First off, educate yourself. One of the main reasons for ignorant and frankly racist comments is choosing to not understand. In a time where information is literally at hand please do use it.
Police brutality and the murder of innocent black people is not something that is new. It is historic and ingrained in American society. However, it is an international issue of justice and human rights. I would recommend the documentary 13th Amendment on Netflix UK as a starting point to understand the history of what we are still witnessing in the 21st century.
The unashamed response by President Trump on Twitter to the very clear and well-documented murder, of George Floyd (an unarmed black man) by police officers shows that there is no regard for the life of a black man by law enforcement. Making matters worse, they are not even apologising or taking any responsibility for anything. Instead, they are condemning the reactions of the victims rather than condemning the actions of the oppressors.
Usually, in these circumstance people ask the same questions -
'Was George Floyd armed?' No, he was not. He followed orders and did not resist arrest even after the police officers lied and said he did, there is clear video evidence showing that he did not resist arrest and cooperated. If we didn’t live in the digital age that we do, we would have to take their word for it in a court of law, and as we can see the words of those police officers cannot be trusted. This wasn’t a case where the officers had to make a split decision in fear of their lives. As we tend to see this argument used as a reason to defend the actions of police killing unarmed black people.
‘Was he a threat to officers?’ Absolutely not, there were a total of four officers that had guns at the scene, George Floyd was not armed. He did not resist arrest. He was on the ground, in a position that the officer, Derek Chauvin, could easily put his knee on George Floyd’s neck and kill him as George Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe as the video shows. ‘I can’t breathe’. This is not what a threat is. He was not a threat. This is not just a case of police brutality. This is murder. This is America.
Lastly ‘ did he look suspicious ?’ and if by that you mean, was he black? Yes, in this case unfortunately so. You can argue with whose opinion is right or wrong but the facts in this situation are what matters the most. What actually happened? What are the facts?
It is also important to be vocal - write about it and speak about it. Bystanders enable oppressors historically to thrive. Especially if you are someone who enjoys black culture, there is no reason for you not to speak up. If you can rap Jay-z, Eminem or Stormzy lyrics backwards or scream ‘Wakanda forever’ to the top of your lungs, now is not the time to keep quiet. Since many of these artists, athletes and other public figures are the exact targets of this oppression.
Use social media, tell the truth, have conversations with others about what is really going on. Talk about how CNN reporters are being arrested on live television for doing their job peacefully, and how Presidents are using their platform to tweet harmful messages with real life consequences. Talk about the silence of other world leaders and the indifference shown by some towards this human right issue. Write to your local government representatives and local news. Criticise media that do not tell the whole truth. Show your outrage!
If we all speak up they must listen. Silence is akin to indifference in this situation. Choose your side in history or history will do it for you
‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’Martin Luther King Jr
Try to support charities and organisations. The charities and organisations that support the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Lives Matter is a global movement. Donate to those organisations, buy their merchandise to fund their cause. Donate to the victim’s families.
You can also make the effort to use your gifts. Use your gifts, your creative tweets, your ability to draw, create art, your critical thinking or ability to communicate effectively, analyse information in the news and more. Use your degree whether it’s law , medicine, media and use the skills you have learnt to tell the whole truth and call out things that are not right.
Ask the right questions. Once we all have completed our degrees and search for jobs, use the position that you have at your workplace to make a stand for justice. Do not allow colleagues or employers to say ignorant comments as they have real-life consequences. Peacefully protest if you can (due to the COVID pandemic this may not be possible for everyone) but if you do participate in the June 7th London protest please wear mask and proceed with caution .
President Trump’s tweet of ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’, is deplorable. He has outright given the military the permission to shoot the protestors. Again this is a human rights issue! The phrase ‘ when looting starts the shooting starts’ originates from the Miami police chief, Walter Headly, in 1967 - this is a police chief criticised for his mistreatment of black communities especially during the race riots back in the civil rights era.
He chooses to ignore the reason for the protest is because as said by Trevor Noah, ‘black people’s bodies are being looted in the US by American police’. He refers to protesters as ‘Thugs’ which is a racially insensitive term and has been used to demonise and criminalise the black community in America. Trump talks about how these people are ‘dishonouring the memory of George Floyd’. This is a clear example of how Trump has chosen to miss the point, again. What about the police officers that killed a person they are to protect, are they not dishonouring the role of a police officer?
In addition, are they not also dishonouring their colleagues who risk their lives every day in order to protect those same people that these police officers were willing to kill in an unashamed or unflinching manner whilst knowing they were being recorded?
Just like Apartheid and the Holocaust, though these events occurred in their individual countries, the victims and justice were tragically disregarded. As people were murdered and treated less than human because some people chose to ignore their oppression, they chose to distance themselves from the reality of it.
Now we look at those events with disgust, asking how did people let these events happen? The truth is it’s because people treated it like it wasn’t their problem. Yes you are right, this event did not occur in the U.K, but they do not have to be for us to care.
George Floyd was a human being, a father and beloved by those that knew him. His human rights were violated and resulted in him being murdered by those who were meant to protect him. He is not the first and depending on how we react he may not be the last. This is a human rights issue.
As a human being, this involves you too. If America doesn’t recognise it as such then it is our responsibility as a country to globally condemn their actions just as we have done in the past for inhumane acts.
Lastly, the reason why you have heard ‘I can’t breathe’ before the case of George Floyd is that this has happened before, with the case of Eric Garner. Eric Garner was put in a chokehold in 2014 by police officers using excessive force, leading to his death as he infamously pleaded ‘ I can’t breathe’.
Police brutality isn’t a one or two case issue. It has murdered and threatened the lives of many black people, especially, innocent black people in America in this century alone not to talk about in the past century with LA riots in 1992 sparked by the brutal and clear murder of Rodney King and numerous others.
As young people we must speak up. We may not be able to change the past but let us not let the death of George Floyd and many other victims be in vain.