Updated: Sep 2, 2020
George Floyd. 8 Minutes and 46 seconds. You probably know how these sentences interlink, so I won’t tell you what occurred on Monday the 25th of May 2020. George Floyd is a name that has been broadcasted on news stations all over the world. It’s a name that has sparked marches and protests on the fact that, “Black Lives Matter.” It’s a name that has, is and will continue to change attitudes and laws in countries. Unfortunately, it’s a well-known fact that racism still exists in every corner of society. In this essay, I’ll explore 2 facts we can learn from the most recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and proposing 3 ways UK and US governments can respond. I should let you know that at the end of this essay, I will be adding a word that will make all the difference to how the first 2 sentences are portrayed.
We can learn that there is a deep-rooted problem. Systematic racism is still deeply embodied within many of the structures in society, such as discrimination in employment, housing, health care, the criminal justice system and policing departments in the UK and the US. We can focus on one of the problems here- the police, which ultimately links to the criminal justice system. In the UK, Black people are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police, compared to white people. ‘More than 3% of people arrested, prosecuted and, convicted of a crime and in prison are black.’ Honestly, these statistics are shocking. The question I keep wondering is why? Why do we have to be treated differently just because of the colour of our skin? Why are we treated as inferior, compared to Caucasian counterparts?
We can also learn that black people have had enough and we’re taking action. We’ve seen the ‘Justice for George Floyd’ petition, which has amassed over 18 and a half million signatures (and counting), Black Pound Day, where people are encouraged to buy from black owned business in the UK, However, it should be noted that buying from black owned business’ shouldn’t just be a one-day aspect- it should be often. Another way we’re taking action is with ‘Black out Tuesday’, which is an initiative to ‘go silent on social media, reflect on recent events and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement’. On Tuesday the 22nd of June 2020, millions of people took to social media to post symbolic black squares, in their stand against racism and police brutality. From the US, to South Korea, Australia and beyond- we've seen people take to the streets to protest against racism and join in the fight against injustice.
One way the US government can respond to the most recent insurgence of the black lives matter movement is to have police reform, particularly to end the ‘Qualified Immunity Act’. The Qualified Immunity Act is a legal doctrine which essentially shields government officials (such a police officers) from being held liable to incidences where they have violated one’s constitutional rights. Action has been taken to end this act. For example, the on June 26th 2020, Justin Amash and Ayanna Pressley proposed the ‘Ending Qualified Immunity Act’ legislation, to end the Qualified Immunity Act in the US. Once the act has been abolished, more people, especially black people, who have had their constitutional rights violated, can receive the justice they deserve. The act has support from the Democratic, Liberation, and Republic parties. However, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives (which make up Congress) are majority Republican, so there are doubts as to whether or not the bill will be passed. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that people who have had their constitutional rights violated will be served justice. Police reform can also be through how departments train their officers, such as having stricter guidelines on police accessories, like when to use tasters and guns. Moreover, reform can come to how police departments hire recruiters for the job. For example, departments can hire more ethnic minorities to reflect how diverse society is as a whole.
One way the UK government can respond is to reform the National Curriculum. For example, reviewing the History syllabus so more Black history is taught to pupils. Black people have also made Britain great, such as, Mary Seacole, a nurse who came from Jamaica to Ukraine to help look after British soldiers who fought during the Crimean War (1853-56), as well as many other great black pioneers, can be recognised. Moreover, reviewing the national curriculum in general brings about more awareness and education to the injustices and oppression black people have faced. This can be done by the government partnering with a range of organisations and utilising a range of resources to generate more conversations, reflection and change. More funding should go to such organisations so resources on black history can be produced. A lot of times, education leads to action. For example, there has been a surge in sales for books on race, such as, ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo- Lodge (which is currently number 1 this week on Amazon Charts), ‘White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Race’ by Robin DiAngelo, and ‘Me and White Supremacy: How to recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change The World’ by Layla Saad. Furthermore, the marches in the stand against racism occurring globally, has led to change. One way this is evident is because statues which correlate to slavery in some way have been taken down, such as the slave trader, Robert Milligan in East London. Pressure and outcry on the US government by protestors, marches and petitions, led to change because former officer Derek Chauvin’s sentence moved from third degree murder and second-degree manslaughter to second degree murder, as well as the 3 police officers being charged with ‘aiding and abetting second- degree murder and second- degree manslaughter’ to George Floyds death. Change is happening, and governmental action is a catalyst for this.
Another way the government can respond is to take more action to have more representation in certain professions. There are a lot of black footballers, but it’s rare to see black football managers. There’s a lot of talented black actors, but it’s rare to see them as directors, just as there are a lot of black lawyers, but again, it’s rare to see black managing partners of law firms. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the gist. This is screaming a crucial, but simple fact- we're underrepresented. The government can introduce initiatives which make business’ to, for example, be more intentional about who they hire and their Diversity and Inclusion policies. A reminder is that employers should not just hire those who are black because they are black, but to hire us because we deserve such positions and jobs too. Change can also come from those who are in positions of high power. Most of the people who discuss i.e., legislation, and are in the political sphere in the UK are white –middle class men, and the discussion may only (sometimes unconsciously) represent that particular group and so won’t be representative of the UK population as a whole. I believe one of the solutions to this is two-fold: black people need to want to go into such positions and recruiters (as well as the public) need to believe in them. Once this occurs, black people’s voices can be heard and taken more seriously.
History repeats itself and I’m concerned that similar events will continue in the future. Even before the brutal killing of George Floyd, there have been other similar atrocities that have occurred, such as the cases of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other countless black lives that have been taken. Governments have done a lot, but they can do more, we can do more- I can do more. With that being said, racism is another virus which needs to be eradicated. Until then, we will continue fighting for freedom, liberation and justice!
George Floyd. 8 minutes and 46 seconds.