©frankbauer.com
I posted a black square. I’m against racism. I added the hashtag ‘blackouttuesday’ to the square and uploaded it to my timeline. But I felt slightly uneasy. I felt pathetic. What do I know about racism, what do I know how it feels to be black? How can I dare to use a hashtags like #blacklivesmatter? How many black people do I know here in Munich, where I was born and raised? Not many. Can I be a part of this fight at all? Am I even allowed to? How can I join this protest without being stuck in total superficiality? Am I floating along on a wave of solidarity, because, sure, what happened in Minneapolis was really horrible. But what does that have to do with me? Actually, It has a lot to do with me. Because I’m white. And because I’m uncomfortable with the subject and because sometimes I put things into perspective. My first reaction to the claim ‘black lives matter’ was ‘yes, of course, but ‘all lives matter’, right? Yes, right, but also wrong. Because in this case it’s about a fight against injustice, that has been fought in the U.S. for a long time. It is not simply about discrimination or equality, it is about the systematic exclusion of people. People whose only difference with the majority of the population is their darker skin. People who have long been denied the same rights as the white majority. People who are still being denied those rights. And all this is based on a system that’s wrong, a system that makes sure that the privileges of white people are not jeopardized and black people won’t gain power. Power as in wealth, for example. Black people couldn’t build up any wealth until the 1960s. They could not get loans and mortgages, couldn’t open businesses, could not buy real estate. They couldn’t increase and pass on property and capital to their kids and couldn’t give the following generations an easier start. They couldn’t pay for good schools. Good education is quite expensive in the U.S. and unless you are an exceptional athlete and get a scholarship, you will have to pay a small fortune to get your kids a good education. You will have to get a loan, but you will get worse conditions, if you can’t provide collateral. It’s a vicious circle of injustice that spreads through your whole life. When you are black. Bad neighbourhoods, bad schools, less chances, high crime rate, higher risk of being arrested by the police, higher risk of being charged and convicted. Once convicted, you lose your right to vote, in some U.S.states for good. You loose your political voice.
That’s how the system works in the U.S. It might be different here, but the system exists. Racism. Based on skin colour, name, prejudice. It is wrong in the U.S. and it’s wrong here. But I am willing to learn. And to talk about it, even if it means questioning myself and my comfort zone, reconsidering my familiar views. I don’t know if I will always succeed in my attempt because I have been part of this society for so long. We are all part of it. But we must try. We can take that new step, question, communicate, challenge, practice, learn. Wherever and whenever. We can change the system. Not right away maybe, but we can start, on Instagram, on protest marches, in schools, parliaments, with our families. And maybe, maybe then our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will actually be able to say ‘all lives matter’, because racism will be a thing of the past and a person with a darker skin colour no longer has to fear for his/her life if he/she is stopped by the police.

The T-shirt ‘Unite’ supports the project ‘With Drawn Arms’, a collaboration of my friend and artist Glenn Kaino with the athlete Tommie Smith, that helps to create awareness for social injustice. Tommie Smith and his fellow athlete John Carlos raised their arms in a silent gesture that has become an iconic image of resistance and solidarity during the 1968 olympics. Glenn Kaino translated this gesture of protest artistically in his sculptures ‘Bridge'(2014) and ‘Invisible Man’ (2018). During the project ‘With Drawn Arms’, Tommie Smith and Glenn Kaino traveled through the U.S. and held workshops for students to help them develop an artistic voice and raise awareness on the issues of racism and social justice then and now.

©frankbauer.com
©frankbauer.com
©frankbauer.com

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