Image Credit: Fibonacci Blue
The murder of George Floyd on the 25th May 2020 by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota has shone the spotlight on American police this past week. George Floyd is one of countless black Americans that have been murdered at the hands of those who vowed to ‘serve and protect’. This latest incidence of police brutality has sparked protests and riots all across America and has radiated across the world to the UK, Berlin, Denmark, New Zealand and Japan, to name a few.
This article is addressed to white people, specifically. If you are white and have been watching the events of this week unfold and it has shrouded you in guilt – good. If it hasn’t evoked culpability, a sense of responsibility and a motive to work even harder at dismantling structural racism, it is time to sit down are carefully consider why. It is not our (whites’) job to tell black people how to grieve, respond or educate during this time. White people created this problem, and it’s our job to fix it. Included in this sentiment of not policing black response is your fake outrage at rioting and at the destruction of property across America, most notably in Minnesota, LA and New York. On Monday, US President Donald Trump announced from Lafayette Park, just north of the White House; “What happened in the city last night was a total disgrace. As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property".
This ‘outrage’ or ‘discomfort’ white people are feeling, or announcing that they are allies to peaceful protesters only, is quite simply an extension of white supremacy. The US was built off the backs of black slaves, and black citizens are yet to experience equality with their white peers today in 2020 – whether that be violence and racism experienced socially or structural inequalities affecting access to housing and healthcare (including COVID-19 treatment). How can we as white people stand up and say, ‘sorry but keeping Target stores intact is more important than black lives’? Countless years of peaceful protest and very little progress has left the black community with limited options. Of course, organising and lobbying for political change is important too, but the black community are only burning what was built out of their exploitation – so, let them. Your false white outrage is diabolical.
Secondly, riots work. Stonewall was a set of violent demonstrations that followed a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in 1969, a gay bar in New York which was a safe space for the most marginalised of the queer community. Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, is regarded for playing a significant role in these riots and the work of the black queer and sex work community were at the forefront of this movement, and still are today. It is important to remember, especially as a white queer person, that we owe our lives to the black queer community and the physical and emotional labour that progressed LGBTQIA+ freedom. Not only are racial divisions created and upheld by white people, but marginalised white queer folks will be forever indebted to the black community. So this pride month, reflect, read and learn before announcing that peaceful protest is the solution to racial inequality in the US and the wider world.
Most likely if you are reading this, you are a UK resident. Many in the UK over the last week have questioned, how do the current protests, and the long history of oppression in America have anything to do with us? Well, it is time to take off your white-privilege-glasses and see the UK for what it truly is; another country built off the backs of black labour and a country that persists to have systematic racism ingrained in every part of its society. The legacy of colonialism remains in our societal structures; the stealing of land from indigenous folk, genocides, and slavery cast an archaic shadow over our country. When slavery was abolished in 1833, the current equivalent of £16bn was given to slave owners for their loss of ‘property’ – a repayment that was finalised as recently as 2015.
So how has this deep racist history played out into our society? Into our police force? The answer is brutality. London protests this week are not only in solidarity with the American fraction of the Black Lives Matter movement, but they are protesting our own racist structures and crimes against the black community for which white perpetrators and the police have never been held accountable for. Dalian Atkinson died while being restrained by the police. Rasharn Charles died in hospital after being forcefully restrained by the police. Sheku Bayoh died while in police custody after being forcefully restrained. In the Windrush scandal of 2018, people of colour were wrongly detained, refused legal aid and unlawfully deported. Again, these are just a few examples of countless tragedies that have resulted from racism within the UK.
This is not a debate. The brutality that the black community faces is a global issue. There are no ‘sides’. You either put the work in to unlearn the racism that all white people have, donate to freedom funds, sign petitions, teach your friends and relatives, or, you’re a racist that is perpetuating white supremacy – it is as simple as that.
Below I have linked donation points and educational material. Please do not ask your black friends or relatives or partners to explain to you why the world needs revolution. White people: get to work.
Donation points: https://linktr.ee/transnormativity
‘Me and White Supremacy’: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Me-White-Supremacy-Recognise-Privilege/dp/1529405106/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2LEVQ35EY4IJI&dchild=1&keywords=me+and+white+supremacy&qid=1591117026&sprefix=me+and+white+%2Caps%2C274&sr=8-1
‘Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race’: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Longer-Talking-White-People-About/dp/1408870584/ref=pd_sbs_14_1/258-0319731-1238965?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1408870584&pd_rd_r=59810edb-0cd7-41c5-886b-8603e456d5c8&pd_rd_w=94zlS&pd_rd_wg=r6AmZ&pf_rd_p=2773aa8e-42c5-4dbe-bda8-5cdf226aa078&pf_rd_r=ZX0ST04JYW0M8CFVC6RT&psc=1&refRID=ZX0ST04JYW0M8CFVC6RT
‘The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colour-blindness’: https://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Jim-Crow-Michelle-Alexander/dp/1595586431/ref=sr_1_1?crid=ZR6SRRTTC0BE&dchild=1&keywords=the+new+jim+crow+michelle+alexander&qid=1591117303&sprefix=the+new+jim+crow+ale%2Caps%2C155&sr=8-1
‘Black Feminist Thought’: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Feminist-Thought-Consciousness-Perspectives/dp/0415964725/ref=sr_1_1?crid=24SYUOFSRC0AQ&dchild=1&keywords=black+feminist+thought&qid=1591117545&sprefix=black+feminist+th%2Caps%2C152&sr=8-1
George Floyd petition: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd