PEACEFUL anti-racism protests have been planned locally as Shetland looks set to play its part in the global Black Lives Matter movement.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has meanwhile issued a statement of support for the movement, and asked Shetland to ‘do better’ in the face of any racism in the community “in the wake of international protests following the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd”.
It follows widespread protests in the US, UK and beyond after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while being restrained by a white Minnesota police officer.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for a number of minutes, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Wishart said: “Protests across the world have asked us to think about whether we have a role in feeding or overlooking racism in our communities, from overt discrimination to unconscious or systematic bias.
“I believe that the Shetland community is, on the whole, welcoming and kind. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better.
“Some may have been party to things that seemed harmless, but in fact have never been acceptable. As individuals we should call out racist remarks or so-called jokes when we hear them. Seeing blacked-up faces at some local events needs to be a thing of the past.
“Part of being an ally is looking at yourself and your community and recognising where you can do better. Shetland, just like everywhere else, can do better.”
A socially distanced walk across communities in the isles on Saturday (13 June) in support of the movement has been proposed by new group Shetland Staands Wi Black Lives Matter.
People are encouraged to go for a walk in their local area between 2pm and 3pm and display a poster handed out by volunteers. Pick-up points will be announced later this week.
The group also aims to raise awareness online and “create a collective voice that can address and hopefully change the underlying racism that exists here”.
Joy Duncan, one of the organisers of the protest, said she and a group of likeminded people wanted to give Shetlanders an opportunity to have their voices heard and emotions expressed while being mindful of the lockdown restrictions.
“What we have created is a walk in each community in Shetland from Baltasound to Fair Isle, and Whalsay to Foula,” she said
“At 2pm in every community in Shetland there will be a pick-up station where you can safely pick-up a poster, take it on your daily walk, put in in your window when your get home, and your voice is out there.
“It is time for change, and Shetland is not innocent. There is racism here as well and I have met it before. And I have stayed quiet just to keep the peace but I am not going to do that anymore.
“I would say most of the underlying racism in Shetland is unintended because they know – they don’t ken ony better – but that is no excuse anymore.”
The group got the green light to go ahead with the protest from the local police force on Monday morning. Photos of the various walks will be collated on the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
Meanwhile, a separate protest has been planned for Lerwick the following Saturday (20 June).
The organisers say they want people to adhere to social distancing and wear masks.
A route has been suggested which would see people walk around the centre of Lerwick.
The organisers have also contacted the local police regarding staging the event.
A number of local folk have also signed an open letter which will be sent to Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison.
It says that Shetland “must strive to not only claim to not be racist, but to actively become anti-racist”.
It encourages the isles to “foster a community which calls out those who discriminate against the minorities within it” and to “educate people to understand the racist and inhumane realities of the British Empire and those within it and how this continues to impact upon black communities and other ethnicities to this day”.
The letter adds that while Shetland remains a “vast majority white population” there is a “social history drowned in racial insensitivity” – with it referring to the use of ‘blackface’ in Up Helly Aa squads – “a blatantly racist act which many fail to see the significance of”.
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