The momentum created by BLM may wane
I still remember how I felt watching the video of George Floyd’s assassination. I didn’t watch it all the way but I remember the blinding anger I felt.
I needed to do something about it. Something tangible and impactful. For my wife and business partner, Rania, launching Create Not Hate seemed like a positive thing for the creative industry to do. We wanted to remedy the lack of diversity in advertising. I marched and felt the collective anger and pain of thousands of peaceful protesters. But I wanted to do more to have a long-term impact.
It was amazing how much everyone got emotionally involved in the cause last summer. I had a lot of positive and honest conversations with friends, many of whom asked me what they could do to support the movement: how do I effect real change? It was as if the penny had finally dropped for a lot of people.
I had been hiding from these conversations for a long time; avoid being the angry black man with a chip on his shoulder. I had observed subtle racism and microaggressions and let them go for an easier, less confrontational life. But 2020 looked like the year we were released. And for me, it was very cathartic. I felt like a heavy weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
As the year progressed, I am sad to say that a lot of things have returned to what they were. With the easing of lockdown restrictions, people want to live “normal lives” – a life that doesn’t involve having to have difficult conversations about systemic racism, inequality and prejudice. I appreciate that people are exhausted. But racism has not simply disappeared.
Create Not Hate has been approached by many brands and individuals with goodwill in their hearts, but many of them have now fallen silent. It’s a gauge as to what I think it is over there. The momentum is in danger of fading away.
We have just started working on a new project to provide a text-based helpline for anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope called Shout 85258. Our aim is to reach young black boys and men in the world. struggling with mental health issues. It is one of the groups most affected by mental illness, but it seeks and receives the least support. We hope to recruit mentors and try to involve many more again.
Our work with Create Not Hate was a perfect example of talent that goes unused. That remains our goal: to integrate marginalized and under-represented youth into the industry and make the industry aware of the brilliance and new thinking of a more diverse workforce.
I think for a long time white people thought they had no right to say things. But the past year has also seen a lot of people do courageous things. Take Jessica Gregson who founded Open to all, closed to racism in a small rural village by the sea. Others who live on my route have put up signs saying “Racists are not welcome in this house”. These seemingly small things that people did, they all add up. No one wants to look back and think they haven’t done anything.
I would like to believe that we are all more enlightened. But there remains a complacency in this society that has not been addressed for a long time. And so we have to keep pushing. It’s hard when you feel like you’re pushing against the people in power. The government report which concluded that there was no systemic racism in the UK certainly set us back. It gave society a sense of validation that there is not, in fact, this uncomfortable truth. Unfortunately, this removed the pressing urgency in people’s minds to tackle inequality.
But, looking forward to the year ahead, I – and Create Not Hate – won’t back down. We will continue the dialogue. Hopefully I won’t go through this boring, chunky black. There are many people for whom discrimination is a daily reality. I am still black; it does not change. So we need to continue having these conversations. I hope we look back to that time and marvel at the fact that this was our reality.
Trevor Robinson is the Founder and Executive Creative Director of Quiet Storm