This week in the middle of Lockdown something changed. Something so significant it diverted people’s minds and attention away from the ongoing Pandemic that has gripped our lives for the past three months. News that pivoted us away from the Covid 19 headlines. Forcing the public to defy the laws set out for us for this lockdown, and take themselves to the streets.
I am speaking of course, of the callous and cold hearted murder of African American, George Floyd in the USA at the hands of Police Officers. When George Floyd woke up that morning and took his trip down to the shop, he had no idea of the tragic fate that awaited him and how it was about to set the world on fire.
Let’s make one thing clear, there are no shades of grey in this case, no questions, no excuses and no investigation needed to determine the circumstances of what took place. We all saw the horrible video and what transpired. People and critics from both the Left and Right and anyone with a decency of humanity can see, that George Floyd was knelt to the floor and murdered in cold blood by Police Officers.
This is not the first time an African American has fallen victim to the hands of law enforcement and sadly, probably won’t be the last. The difference here and what separates this case from a long history of callous and brutal policing in America, is that there is no doubt or any shred of evidence to state anything other than murder.
For Black Americans, this is an ongoing battle of a long fought out war they have been having for centuries. And another red line crossed for them to say enough is enough. In the middle of a global pandemic, with their gloves and masks firmly on, they made it out to the streets to protest. A fire that had been raging inside them for so long had exploded into a large inferno and now supernova.
Black Lives matter- They have been saying it for years, but yet no one took that much notice of the movement, some ridiculed it and countered it with All Lives Matter. But countering that movement was no longer enough to suppress the anger, pain and hurt they have been living with for decades and centuries.
I am not going to come out and say I can begin to understand the racial inequality and social isolation that riddles the fabric of American Society. Majority of people who don’t live in the USA can’t either. We can understand and maybe even relate to some of the issues that they face, but not even a Black person living in the UK can fully experience the everyday struggle that a Black person in the USA faces every day. From law enforcement, to housing, to education to employment, but I can understand the anger and of course the need to show solidarity.
But this need to show solidarity has left me asking more questions of this new wave of so called understanding, from a silent majority who have for so long, stayed quiet. This past week I shifted through countless blacked out messages on Instagram and Facebook to commemorate what they called Blackout Tuesday. A day of mourning and pause to make a change and recognise racism, but all I saw was a host of people who are jumping on this bandwagon to show their so called ‘Wokeness’. Almost as if Racism has only become a thing this week and didn’t exist before.
The very essence of Black Lives Matter is to stop racism. Are those who are now showing solidarity to BLM? Willing to fight the racism of just Black people or are they willing to fight the very core of racism that exists for all minorities, which is the very reason of the BLM movement. Racism and BLM go hand in hand, no Black person wants to have the right to be treated equally without the right for other minorities to feel the same, but has this message been delivered? Or have people seen this as another new trend to jump on. Is everyone who blacked out their post on Tuesday, really against racism or are they just against what happened to George Floyd and only George Floyd?
In the past few days celebrities, influencers and people, all blacked out their feeds. At one time on my Instragram, there was nothing to see but just blacked out pictures. This is a moment of win right? Or is it that for some, blacking out their pictures, is their way of redeeming themselves of a guilt that they have blissfully ignored? For some, especially celebrities and influencers, it’s just a tactful moment to stay relevant and look sincere to a cause that seems romantic, whilst for others it remains a burning pain. I could write a whole book on how celebrities, music companies, film companies and all those famous people who have come out in fight of BLM and Blackout Tuesday have contributed to the huge racism that still exists in our society and how they will continue to do it. But that is another chapter for another day.
Let’s concentrate on us? Are we the same as USA?
As we observe the protesters and social media posts, we see a need to paint the state as the enemy. Nothing new there I guess, as nothing seems to give one’s life more value or ones speech more validation, than when they are supposedly speaking up against a broken system and politicians. And whilst it is clear there are many broken aspects of our society we need to fix politically and socially here in the UK, we also need to realise where we stand, in our place in all of this.
In order to show solidarity, somehow we have become romanticised with the George Floyd story and the BLM movement. This needed anguish from people here in the UK to validate their grief, has seen them willing to drag down the status of UK to that of the USA. In an attempt to show that they truly understand their struggle. People are going out their way to show that somehow we too, are on the same road as the US- which is hardly the case.
Yes, there is a lot of institutional and structural racism here in the UK that needs to change. Being a man of colour, I have witnessed and experienced many. However, we are nowhere near the same level of social disparity and inequality that resides in America. We should not forget that in order to show solidarity and make changes, we have to fight from the pedestal we are on, and not drag ourselves down to pedestal we want to be on, just because being down there with America looks somehow more of a struggle and makes us a true underdog.
