritarian narrative that our opponents are quick to force upon us.
How then, when scrutiny is on majority white authorities, do we encourage people to act from that uplifting, empowering sense of responsibility? And how do we move away from the trap of white guilt?
How to give choice to those without options?
100 years ago, in America, your skin dictated most lifestyle choices. From your job to where you sat on the bus and even what toilets you were allowed to use. Your options were limited.
This sounds ridiculous today, does it not? Oh, but if you happen to have been born in Syria, Venezuela, or Afghanistan; where are your options there? You can no more control the country of your birth than the color of your skin.
Modern life prizes choice with almost religious zeal. You can be whatever and whoever you want; to say otherwise is blasphemy. But while human beings remain confined to some of the harshest conditions on Earth, through no fault or choice of their own, this attitude is nothing but hypocrisy.
If you are a tourist, no lockdown. If you are a refugee, lockdown for life. Nothing new here. Maybe just a little more cynical than ever. https://t.co/Q6ZwS1wQ76
— Joséphine Goube (@josephinegoube) June 22, 2020
How can we learn lessons from the American civil rights movement and apply them on a global scale? How do we return dignity and agency to those trapped within fragile borders?
How to build a better future together?
It’s our belief that answers can only come from those communities affected by systemic injustice. That’s why all we have for you today are questions.
But by thinking about these questions, we think about how we might better support and empower those communities. It informs our actions, and helps us lead by example with real-world deeds, not simply thoughts and prayers.
To hate another human being, to deny their rights over the color of their skin or passport is a deadly disease of the human spirit. By highlighting the symptoms of this disease, #BLM are forcing the conversation in the right direction, and we continue to salute them for it.
Now, it’s over to you. We hosted a Town Hall meeting where we invited every Techfugees Chapter Lead to come share ideas about this critical issue. I invite you to read the statement that we ended up co-producing and share your thoughts on our Facebook group.
This post was written by the team at Sookio.