This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Diya Narag. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Dear #AllLivesMatter Tribe: “Stop Appropriating Stories That Aren’t Yours”

Dear white, cisgender, heterosexual people,

Now, I’m not a big fan of call-out or cancel culture theoretically, but if even after 88 fatal police-shootouts targetting African-Americans just in the past year you use the hashtag ‘All Lives Matter’, then yes this open letter is definitely calling you out on your blissful privilege and blatant ignorance. The phrase All Lives Matter isn’t just disrespectful to the black population battered and brutalized all over the world, but it’s disrespectful to religious and racial minorities in every country that face gross human right violations that aren’t accounted for, or even acknowledged by dominant majority groups.

A man holding a poster that says stop killing us during protests over George Floyd's death
Hollywood, CA, Monday, June 1, 2020 – Hundreds of protestors march numerous blocks demonstrating against police brutality and the death of George Floyd. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

When you use the aforementioned phrase, you assume that you deserve the same natural and human rights as the minority group you talk about. Hypothetically, that’s a fact but do you really think the same rights are handed out to them in practice? You assume that you and the minority group in question are at the same vantage point in terms of historical, political, economic, cultural and civil liberties, which is highly inaccurate. You assume that you and the minority group in question are treated equally in the eyes of the law, inside and outside court.

Justice Delayed, Not Dispensed, Denied: Has Colonialism Taught Us Nothing?

The way I see it justice is almost always delayed, rarely dispensed but more often than not denied. You assume that you and the subaltern group in question gain the same social acceptance in society and aren’t typecasted into derogatory, demeaning categories, deemed fit by convenient prejudices. You assume that you and the minority group in question don’t face humiliating and offensive slurs on a daily basis, which is again a misguided judgement. If you still believe everyone is equal, ask any African-American, Hispanic or another minority group how safe they feel walking home alone at night in America.

The Guardian’s ‘The Counted’ series estimates more than 1093 shootouts in 2016, out of which 266 black people were killed, which is 24% for a population that accounts for only 13% of the total population of the United States of America. Breonna Taylor, Dominique Clayton, Philando Castile, Bettie Jones, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis are just a few names in the extensive list of individuals killed in shootouts. The number of such murders in the US disproportionately affects African Americans. According to an article by Al Jazeera, Black Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police.

As for all erstwhile colonized inhabitants, especially Asians, who are appallingly using the phrase left, right and centre, have centuries of colonialism taught you nothing? Is this the post-colonial legacy we consciously internalize, support and not speak out against? Because it’s not one hashtag that you as individuals promote day in and day out, it’s abetting and egging on heinous crimes committed against people of colour, it’s normalizing mass rapes and murders that have been committed against children of racial minorities and sustenance of ideologies that turn women’s bodies into battlefields for war.

“Stop Appropriating Stories That Aren’t Yours”

Black Lives Matter Demonstrators March In New York City
Kudos to protestors in Australia, Berlin, Paris, Japan and various other countries who have come out to support George Floyd in their own countries, amidst a pandemic, to condemn racism worldwide. (Source: Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Focusing on India, my ‘mother-land’ under Modi in 2020, do we really see an improvement in the lives of Muslims and Dalits in our country? The Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, Muhammad Aqkhlaq’s brutal lynching in the Dadri case of 2015, the Una flogging and violence of 2016 and Rohit Vemula’s suicide over caste-based discrimination seem like distant stories of the past. Anti-secular and segregating laws like the Citizenship Amendment Act continue to be passed and rationalized.

Forgotten horrors are overshadowed by ‘new developments’ India makes in the digital sector, in the health-insurance sector or in its bilateral relations and trade deals with super-powers like the United States. ‘Hard power’ commonly known to constitute real-politics is fallacious when casteism, communalism and sexism are the backbones of the very Hindutva ideology propagated by our ruling party. While we bolster movements in faraway lands as responsible citizens, we neglect the same issues persisting closer to home.

The oppressor and the oppressed can never, and I repeat ever, switch roles or share the same advantages and disadvantages in society. I’d love to believe in a utopic world justice, equality and liberty; the basic tenets of democratic values are allocated to each and every individual uniformly but presently, they’re absolutely not. Which is why reverse-racism or equalism as a replacement for feminism, do not exist. When you use terms like these, you disrespect and frankly discredit the validity of all anti-colonial struggles as well as waves of feminism that have attempted to restore constitutional rights for all categories of individuals. So if you’re not a white, upper-class male, it’s the reason why you can vote in the first place.

Ontologically, you as a privileged man or woman will never experience the first-hand, lived experiences of any man, woman, LGBTQIA+ community member who belongs to a racial, religious, gender, or caste minority. George Floyd doesn’t represent merely one but the many countless black voices that have been silenced, as well as voices of all those slaughtered at the hands of their oppressor.

Kudos to protestors in Australia, Berlin, Paris, Japan and various other countries who have come out to support George Floyd in their own countries, amidst a pandemic, to condemn racism worldwide. Kudos to people who believe in speaking their mind and raising their voice against flagrant infringement of basic human rights. Social media has gained popularity today and exists as an alternate mode of political and social activism to spread awareness.

If not the most, the least you can do is stop appropriating stories that aren’t yours, stop turning other people’s miseries into exploitative stepping-stones for your personal use, stop with the misplaced saviour complex, empathize more than sympathize; furthermore, acknowledge your privilege rather than basking in its glory.

Signing off with a lot of disgruntled sighs.

You must be to comment.
  1. Rahul Das

    Only a political science student can write so eloquently ❤️

    1. Diya Narag

      Thank you!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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