Racism: Why George Floyd’s Murder Must Be a Catalyst for Change
Only a few weeks ago I found myself writing on the diseases ravaging America , referring to Covid-19 and Donald Trump. I failed to directly address a third ailment which is prevalently depraving and rotting America right through its core. Racism.
The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died whilst a white police officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds despite Floyd saying “please I can’t breathe” and “don’t kill me” has reignited awareness of the chasm of race inequality that still plagues America. The now ex-police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. If a passer-by had not filmed the incident perhaps the charges would not have been so swift.
Floyd’s death has sparked riots right across the US with violence in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Minneapolis amongst many other cities. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, speaking at Stanford University in 1967:
“A riot is the language of the unheard, and what is it that America has failed to hear?”
Quite simply, America has consistently failed to hear the demands for freedom, equality and justice. However, the way people have seemingly united to spread awareness, show solidarity and demand change gives hope that change can, and will materialise if we all accept it is our personal responsibility and duty to make it so.
Whilst the pervasiveness of institutionalised racism is perhaps more plainly obvious for all to see in America than it is in the UK, it would be naïve to overlook how much more there is we have to do at home. Challenging the status quo has to begin with challenging the self.
To become a more tolerant, more egalitarian society we must consider why racism is still allowed to fester amongst us. A lack of education and a toxic, almost entrenched culture means unfortunately racism is still utterly rife within the secondary school education system in the UK. The ‘jokes’ we played at school were, in retrospect, not at all funny. There are plenty of incidents I can recall in which I failed to challenge, or even actively encouraged behaviour which was simply wrong. To those who were on the receiving end of such behaviour, I am ashamed, and I am truly sorry.
To those who have elucidated on social media in recent days what we can each individually do to make our society a less racist one, thank you – awareness is essential for progression. I have learnt so much in the past week about the true meaning of white privilege, and how this privilege should be used to empower others. We all have a duty to try challenge racism wherever we come across it; be it in the outside world or within ourselves. I hope this post will encourage others to consider how we can each individually do better, it is no longer enough to be not racist. We must be actively anti-racist.
I stand proudly in solidarity with all those fighting for justice and equality across the globe.