The Latest State-Sanctioned Lynching That’s Been Reported This Week.
George Floyd is the latest in a long line of names that we all hope are remembered for the racist injustices visited upon them. Injustices that stripped them of their humanity and, eventually, their lives. And at the hands of the very people whose sworn goal is to protect them, no less. But the harsh reality is that this is nothing new.
Black people have been telling white people how the systems of society are set up to destroy them since there was any meaningful contact between the two groups. There has never been a time in modern history when black people have been silent on the matter. Yet black voices fall on a sea of mostly deaf white ears, indignant at the mere possibility that there is any impropriety in the systems that keep society safe. Sadly, most white people are so privileged and self-centred that the suggestion that they suffer less than anyone else inspires only rage. Not reflection, not curiosity, and certainly not compassion. Just pure unadulterated white rage.
Then videos started coming out showing abuse and murders and all manner of unjust treatment of black and brown individuals at the hands of the police. So many of us thought, this is it, people will now see that the system is broken! It certainly made me reflect on Maya Angelou’s words, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” seeming to shift to a more modern, “When people show you who they are, film them.” thinking that was the key to keeping black people safe.
And yet video after video was found, released, and eventually faded away into a sea of similar horrors. Near universal access to cameras at all times hasn’t increased incidents of abuse and impropriety, it’s just made those incidents more widely visible. But that visibility hasn’t translated into action.
As the prevalence of video has grown exponentially, the outrage over modern day lynchings by the police has plateaued. In my adult life I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds, of black men and women killed by the police. I’m no soldier and have never been on a battlefield, yet I have witnessed casualty after casualty in an ongoing war against black people. And I have also been in the comments sections, watching with further horror and disgust as white people have quickly leapt to clean up the mess, explaining away the humanity of black men and women with cries of, “If only they’d have listened!”, “We don’t know the whole story!”, and, “But black on black crime!”
I can only see the same story play out so many times before I begin to question my foundational assumptions. And, after witnessing decades of injustice, reading dozens of books on society’s torrid love affair with white supremacy, and hearing countless voices of colour scream out their sorrow and pain over being treated worse than animals, it is with the heaviest of hearts that I’ve settled on a truth that I never wanted to admit. The system isn’t broken. It’s doing exactly what it was always meant to. And, what’s worse, is it’s getting better at it all the time.
So much so that a white man with a badge in 2020 can casually crush his knee into the neck of an unarmed and handcuffed George Floyd, killing him so slowly and nonchalantly that the officer didn’t feel the need to take his hand out of his pocket even once as Floyd screamed and begged for mercy, for air, and finally for his mother. However, those cries didn’t seem to phase anyone but the onlookers pleading, in vain, with the officers for Floyd’s life. It’s time to get honest with each other — with ourselves! — about all of this. This isn’t an isolated incident. This isn’t just an American problem. This isn’t just a few bad apples. This is the bitter fruit of an evil tree that far too many are guilty of faithfully tending!
So if you find yourself shocked at Floyd’s death, please read, listen, humble yourself to learn from others unlike you, and then join the chorus of voices calling for change. Because being anti-racist isn’t just a cause to be taken up, it’s a desperate fight for the very survival of so many around us. And we need all hands on deck.