The murder of George Floyd has rocked America. The 46-year-old unarmed black man died in police custody, as a white officer handcuffed and kneeled on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, despite saying that he could not breathe. The initial issue arose when a grocery store clerk thought he cashed in a fake $20 bill. However, we all remember Dylan Roof, the 26-year-old white supremacist who was arrested for killing nine churchgoers but was taken to lunch by the arresting policemen. And more recently, the COVID-19 protesters who occupied a state building in Michigan with firearms, but were left to protest.
There is a lot to unpack from this tragic death, but the one thing I can do as a non-black person is educate others and use my platform, my privilege and my power to help. Racism exists within a hierarchal structure with power at its core. Racism only works because one group has power and other groups do not. It is white people who possess such power thanks to centuries of Eurocentric beliefs and structures that continue to place whiteness as the cultural standard. If you, as a white person, can listen to the likes of Stormzy or Dave and preach about your love for black culture, you can open your eyes and do something to create change.
‘Black Lives Matter’ has been given this striking name for a reason
If the movement was called ‘All Lives Matter’, and let me be clear on this: George Floyd would be alive, the late Ahmaud Arbery who was killed on a jog would also be alive, and so would many other unarmed black people. The white people who reply to this movement with ‘No, all lives matter’ are wrong for many reasons and you can see why in German Lopez’s article on the subject. But the main reason why ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not because they matter more than white people’s: it’s because they matter less to begin with. It is a fact that all lives matter; that is a fact of life, we do not need to say it. The fact is that BLACK LIVES MATTER precisely because many in the world believe, and act upon, the premise that black lives DO NOT matter. This is the definition of racism.
Do Not Sit in Silence
Desmund Tutu said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. No one is disputing the videos, photos and narrative surrounding George Floyd is distressing. No one is saying all police officers are like this, or that all white people are racist. But you need to understand something, if white people truly think police officers choose justice over order every single time, and you do not speak up because you ‘do not wanting to get political’, you are contributing to the oppression that still happens. You can say a lot with a little: share, like and retweet a quote, speak up about what has happened or just do better to avoid it happening again. If you do not, the unheard stories, the sadness, the pain and the grief of every single victim, family member and black person in this world will continue to live in fear. If we went around only seeing things from our own innocent eyes, the world would never change.
Why do White People Need to Speak up for the Black People?
White people often say “I don’t see their colour, I just see the person” or “But I have a black friend”. There lies the inherent flaw: if you do not feel you have to voice what is going because it does not affect you, that is your white privilege PROTECTING you. Just like my second point, if you believe all police officers and white people are not discriminatory, that is your white privilege not having to fear being killed for the colour of your skin. I saw a very blindingly true TikTok, where she accurately explained how white people fear going to prison but black people fear losing their lives. Therefore, white people’s dislike for officers will never be the same as black peoples because the colour of a white person’s skin is a shield that automatically protects them.
So, I now address all white people directly: stop being blind to the truth. Be better, speak up so you are heard on behalf of the black community because the only way out of injustice is for the white people to scream it because we will not get killed for it.
Words by Polly Dale