George Floyd is the most recent victim in the long list of black lives lost to police brutality and institutional racism. The overtly callous nature of his death, being suffocated by a police officer, shocked the world. The riots and protests which followed have reignited the conversation about racism and racially motivated attacks. Racism ought to be challenged in all its forms and the continuation of white privilege acknowledged. The world needs to be proactive in creating societies where all people, black and white, and especially ethnic minorities, are able to stand together as equals, without prejudice or privileges.
America failed George Floyd twice, first at the hands of Derek Chauvin, and again at the hands of the institutionally racist criminal justice system, which refuses to hold his killer accountable to first degree murder – depriving George and his family of justice. His death is a shocking example of the existence of racism and prejudice within the most powerful institutions within our nations. How can racism be eradicated in America, when it is led by a seemingly racist president and supported by an institutionally racist police force?
The institutional and societal systems in place in the US and in Britain are designed to support a regime that oppresses black people and gives privilege to white people. Western societies like Britain and America were founded on white supremacy and slavery, and built with the aim to serve the white population and marginalise everyone else. In order to change the status quo there needs to be radical reform of preconceptions. Society must become actively anti-racist, for it is no longer enough to merely pay lip-service to equality.
Although the brutality of George’s death has shocked the world, the extent of covert racism remains largely unnoticed and requires urgent exposure. At every stage in their lives, black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME) face daily discrimination and oppression, serving to maintain white privilege. In school, the work place, the criminal justice system, and the housing and financial markets, unequal opportunities and discrimination are still regrettably commonplace.
Racial discrimination appears to be endemic in the criminal justice system. Analysis based on Home Office internal data shows black people are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Black people are also more likely to be convicted for lesser crimes, while there is a disproportionately high percentage of BAME people in British prisons. In the past, institutional racism in British police forces has claimed the lives of many black people, such as in the case of Mark Duggan, shot by police in Tottenham in 2011. Institutional racism in the London Metropolitan police was formally recognised after the death of Stephen Lawrence, where they failed to respond to his death – taking 19 years to secure a conviction.
White people live with the privilege of having a positive relationship with the police, of being favoured by education authorities, employers and landlords, of being able to fit in, of being brought up without being taught that they may be subject to racial abuse, of feeling welcomed in all walks of public life – institutional and social, of seeing members of their own race widely represented everywhere they go, of having plasters that match their skin tone, of trusting that their skin colour will not work against the appearance of financial reliability and respectability, and of not being subject to negative stereotyping.
To campaign that ‘all lives matter’ is to deny racial inequalities and white privilege. The lives of white people already matter. For them, their existence is not threatened or restricted by their skin colour. However, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is important, since to some, the lives of black people are clearly not a matter of concern. Did the life of George Floyd not matter? What about the lives of Breonna Taylor; Ahmaud Arbery; Eric Garner; Freddie Grey and Michael Brown, and so many others that were lost at the hands of police brutality. How many more will be lost to institutional racism before their lives are considered of equal importance?
Going forward, the conversation about racial equality should be ongoing and not merely just when it’s trending or whenever a black person is killed. Everyone needs to be motivated in challenging inequality and to support the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Now is the time to reform oppressive institutions, to achieve a fairer and equal existence for those who have suffered for far too long from racism.
To help get justice for George,
Donate to Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, who started a GoFundMe page to assist their family in their time of grief and need https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
Donate to The Minnesota Freedom Fund, a grassroots organization currently working with the National Lawyers Guild and the Legal Rights Centre. They will use donations to bail out arrested protestors and to supply those on the field. https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/donate
Sign the petition to get all four officers and convicted https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd
Sign the Black Lives Matter petition which “demands investment in communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive.” https://blacklivesmatter.com/defundthepolice/