I Imagine a list of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ being published which included the instruction “Put white people’s feelings ahead of your own”. In what world might such an instruction be possible? In apartheid South Africa perhaps. Or plantation-era America, possibly. But in the 21st century?
The answer is nowhere, and obviously. Certainly it is impossible to imagine any document including such a demand of black people being passed around social media today by otherwise responsible and decent citizens. Yet throughout recent days — most especially Tuesday this week when users on Instagram had a ‘blackout’ day — instructions like this have been rife.
Lists on how to behave, what to think and what to say have been sent around. But of course the instructions are intended not for black people but for white people — instructions like ‘Check yourself’ and “Don’t expect black people to educate you. If you learn from a black educator, compensate them financially.”
All across the social media platforms these and many other not-so-passive lists of passive-aggressive demands have been issued. All rely on material that has been gestating for years. But this time — in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota — there seems to be an added push, with far greater pressure on people to accept and sign up to them.
This time, perfectly normal people seem to feel that they have to get in lock-step with the movement. To post what everyone is meant to post. To make sure they do nothing that will make them stand out from the herd. It is understandable. At this moment many people will be noticing there are actual as well as virtual mobs — of admirably diverse composition — stalking around looking for people who they can complain have looked at them funny. But personally I would resist the urge to prostrate myself at this point in time.
Many years ago I was introduced to one of the most helpful rules of logic: to never say or write anything the opposite of which would only be uttered by a madman. So for instance, if you are an aspiring politician do not say “We must go forwards into a new bright future” because no sane person would publicly declare “We must go backwards into a dark past”.
Read more: Why I won’t ‘take the knee’