Updated: Jun 22, 2020
By Rowchell G, Young Advisor
These past few weeks, I have shared posts made by others without detailed captions of my own due to the inability to articulate the anger and the sadness that I have felt in regards to the current injustices but also because the posts made by others, articulated these emotions perfectly. I am thankful for these posts because they spoke on behalf of those who could not at the time. Now, I feel like I have got my tongue back from the cat that snatched it from me the minute I laid my eyes on the horrifying video of George Floyd’s murder - an innocent man, killed on camera, by someone who hated his skin colour more than they hated his alleged crime.
George Floyd is not the first black person to die at the hands of a racist person placed in power. However, I do pray that he will be the last. Maybe, by praying for this, I am being incredibly optimistic, or maybe I am terrified of the impact that another cold-blooded murder will have on the black community. I highly doubt that we can take another blow to the stomach, as we are already too wounded, which is why I desperately pray that George Floyd will be the last name that we ever have to post on our social media pages, that we ever have to protest for, riot for, cry for or mourn for.
The uproar of the world right now is undeniable and unavoidable. The tension in the air is so thick that it can be cut with a knife, so thick that it is almost suffocating – and yet not as suffocating as it would have been someone’s knee digging into your neck. Still, this tension could not have been predicted, not by me anyway. I would have never thought that this unjust death would have been the one to finally break the silence that has prevailed for years, but rather I assumed that we could somehow accept George’s death as the norm, in the same way that we have done for centuries. Evidently, this was not the case. I imagine that the anger which we expressed in our homes before we did online, merged until it formed this mass revolt that we cannot turn back from.
For anyone who does not understand the reasons behind the uproar, I can tell you that it was not a result of George Floyd's death being greater than the deaths that had happened years ago or the deaths that had happened within the same month. It was not because we all knew him personally or that we sympathised greater. It was because George Floyd’s death was the last death that we were willing to accept, to supress or to be quiet about. During a conversation with my friend, I gave the analogy that if you were to continuously poke a bear, the bear would retaliate. Like a bear whose been poked too many times, we are angry and as a result, you will hear us louder than ever. We can no longer be silenced.
Assuming that my analogy was unflawed, it came as a shock to me when my friend replied saying, “but the bear is always seen as aggressive right?”. Her statement at surface level could have perceived as unreasonable and unnecessary, however after evaluating it, it became clear to me that she was only highlighting the bear's reality. As a result, I began to reflect on one of my favourite childhood movies, ‘The Fox and the Hound', where one scene involved a hunter being attacked by a bear. Watching this movie as a child, even I knew that the bear had only retaliated because the hunter had shot him, and yet the movie still depicted the bear's action as unjustified. Arguably, the bear had every right to be angry and to lash out. After all, he had been shot!
The unfair representation of the bear in that movie mirrors the unfair representation of black people in the media. I have heard heinous descriptions and derogatory words used to describe black people’s conduct and response to racial injustice. I have watched black people be scrutinised and condemned for actions that could have been prevented if only they were seen in a more humane manner. I wonder now, what would have happened if the hunter apologised to the bear, patched up his wound and admitted that he was wrong. Probably not much because bears can’t understand English – but we can, people can. Maybe if the perpetrator’s response was different or if the leaders of our country’s response was different, or if the global response was different - then maybe the events would have not escalated in the way it did. In fact, I know for sure, that the events would not have escalated in the way that it did. Things would have been different, and it is that difference that we are fighting for now.
A common question that has circulated on social media is, “What do our non-black counterparts people make of all of this?”. This question has led me to wonder what my hypothetical responses would be to the injustices faced by black people as a non-black person. The irony of this lies in the fact that many black individuals have attempted similar reasoning by placing themselves in the shoes of a non-black person, whilst many white people have been reluctant to do so themselves, and arguably need to. Upon reflecting on this question, I immediately knew that I would feel sympathetic towards George Floyd solely because it does not take a fellow black person to acknowledge that his murder was unjust, it takes a human being. Secondly, after acknowledging that there was a pattern in the amount of black deaths caused by police brutality, I would realise that there was something seriously wrong with the justice system and those placed in power and I would want to do something to change this.
So, what does this all mean? It means that there is a lot of educating to do, surrounding the privilege that non-black individuals have, surrounding the structures that have been put in place to systematically oppress black individuals and surrounding the things that we can do to dismantle personal and systemic racism.
Although as a black person I have been exposed to racism for as long as I remember, I'm aware of its vastness as it has not only existed way before I was alive but also in corners of the world which I am yet to discover - therefore, non-black individuals will not be alone in educating themselves.
It will take mental, physical and emotional change to create a movement that will change the world.
Are you in?