George Floyd: when will it stop?

As everyone is aware, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was murdered by police officer, Derek Chauvin, on May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a case similar to that of Eric Garner in 2014 because both men said “I can’t breathe” whilst being restrained by the police. Having said that, it was a case that was similar to so many others and it seems that the cycle continues.

To see a man killed in such a way, with Chauvin leaning his knee on Floyd’s neck, was particularly brutal but unfortunately not something that I haven’t seen before, showing how desensitised we have become to events like these.

I feel conflicted about going onto social media when events like these initially happen, at least without researching the situation first. If not, it could seem like a trend that people follow then forget about, until the next black person is unjustly killed by the police. However, it is something that I have to talk about because police brutality is a trend that needs to stop. When will black people respected? When will people stop denying the truth? When will it stop?

Three responses to the event stood out to me, not including the looting in Minneapolis, Donald Trump’s tweets or the arrest of a CNN journalist at the protests.

No, these responses are from three men who live in London. The Attack the Block actor, John Boyega, the educator, rapper and author of the book, Natives, Akala and the rapper and House of Pharaohs resident, Sam Wise.

On March 27th as much of the social media response unfolded, I saw that John Boyega was trending. Accustomed to Twitter and its trends, I knew that this could potentially be for the wrong reasons. However, I was surprised to read that he had tweeted “I really fucking hate racists”. I mean, that seems like quite a safe statement to make. A black person that doesn’t like racists. Any person that doesn’t like racists.

However, with social media and people being the way that they are, this comment caused discussions in his mentions and led to him having to defend his previous comments on Instagram live. This all stemmed from responses insisting that Boyega was being short sighted, adding to the problem or not looking at the bigger picture. Tweets about racism towards white people, the different ways that racism can occur and the statistics showing black on black crime.

What I repeatedly fail to understand, is how this has any correlation with Boyega’s tweets and the murder of George Floyd. They are simply distractions. We all saw what happened and understood what he said so there was no reason for him to have to defend himself and his statements. Nonetheless, it was great to see someone of Boyega’s stature speak out in such an uncensored way and take a stand.

It felt similar to the situation with Streatham rapper, Dave and his track entitled Black, in which he received backlash from BBC Radio 1 listeners due to the content of his song. He even said in his performance of the song at 2020’s Brit Awards, “if you don’t want to get it, then you’re never going to get it”.

Sometimes I wonder what the point is, in giving energy to people who deny someone’s concerns about race. It reminded me of a chapter of Natives that I read while working on my personal statement for university.

The chapter is called, Interlude: A Guide to Denial. The most relevant point was the one with the title: “But what about [INSERT ANY INJUSTICE HERE]?”

Yes, we know that other injustices exist but this is what we’re talking about now and in the case of the John Boyega back and forth, some of these other injustices seemed trivial in comparison to George Floyd’s murder.

This reminder meant that I checked to see what Akala had to say on Twitter, given that he is someone that we look up to in the black community and he said something very telling.

This is something that needs more unpacking and possibly someone more well read to do it justice but it caused me to think about the lack of respect that black people are given. The idea is that if we improve the situation in black countries economically, politically and militarily, it won’t matter that people don’t like us. The phrase, you don’t like me but you’ll have to respect me comes to mind.

And it was a sentiment felt by Sam Wise also. On his Snapchat he was going off, talking about the subject and how things could change. He used the examples of China, Japan and the United Arab Emirates to illustrate how it could be done, through the sale of oil and industrialisation.

Now, they are “big time world player[s]” and they have a level of respect that black people don’t have. Why do you think that schools have introduced Chinese into their curriculum? They’re soon going to be the biggest world player. So, you can make jokes about how they name children by dropping a spoon on the floor and calling them whatever sound the spoon makes, but it won’t affect them in the same way that racist jokes would affect black people. They will soon be laughing.

And we know how they have treated black people and non-Chinese people generally during this pandemic. It sucks to be the bottom of the bottom. And if this will only end after African and Caribbean countries become stronger, then there will surely be more cases like this and more frustration.

Nonetheless, there are ways to actively confront the problem, like donating money to his memorial fund, donating to the legal funds for the protesters who have been arrested, signing petitions and contacting officials. Rest in peace George Floyd.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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