George Floyd was 46 when he died. The video documenting his death on Monday 25th of May was shared widely and the #BlackLivesMatter has been trending since. I’m sure you haven’t missed the resulting spread of the hashtag and the protests that are currently taking place across 50 US states and globally. Despite millions of social media posts relating to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement, I am left feeling strange about people only paying attention now that #BlackLivesMatter is trending.
I made a conscious decision not to watch videos of Black people being murdered but the video of George Floyd’s murder is everywhere. From Twitter to all major news outlets, the 8 minutes and 46 seconds in which police officer Derek Chauvin kills Floyd is unavoidable. There is something to be said about the way Black people, even in death, are not seen as more than a body. It is an act of violence to share the video of somebody’s murder, why do we need to see video evidence before believing Black people when it comes to police brutality.
The reaction to George Floyd’s murder has been massive. The last time I remember the Black Lives Matter movement having this much attention was in 2016. The scale of the reaction has been in part due to the other video that was trending on Monday 25th, the Amy Cooper video. Amy Cooper called the police on a Black man, Christian Cooper, for asking her to leash her dog. In her call to the police, she says “an African American man is threatening me”. Many white people came Amy Cooper’s defence after she was fired from her job, claiming her actions weren’t racist. For Black people, it is clear that people like Amy Cooper are facilitators of white supremacist structures that result in police brutality. How can Amy Cooper’s actions be separated and isolated from the society that she exists in? But still people argued that this was not racism, Black people were told they were being ridiculous.
A few days after the Amy Cooper video went viral, George Floyd was murdered. What people need to understand is although these are the two videos you may have seen online that week, there are undoubtedly many more of these instances that occurred in the same week.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been around for a very long time, movements like it have existed for even longer. Ask yourself why is it that you care now, and why you have only just become aware of the movement. When Black people were saying that police kill this whole time, is it that you didn’t hear, or you didn’t care to hear. Yes, it may sound harsh, but the uncomfortable truth is that most people were complicit in allowing racism to operate. I, for one, am tired of sugar-coating everything. Post about Black Lives Matter but just know that an Instagram story or a hashtag is not enough. We live in a systemically racist society; we need to dismantle it if any real change is going to happen.
For many Black people, it has been hard to consume so much media about police brutality against Black people. A collective grieving is happening, a lot of it being documented online. I urge everybody to be mindful of what you are posting, is this going to add to Black people’s suffering? I would also urge people to be mindful of who they are asking for information and favours, could this be found by a Google search? You may be feeling uncomfortable when people call you out for not doing anything before now, but that is something for you to deal with. It is not a Black person’s job to make racism more palatable for you, furthermore, racism is not palatable and never has been, ask yourself why you think it is.
Lastly, I want to touch on racism in the UK. Just because anti-Black racism in the US is much more visible than it is in the UK, it does not mean that it isn’t operating here. This could be a whole separate article, so I won’t get into too much detail but do read up on cases like Belly Mujinga’s, Shukri Abdi’s, and Sean Rigg.