3 Holocaust Quotes That Explain Why Black Lives Matter Protests Have Gone Global

Photo by Donovan Valdivia on Unsplash

At least 12 countries around the world have joined in protests in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. While the sense of solidarity is clear in the minds of those joining the protests, many people have taken to social media to express their confusion over why protests are occurring in their country and other places outside of the United States. To help us make sense of the significance of this growing movement, let’s look at three quotes from the late Eli Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. — Eli Wiesel

Before we go any further, let’s establish one thing: there are black and brown people living in your country. We exist outside of American prisons and ghettos and outside of the continent of Africa. We exist and we sympathise when one of our own is being oppressed because we have each experienced racism. No matter where a black or brown person lives, their skin colour is noticed and in many societies is an issue.

Over 150 years after slavery ended in America, race relations are still fraught. America still regards its black and brown people as having less intrinsic value. In 2019, over 70 percent of black Americans reported that race relations in the US were generally bad.

Photo by Reuters

Protesting gives these staggering injustices a voice. Protests exist to highlight problems within a community. They shine a spotlight on issues privilege overlooks. Protesting in the time of COVID-19 stresses the issue: people are literally risking their health and safety to speak out against racism.

Protests around the globe that echo that voice only add to the cause. They support our struggle and the throng of people taking to the streets to share our demands for equality is composed of friends and family of loved ones living in the United States as well as those who cannot sit by and watch evil.

Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the centre of the universe. — Eli Wiesel

History has taught us the importance of allies — a country without alliances in trade, immigration or defence cannot thrive. No political movement can thrive without the support of its allies. Being an ally means being willing to act with and for others in pursuit of ending oppression and creating equality.

Photo by Wilmer Martinez on Unsplash

Perhaps the most common social justice ally we are all familiar with is in the LGBTQ+ community. Pride exists in over 160 countries around the world. We don’t question the need for global Pride because we understand that our brothers in sisters in the LGBTQ+ community can hail from any country regardless of harsh laws attempting to dictate their sexuality. Furthermore, we do not question heterosexual allies who march in solidarity with queer folk.

Pride itself started as a protest called the Stonewall Uprising, a series of demonstrations that ripped through New York City following a police raid. Some 50 years later, Pride is a global celebration, welcome even in cities that don’t have a recent history of oppressing LGBTQ+. Where Pride is concerned, the world rallies and says, ‘Your sexuality is irrelevant. You are equal to me.’

People who question why their country should tolerate Black Lives Matter protests fuel society’s propensity to not see the value of black and brown people.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. — Eli Wiesel

Silence is violence. Being aware of racism is no longer enough. White people must become comfortable speaking out against racism. They must hold their peers accountable for racist talk and actions not for a proverbial pat on the back or to assuage their own guilt but because black and brown lives matter just as much as white lives. Solidarity shows the BAME community that we are not alone.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

There is racism in your country — it may not be systemic as it is in the US, but it exists where you live. Your privilege may prevent you from seeing it. Ask the people of colour around you to recount their experiences of racism. Be prepared to listen.

Doing good in the world and standing up for injustice is our responsibility. All of our responsibility. Turning a blind eye to the suffering of others and failing to recognise the intrinsic value of marginalised groups is a Molotov cocktail tossed on the dumpster fire of oppression. It only gets worse. Left unchecked, despots strengthen. Allowed to operate above the law, police become combative and militarised. Little by little, civil liberties of oppressed peoples dissolve to nothing.

Just as the world opened its heart and borders to those in need during the Syrian Refugee Crisis, so shall it open its streets for protests against systemic US racism. The world needs to say to black and brown people everywhere, ‘You are relevant. You are equal to us.’ and a protest gives them that opportunity.

Anyonita Green is an American in Britain. She writes with a confessionalist voice, exploring narrative essays, BAME topics, pop culture, parenthood, obesity, race, travel, literature and food.

American in Britain • Confessionalist voice, exploring narrative essays, BAME topics, pop culture, parenthood, body image, race, travel, literature and food.