Today is the final day of my challenge. I’ve completed all seven of my 5k runs, made my donations and here is my final post. Of course this one had to be for George Floyd, the man whose death has sparked the Black Lives Matter protests and, finally, got everyone talking about what we can do to stop this. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of riots and the thought of 20,000 people gathering in close proximity in London in the middle of a pandemic that people have given up so much to fight absolutely filled me with horror. But as one friend put it, you can’t blame people for thinking this is the most important fight of their lives. And so I decided to stop criticising and find a way I could support the protests that felt true to me.
I’ve actually learned a lot from researching these people. I think the thing that sticks out the most to me is that racism does not always take the form of hate. It’s not always obvious and doesn’t always look like racism. Belly died from coronavirus. Daniel died from epilepsy. Justin died because of homophobia. But would they have died of these things if they were white? The structure of our society that puts black people at the bottom, fighting their way up, meant that they were already at higher risk of an early grave. The average life expectancy of black people is at least three years shorter than that of white people. It’s these structural inequalities and the small ways in which racism seeps into our words and thoughts when we don’t even realise it (“Scary Spice”… “that young black footballer…” “black people are naturally better at running”… “but I don’t see your colour, everyone is the same to me!”…) that keep us separate and allow the hate to grow.
And these is no better example of that hate than that of the police officer who murdered George Floyd.
George was a 46 year old man from Minnesota. He loved sport and hip hop, he was a member of a religious community. He had six siblings, his parents were separated and grew up on an estate knows for drugs, poverty and gangs. George, too, turned to petty crime. I expect it was all he had ever known. This year, due to the pandemic, he lost his security job. On May 25th, he was caught using counterfeit money at a convenience store. The police were called and there was a slight commotion as they handcuffed George and tried to get him into the police car. George did not attack the police officers or behave aggressively, but he did try to resist getting in the car, at which point one officer pulled him to the floor and started to kneel on his neck. Several horrified witnesses began to film the incident and plead with the officer to stop, but he continued to kneel on George’s neck. The videos that the witnesses filmed have been posted online, I’ve not been able to watch them, but I have read a transcript which is harrowing enough.
George fell silent. An ambulance arrived. Only after the medics had checked George’s pulse and ordered the officer to let go did he relent.
George Floyd was dead on arrival at the hospital.
And enough was enough.
Here is a selection of things that have happened since George’s death:
- All four officers present at George Floyd’s death have lost their job and face criminal charges.
- The “chokehold” that killed George is set to be banned.
- The “no knock warrant” that killed Breonna Taylor is also set to be banned.
- Countless TV shows and films with racist elements have been pulled.
- Statues of racist figures (such as Oxford University’s statue of Cecil Rhodes) are being removed.
- American voters’ support of the BLM movement has almost doubled in two weeks.
- British premiership footballers have all had their names replaced with “black lives matter on the back of their shirts”
- The square in front of the White House has been renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza”
- People are finally understanding why you shouldn’t say “All Lives Matter”