George Floyd: My reflections one month on
Today marks one month since George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. The understandable outpouring of grief and anger that led to people taking to the streets in protest in cities around the world has started to slowly dissipate and the policemen charged with his murder are in custody awaiting trial. We’ve seen multinational corporations come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement (despite having decidedly mixed track records on combating racism), statues of historical figures with ties to the slave trade have been torn down, and in the US Congress is debating a police reform bill - although whether enough bipartisanship exists in an election year to pass anything meaningful is anyone’s guess. The Premier League also showed its solidarity with the movement by replacing player names with ‘Black Lives Matter’ on all shirts and players knelt before kickoff during the first round of matches. Despite all of these actions, the question remains - will the senseless killing of George Floyd be any different to all the other senseless killings that have come before, and spark real reform? In short, the jury is still out.
When I was in Washington DC a couple of years ago I bought a T-shirt at Ford’s Theatre (the place where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated) that bears the text ‘Created equal.’, which of course comes from the Declaration of Independence. The full sentence reads:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with this notion, because it is plainly obvious that we are not all created equal. In the UK, 87% of the population identify as White or White British, 7% as Asian or Asian British, 3% as Black or Black British, 2% as Mixed and 0.9% as Other. Yet almost from birth Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) are overrepresented in statistical measures that place them at a disadvantage, be it infant mortality, exclusion rates at school, likelihood of being stopped and searched by the police, prison population, poverty, or pay rates. The latest statistic to be added to this list is coronavirus deaths.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but as a white male I think it is incumbent on me to acknowledge the privilege that I enjoy and at the very least ask why this disparity exists and challenge racism when I come across it. I think we must aspire to a fair society where everyone feels they have a stake - only then will we be truly inclusive. I can pledge to be an ally in the fight against racism and continue to educate myself about these important issues. If you’re interested in joining me on this journey I’ve posted some more information about Allyship and some educational resources below.
There is a clear link between racial inequality and environmentalism. Studies have found that ethnically diverse neighbourhoods have the highest air pollution levels (both in Europe and the US) and it is the global south that is facing the impacts of climate change first. That’s why it’s fantastic to see movements like Climate Reframe, which seeks to amplify BAME voices in the UK environmental movement, and intersectional environmentalism which is:
“an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices are happening to marginalised communities and the Earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the Earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates justice for people and the planet.”
I pledge to revisit this post regularly and update it with new insights I’ve learned to ensure I’m holding myself accountable to the principle of allyship.
The Runnymede Trust defines racism as:
“Racism is about power and the elevation of some populations to positions of primacy and domination and the denigration and subordination of others.
It is about who is deemed worthy / unworthy of a place in a society / territory; who will receive the protection of the law; and who will be subject to unusual punishment and control. And the work of racism is enacted and reproduced in the main by institutional forces in society with results that can be seen, for example, in the courtroom, the boardroom and the classroom.
Racism is brought to life by categorising certain populations as deeply and irreversibly flawed / dangerous because of their biological and / or cultural failings.”
“An ally is any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts that benefit people as a whole.
It’s about being courageous and speaking out against injustice.
It’s more than clicking ‘like’ or ‘share’, or posting a black square on your social media.”
Ten organisations to donate to if you can afford to (or research their work if you can’t):
- Black Lives Matter UK is a coalition of black activists and organisers across the UK who have been organising since 2016 for justice in black communities. Donate here to support UKBLM’s work with black communities across the UK.
- The Black Curriculum is a social enterprise founded by young people to address the lack of Black British history in the UK Curriculum. They aim to facilitate social change by delivering arts focused Black history programmes, providing teacher training and campaigning through mobilising young people. Donate here.
- The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust acknowledges that while a lot has changed since Stephen Lawrence’s murder in a racist attack in 1993, some things have stayed the same. They support young people to transform their lives, ensure businesses are more inclusive of diverse talent and campaign for fairness and justice. Donate here.
- Runnymede is the UK’s leading race equality think tank. Runnymede is working to build a Britain in which all citizens and communities feel valued, enjoy equal opportunities, lead fulfilling lives, and share a common sense of belonging. Donate here.
- Inquest is the only charity in the UK providing expertise on state related deaths and their investigation to bereaved people, lawyers, advice and support agencies, the media and parliamentarians. Donate here.
- 4FrontProject is a youth organisation empowering young people and communities to fight for justice, peace and freedom. Their Rest In Power page states that there have been 1741 deaths in police custody or otherwise following contact with the police in England & Wales since 1990. Donate here.
- Black Minds Matter is an organisation whose mission is to support in making mental health topics relevant and accessible for all black people in the UK. Donate here.
- Charity So White was born out of the hashtag #CharitySoWhite and its vision is of a charity sector that is taking the lead on tackling and rooting out racism. Donate here.
- Resourcing Racial Justice is a coalition of people of colour who are dedicated to social change. They support individuals and communities working towards racial justice. Donate here.
- UK Black Pride promotes and advocates for the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual health and wellbeing of LGBTQ people of colour. Donate here.
Ten books to read:
- Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World – Layla F Saad, 2020
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge, 2017
- Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging – Afua Hirsch, 2018
- Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo, 2019
- Black and British: A Forgotten History - David Olusoga, 2016
- Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire – Akala, 2018
- The Colour Of Madness: Exploring BAME mental health in the UK - Dr Samara Linton and Rianna Walcott, 2018
- The Good Immigrant: 21 Writers Explore What It Means To Be Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic in Britain Today – Nikesh Shukla, 2016
- Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2017
- Queenie - Candice Carty-Williams, 2019
TIP: rather than buying from Amazon, buy from black-owned bookshops instead, the UK Black Writers Forum has listed some here. However, as some of those listed are closed due to the pandemic, you can find a shorter list of black-owned bookshops in the UK which are currently taking online orders here.
Ten films / series to watch:
- Noughts and Crosses (2020) directed by Julian Holmes (based on the novel by Malorie Blackman)
- Black and British: A Forgotten History with David Olusoga (2016)
- Sitting in Limbo (2020) directed by Stella Corradi
- The Hard Stop (2015) directed by George Amponsah
- Black is the New Black (2016) directed by Simon Frederick
- When They See Us (2019) directed by Ava DuVernay
- 13th (2016) directed by Ava DuVernay
- The Hate U Give (2018) directed by George Tillman Jr. (based on the novel by Angie Thomas)
- Harriet (2019) directed by Kasi Lemmons
- I Am Not Your Negro (2016) directed by Raoul Peck
Ten podcasts to listen to:
- About Race – Reni-Eddo Lodge
- Good Ancestor – Layla F Saad
- Black Gals Livin’ – Vic and Jas
- No Country for Young Women – Sadia Azmat and Monty Onanuga
- Busy Being Black – Josh Rivers
- Have You Heard George’s Podcast? – George the Poet
- Slay In Your Lane: The Podcast – Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené
- Our Shared Podcast: Amplifying Black Voices with Emma Watson
- 1619 – The New York Times
- Code Switch – O, DJ, & Tom