3rd Year English Literature student, Natalia Jan, speaks up and calls for action in this special guest blog as part of the RHSU Stands Together campaign.
3rd Year English Literature
We continue to hear stories about people of colour being oppressed, violated, and murdered by white supremacists. Unfortunately, we can no longer say we feel shocked as these crimes happen far too often, and every year we face more black people losing their lives to police brutality and white supremacy. We continue to hear excuses being made for people who have openly expressed their racist views and people who have committed acts of violence against people of colour, specifically against black people.
Photo by Elle Cartier on Unsplash
The Black Lives Matter movement began after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin in 2012. The hashtag went viral with people voicing their outrage. In 2014 the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner led the movement to be recognised for its big street demonstrations. Year after year we hear the same stories of innocent black people doing everyday things and being victimised and killed by the police or by people with radical views. Unfortunately, nothing has changed. We are unable to say that we are progressing as we add names to the long list of black victims who have lost their lives to white supremacy and racism. It is crucial that as a society, we stop ignoring this issue. We need to stop making excuses for people who have these views, for racists who act violently, and most importantly we need to speak up. Speak up for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and everyone who lost their life for one crime, the colour of their skin.
George Floyd was arrested and held down by the knee of Minneapolis officer David Chauvin for eight whole minutes while yelling out that he was unable to breathe. The video of his death which circulated social media shows that George was pleading for his life while the officer's knee remained on his neck. This was no accident and this was in no way the officer's way of attempting to 'protect the law' but a way to validate his power and authority over a helpless black man. He is not innocent. The four officers that stood by and refused to intervene in the matter are also not innocent and deserve to be charged with at least second-degree murder. These officers were not carrying out their duty and protecting the law. No. They allowed a senseless killing to take place and watched as George Floyd repeatedly pleaded for his life. These four men used the status and the privilege of their backgrounds and positions to belittle a black man. This was white supremacy. And this was not the first time.
Photo by munshots on Unsplash
Listening to how family, friends, and employers describe Floyd, as a kind man, a man who loved to dance, a man with a family - including five children - a man who was a mentor for young men at his church, really warmed my heart. It finally showed people that he was so much more than his last few moments on this earth. A man that deserved so much more, more time with his children, more time to help and love others. This right was taken away by those four officers. It was a right taken by violence, hate, and ignorance.
Living in the age of social media I have realised that it is platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that allow us to witness the injustices of racism that continue to exist in society today. For many people, racism and white supremacy is a form of violence that people are continuously shocked by. We still hear people saying: 'I can't believe this happened' or 'I wouldn't expect something like that to happen today.' But, in actuality, what we now see today being posted on social media is what has been happening for generations. Black people have been constantly oppressed and dehumanised and while we live in a world that is constantly evolving, many people have held onto an ignorance that denies society the ability to abolish racism and white supremacy.
Watching the video of George Floyd made me feel heartbroken. It made me feel uncomfortable. It also made me think about why this video was taken. While I believe it's uncomfortable and devastating to see someone's last moments on earth like that especially if you were someone close to him, it's an eye-opener. It takes people away from their privilege and away from their ignorance in believing that 'racism no longer exists,' because it does exist. These videos that circulate, yes they are horrifying and extremely hard to watch. Even as I watched it, I immediately questioned whether or not it was right, or whether it was disrespectful. However, I know many people needed to see this video. Many people of colour, many white people, many people in power, many people around the world, everyone needed to see this video.
Now more than ever our voices are key in making a difference. While writing this blog so many petitions have been signed, so many donations have been made and so many people have gone out to protest which is truly inspiring. The four officers of George Floyd's death were not only fired but arrested, the men responsible for Ahmaud Arbery's death have not been acquitted. These are signs of progress. Not because of our law enforcement, but because our society chose to speak up and make a difference. It is a sign of our society being tired of seeing racism take innocent lives, tired of seeing the police use their power to murder innocent black people, tired of seeing racists and white supremacists be acquitted. I want to point out that it is so important we don't forget that this is not an American issue. It is a global issue that has been affecting our world for generations, and it's about time we ended it by educating ourselves and others.
I truly hope if you're reading this you are hopeful to make a change. I hope you are having the tough conversations you need to have, signing petitions, donating, spreading awareness, protesting in whatever way you can and educating yourselves and others. I truly hope our world uses this as the first step to better ourselves and creates a safer space for equality and kindness amongst all races.
Pass on the message,
Enjoyed reading Natalia’s blog?
Check out her Instagram page @missminority and her website.
Registered charity no: 1141998
The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
Egham, TW20 0EX