By Sumayya Anis
2020- The beginning of this year started with a virus that had us in lockdown; streets strangely silent. By mid-year, the virulent head of racism resurfaced, exhibiting its viral nature one again. And so, people have hit the streets. One virus locking us in, the other calling us out.
The Black Lives Matter Movement was initiated in 2013, in response to the acquittal of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. Martin was unarmed, on the way back from a store, when he was shot by Zimmerman who stated that Martin seemed ‘suspicious.’ Martin’s body was tested for alcohol and drugs. Zimmerman’s was not. Zimmerman claimed his actions were in self-defence and thus walked free. Say Martin’s name.
Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black male, was shot by Darren Wilson. He was viewed by friends as a gentle giant yet The New York Times controversially called him ‘no angel.’ He allegedly stole a packet of cigarillos. Wilson stopped Brown in the middle of the road and shot him 6 times. His body lay in a pool of blood for 4 hours before it was removed. Wilson claimed his actions were in self-defence and thus walked free. Say Michael’s name.
Freddie Gray, charged for possessing a knife, whilst being transported in a police van, fell into a coma after bystanders witnessed his legs being bent backwards, a knee pressed to his neck and his body folded, severing his spinal cord. It was said a contributing factor in his death was a rough drive whereby the detainee was handcuffed but placed without a seatbelt in an erratically driven van. This is police brutality. The officers were released on bail after charged of manslaughter. Say Freddie’s name.
These cases all led to Colin Kaepernick’s kneel during the National Anthem. A peaceful protest against the anthem of the ‘land of the free,’ whilst those of colour were and are still being ruthlessly murdered in a bloody system of injustice. Donald Trump tweeted “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOURE FIRED. Find something else to do.” Notice this language, used when talking about a stand to bring awareness. Now compare this to Trump’s statement about ARMED protestors in Michigan who rebelled against the lockdown. “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. There are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.” Am I missing something, or would this statement not be far more suitable for the families who have lost loved ones in unaccounted acts of white supremacy?
George Floyd, accused of a counterfeit note, was viciously pinned down by Derek Chauvin, with a further three complicit officers simply watching. Chauvin’s knee was kept on the neck of Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, despite consistent pleas. Floyd lost consciousness and was slowly and brutally murdered. Chauvin was charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. Say George’s name.
“Never Again,” remains wishful thinking. It has begun to feel so empty; the concern skin deep. How can it be that our skin, literal tissue, defines whether we get to live?
This is the antonym of justice. The American dream really does seem like a dream; much too far from any tangible possibility; unless we all stand up for our black brothers and sisters. The same artists who are inspired by Black music and fashion are now silent or ‘struggling for words.’ What words regarding systematic racism, prejudice, bias and murder confuse them? I feel that far too often, those with the most power and privilege are the ones who keep quiet.
I would love to think the UK is untainted from racial prejudice but that simply isn’t so. In a haunting parallel to Floyd’s murder, Sean Rigg, a 40-year-old black British musician, who suffered from schizophrenia was leant on for 8 minutes and placed face down in a caged section of a police car. After being unconscious and unattended for a further 10 minutes, Rigg was placed on the floor unresponsive and was found to be dead 10 minutes later. Officers claimed to have believed he was ‘feigning it.’ The investigation that followed suit suggested no evidence was clear that there had been neglect and no prosecution was made. And this is not one isolated incidence. Further, we should all be ashamed that statistics show BAME communities are disproportionately stopped and searched five times more than white people. Moreover, those who are black are more often misidentified with new facial recognition technology.
We must all acknowledge that racism has morphed throughout time. Yes, the slavery of African Americans has ended and yes, the era of Jim Crow has subsided, but the new racial caste system is one that is covert. Educate older relatives, shut down racist ‘banter,’ spread awareness and be proactive.Acknowledge that stating All Lives Matter is counterproductive. Of course, all lives do matter but at the moment black lives are treated as inferior; society becoming desensitised to discrimination. So, until we have solved this issue and gained equality- Black Lives Matter.
Silence is no longer an option. Being frightened to voice your opinions is no longer an option. Your silence only reeks of privilege, apathy for the oppressed and indifference for the marginalised. You are part of the problem. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”- Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Books you can read-
I have not personally read all these books, but they have been recommended.
– The New Jim Crow
– Why I am no longer talking to white people about race
– Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice
– You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org if you live in Altrincham or Sale
Links and petitions:
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwirs9TZw-PpAhXEuHEKHeXaABcQwqsBMAB6BAgJEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DY_8pLRyNZ8M&usg=AOvVaw0PMibYsdKd8tUvYqVNBFla A poem written by a close friend about the current climate.