Is it just me or is life getting stranger by the day?
First, a deadly global pandemic emerges. Then rules are introduced to prevent us spreading said disease to our friends and loved ones.
Before we know what’s going on, cabinet ministers are breaking the rules (shocking to no-one), parks and beaches are packed out with imbeciles failing to grasp the basic concept of staying six feet apart.
And now, amidst all the chaos, footage has been captured of an innocent man being murdered in broad daylight by the very people employed to protect.
Before writing this, I had just completed a post entitled, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemon cakes.’
The point of it being that no matter how baffling or sad life gets, we should always look for the little things to be happy about. But as I finished, I realised that I could not in good conscience upload it. Doing so would mean failing to acknowledge the terrible events that have unfolded in front of us and the dreadful reality of systemic racism that exists around the world.
For anyone who hasn’t been reading the news during the past week, I’ll summarise the events that led up to the mass demonstrations and protests currently sweeping the USA and that have since trickled over into Great Britain as people – quite rightly – stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
On 25th May in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a man named George Floyd was arrested after a shopkeeper reported him on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill.
After being located by police officers, George was handcuffed and, having allegedly resisted arrest, ended up on the ground where a white police officer – Derek Chauvin – knelt on his neck for nine minutes as he pleaded for his life, before eventually passing out and later being pronounced dead in hospital.
Four police officers attended the scene. During the nine minutes George was on the ground, pinned down and shouting that he couldn’t breathe, no-one intervened. Traumatised members of the public pleaded with Chauvin to stop. Nobody listened and an innocent man – George, known as the ‘gentle giant’ to his friends – lost his life. He was 46 with a six-year-old daughter.
As I scrolled through Twitter after the event, the video played automatically in my feed. I watched it on mute because I couldn’t bring myself to hear his pleas, knowing that the audio would likely haunt me.
The waves of disgust and anguish flooded the trending topics and continue to do so, as both people of colour and supporters from outside the community and across the world band together to demand answers and an end to police brutality against black citizens.
The more I read, the angrier I became. Not just for George and the loved ones he left behind, but for the millions of people who now felt their lives meant nothing as it emerged that the police officers responsible hadn’t been charged but rather had been ‘let go’.
Since the incident, Chauvin has now been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, while the other three officers at the scene who failed to intervene remain fired, although charges are now expected to be levelled against them in the coming days according to George’s family and attorneys.
The more I read, the more questions I also had about why this had happened in the first place.
Where within the police guidelines does it say that you can compress a man’s neck for nine minutes?
Why didn’t any of the other officers intervene and, in the process, save George’s life?
How did America get here?
That last question has been debated countless times throughout the country’s history and has once again thrust the issue of racial disparity into the public consciousness and forced us to come to terms with the unsettling reality that, in many instances, equality simply doesn’t exist for those who don’t sit within the category of white privilege.
During the past few days, I’ve found myself analysing my own privilege and what I can actually do to change things beyond my own four walls.
As a white woman, with a comfortable life, I have never experienced the discrimination that comes with simply being born with more melanin in your skin.
I have never walked down the street with the fear of being questioned simply for going about my day. If I was stopped by the police for a minor motor offence, I am confident that I would not be the victim of excessive force if I chose to resist arrest.
Yet there are human beings in the world who are living with this reality on a daily basis. Since the cruel murder of George in broad daylight, I have seen countless posts from people proclaiming, ‘All Lives Matter’ while failing to grasp the simple fact that nobody is denying that fact.
The point is that George’s life mattered less to the people in power because the colour of his skin automatically and inexplicably painted a target on his back.
No-one can predict what is going to happen next. But one thing is for certain – until those in power can acknowledge that all human beings are created equal – we cannot stay silent.
Make your voice heard. Stand with those who need your support and above all, never forget George Floyd. The man who lost his life one day in May and will never know how he went on to change his country for the better (we can hope).