You’ve seen the hashtag, you blacked out your Instagram, you’ve signed the petitions and you may have even marched. But what now?
Written by Naomi Howard, PhD researcher at Loughborough University
The callous murder of George Floyd sent out palpable shock-waves all over the world. Yet through all this I can’t help but ask myself why? Why now? Injustice, brutality and a lack of accountability are no strangers to black and allied communities. But for the first time in a long time it is undeniable that things feel different. There is a momentum behind this, a lack of complacency, and demands for some form of justice. How do we move this forward, how do we transform this momentum into positive change? As a researcher and a scientist, I am no stranger to not having the answer. In fact, to date it’s the basis of my career. And yet this question still lingers, at present, I simply don’t know.
Was this one time too many, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back? Or are we stuck at home, on edge and anxious while being simultaneously denied the colourful distractions that ordinarily sip away at our time.
This heart-wrenching example, albeit one of many, wasn’t a cold execution from 50 yards back. It wasn’t a trigger-happy finger or an adrenaline-fuelled panic move. This was physical, this was intimate. This was forceful consistency in the face of unconsciousness. This was a Billie Holiday’s, strange fruit, lynching. We saw a man with power, authority and a camera in his face stand his ground content in his mind that his ongoing actions were lawful and appropriate. Is that why the collective outrage feels stronger than ever? Was this one time too many, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back? Or are we stuck at home, on edge and anxious while being simultaneously denied the colourful distractions that ordinarily sip away at our time.
One thing that is clear, is that it’s no longer enough to know that you yourself wouldn’t repeat the actions of those police officers on 25th of May. It’s insufficient to stay silent, being a true ally is no longer a passive process. Recent actions highlight this awareness and when considered coupled with the implications and fears of a pandemic, the gravitas is tangible.
Despite this, for some, this still feels like it is not their issue, a stance that encourages an ‘us versus them’ mentality. And how lucky they are to be afforded the ability to turn a blind eye and focus on more selfish priorities. But I’m not here to write for those people. I want to empower those who want a change to be confident in their stance and to inspire their endurance to not back down.
Shame and guilt have a place in this narrative, they lie in systematic failings and the actions of those who abuse power and give in to prejudice and discrimination. For all those appalled by these recent and past events I ask you to let go of any shame and guilt, because you are here now, poised and ready to be part of a solution. Talk and listen. If you don’t know, ask. If you can’t ask, research. Don’t shy away, educate yourself and be prepared to feel uncomfortable. It’s ok not to have all the answers. Research, read, write, listen, ask, talk and learn and be open to challenge yourself. We cannot reverse the worlds deep seeded issues overnight. What we can do is keep the narrative going and not shy away from emotive topics. Arm yourself, so that next time you hear someone say “all lives matter” or “this issue doesn’t concern me or my community” you don’t spew an outraged fluster. Know where you stand, empowered to peacefully share your enlightenment. Learn our victims’ names and stories and hold onto them so they can’t decay into the next news headline. This fight won’t be won overnight, but I am so very glad to have you on side.
If you would like to get more involved in this cause, here are a few suggestions of where to start. Consider contacting your local MP and requesting a formal statement of their views and stance in light of the recent events or attending local peaceful protests and rallies. Collectively our voices are amplified and community mobility and action are hard to ignore. Diversify your spending and remember every time you reach for you bank card you are casting a vote. Many independent businesses are currently donating portions of sales profit to anti-racism causes. And finally, if you are financially stable and have the means to do so, consider researching global and local charities and organisations and donating your money, expertise or time.