If Not Now, Then When?

I stood on the packed metropolitan line train, going over the muddled and angry thoughts that were racing through my head. I hadn’t been this angry in a very long time. As commuters shuffled in and out of the train at Finchley Road, I scurried to find an empty seat. I sat down, took out my phone and contemplated my choices. If this was about me, I would have happily stayed silent, just as I had so many times before. Just as I had with all the racists remarks and comments I had endured during my time at work. But this wasn’t about me. This was about racism depriving someone else of an opportunity. Racism stopping a black man from getting a job he had worked hard for. I hadn’t imagined that a day of sitting on interview panels would leave me feeling so much pain and anger on behalf of someone else. I finally decided to act, not just for myself and all the times I had stayed silent, but for him. I unlocked my phone and wrote the email. With so much rage running through my veins, I didn’t have time to spellcheck. I clicked send, got off the train, and walked the rest of my journey home.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to have racism stand in the way of job opportunities. For some, racism takes a much darker turn, it kneels down on their neck as they cry out for breath, whilst the light of life fades from their eyes. This is not the first time that this has happened, and unfortunately, it will not be the last. Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and George Floyd are some of the few lucky enough to gain a hashtag. This has to stop. Not just police brutality, but the everyday racism, microaggressions and unconscious biases that leads one to believe that Black Lives Matter less.

The challenge we face is how does a society built on structural racism and injustice fight for justice. How can we, as organisms of organisations play a role. We all want the freedom to be who we are without abuse, assaults or oppression. Everyday we have a choice. A choice to speak up when we see that something is not right. Not to sit back as a Muslim woman is verbally assaulted on the train. A choice to learn more about other people’s experiences, to read books such as Americanah and Girl, Woman, Other, to watch documentaries such as Now They See Us, and 13th. We have a choice to sign petitions and to write to our political representatives urging them to act. These are small steps that will lead to a fairer society. One where white police officers are no longer allowed to murder unarmed black men. One where minorities can apply for jobs trusting that their qualifications and experience will be the deciding factor.

My choice led to a discussion, it led to an apology and most importantly, it led to changed behaviour. Now is the time to act and take a stand against injustice. Because if not now, then when? And if not you, then who?

Thank you for reading.

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