The World Is Finally Awake And Angry. But What’s Next?
George Floyd was lynched. There’s no two ways about it.
George Floyd was publicly executed for the crime of being a black man who had the misfortune to draw the attention of the racist State and its guard dogs (the police). For once, this public execution was so blatant that the whole world was confronted with the horror, outrage, and sickening helplessness that black people have often felt when it comes to the police. These emotions are nothing new for most of us, but what George Floyd’s murder showed me is that I’ve been in a constant state of anger since I was barely an adolescent.
I grew up a short walk away from a police station, and being the upstanding citizens they are, my parents raised us to respect the police. I would get told off for calling them pigs or singing “I smell bacon!” like all the other kids in my white, working class neighbourhood. As I grew I tried to hold this respect in tension with the lack of respect that the local police showed us – one of the few black families around. I spoke to them politely when they knocked on the door one summer afternoon looking for my ten year old brother after someone complained that “a black boy” had climbed through their window and stolen CDs. I would sit silently and respectfully each time they pulled over my father while me and my brother were in the back of the car, but when I was fifteen my mother stood up to them in the face of another false accusation made against my brother and they racially abused her and threatened to get me and my brother put into care. That was the moment that respect was replaced with a rage that wanted to scream and spit and call them pigs until my throat dried up. The anger born that day would stay well-stoked as time went on.
I could bore you by continuing to list incident after incident, because each episode has been mentally catalogued and rises to the surface each time I see a panda car scream past my window. So yes, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being angry which is why on one hand I should take some comfort in the fact that the rest of the world is waking up to the terror and tyranny of what essentially is the World’s Biggest Gang. But I’m still angry that it took this long, and that it took this cold-blooded act of violence to do so, because we have been protesting police brutality for decades and if the world at large had listened before, maybe George Floyd would still be alive.
Because the kind of wicked power that saw Derek Chauvin press his knee into George Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes (in full view of smartphone cameras and shouting members of the public) doesn’t develop in a vacuum. It grows fat in a society that shows it doesn’t care. It breeds in a culture that lets bullies be bullies as long as they’re protecting the interests of the powerful and where the public prefers wilful ignorance, excuses of “not all police” and a cowardly avoidance of engaging with the issues over truth and justice. That is what allowed a police officer to lynch a black man in broad daylight in 2020.
And while it is easy for British spectators to tut and shudder at the state of America, that hollow moral superiority only deflects from the abuses of power we see on these shores. Just a few weeks before George Floyd’s murder, Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarara was tasered by British police in front of his young son in Manchester. Just a short time before that a video of a 15 year old from Birmingham being kicked in the ribs by a police officer was also making the social media rounds. Just the other day we saw footage of rapper Wretch 32’s 62 year old father falling down the stairs after being tasered by police back in April. As the protest signs keep reminding us, Britain is not innocent.
So while on one hand I’m happy to see people mobilise and put their rage to good use, the cynical side of me wonders how long it will last. Are the masses who are comforted by blissful ignorance really built to live with the anger that some of us have grown up with and learned to navigate for survival? Will they retreat to their privilege, disengaging when they get tired? How soon before they go back to the excuses they’ve regurgitated time and again to allow them to, “keep calm and carry on”? I don’t know. But, for now, the anger is still here and it’s good. So let’s put our collective rage to good use!