So as I found myself shifting through countless blacked out posts from people from all walks of life, I felt anger especially from certain personalities and people sharing their ‘woke’ messages. It made me cringe. Is this new found love for BLM and respect for Black lives a real turning point? Or are we are looking at just another fad people are jumping on before they return to their life of unconscious and continuous contribution to the structural inequality that rages with no real change coming whatsoever.
The questions needed to be asked?
Will the hipsters and yuppies that have helped the gentrification of cities, rising house prices, pushing out minorities further away from their home areas, that has continued to fuel social inequality and gap between rich and poor. Finally realise their roles in all of this and come outside from their gated communities and new builds to say ‘Hello’ or reach out to their minority neighbours. Will they shop in their local shops and be friends with Mohammed or Ade or are these names just destined to be their Uber drivers? Will they stop buying Cannabis or Coke from their local young minority dealers and start educating them instead? Or stop calling the police when they see a young crowd of minority boys in their hoodies? Will the middle class new generation of ‘Woke’ parents who voted Corbyn and buy organic food, finally send their children to local state schools instead of majority white schools miles away? Will people still move away from urban areas to raise families in quintessential suburbs, which signals out success because you have moved away from the rough, the congestion and of course the minorities.
Will big corporate business and their employees, make an effort to make their workforce representative by employing the diverse nature of this country and we get to see more CEOs and Managers of colour? Will we begin to ask questions like why places like Canary Wharf and City Of London, sandwiched by the most diverse multi racial boroughs in UK, does not have a represented background. Why is it, the majority of their coloured work force are the ones who do front line work such as Security. Will business and their employers as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, reach out to the communities that surround them in a more holistic way, Rather than getting them to volunteer their privileged workers to read to children in schools or plant flowers in the community garden, for their perfect PR photo shoot and conversation reserved for their wine parties about how they help the under privileged.
Why do I mention this? Because this is what you call structural racism. This is the real fight. The little things, which makes the biggest differences. It is these things that build up and cause deep social unrest and segregation, which then allow situations like law enforcement and others to systematically isolate people of colour, causing a gap that ultimately leads to tragic circumstances and racism in society.
As a person of colour living in the UK, I see it every day. Being born and brought up in the UK, there are many experiences I can share, that no one will understand. Many have now come to admit this, but is just saying you understand, enough? Will anyone ever really go out their way, like they were quick to post their feelings of support, to ever understand, the burden I carry everyday to show myself as a good exemplary Bangladeshi male in the UK. Only to prove to the white mainstream society, that we are not all backwards, misogynistic, extremists with a hate for the UK. Every day we fight the labels they gave us. And put on a theatre show from the way we speak to the way we dress to the way we conduct ourselves. We orchestrate this, so in the wider sense of things, our community is not on the firing line. But even that is not enough, because it only takes one coloured man to groom an underage girl, or stab someone or say the wrong things. And we find ourselves fighting to prove to the mainstream white society, that we are not in fact that. This is the reality for minorities and also the reality of Black people.
Let’s talk global politics.
Racism doesn’t just reside in everyday life, it was allowed to surface and stay there, when for decades upon decades, Western countries have bombed and invaded, maimed and carried out their systemic killings of millions of Brown and Black lives around the world. And somehow it seemed ok, because they were defending them from an enemy thousand miles away, and the collateral damages was after all, not White, so their lives had less meaning. Will the people who blacked out their pictures, now question and challenge the most recent piece of history? Or are these causes not good enough to show on their platforms because it was not Black Lives Matter and that is the ‘rage’ at the moment. BLM in essence is about those injustices too, the racist nature of the global systemic elite.
Where was their global outcry when only a month ago the news surfaced, that China, who is responsible for the current pandemic was kicking out African people from their homes and refusing to let them eat in restaurant, because they had the absolute nerve to believe that Black people carried the virus. Black Lives Matter was fighting for them too, but where were the people who are blacking out their screens now?
Does our new found ‘Wokeness’ only stand for current fads to gain popularity and not the whole root cause of it all or challenge those who enable it. When Obama (a black leader) was the architect behind the fall of Libya, which then in the chaos went onto human traffic African men and literally sell them as slaves on the global market. Where was the sense of injustice and outcry like now? Obama came out looking like a hero then and even now, knowing he has done no more for the Black community than previous presidents.
So what do we do?
It’s time we started challenging media perception and stopped promoting books and TV shows and films, that promote the minority as people coping with identity and poverty issues, as desperate souls looking for salvation in the western world. Because us, playing to our stereotypes is what the White mainstream audience want. Are the woke people who read books and watch films, ready to see a brown or black leading character who has normal issues and not issues related to our race?
It’s time to challenge so called social media influencers, when they post and display pictures of them, that highlights their light skinned beauty as if that was the threshold of looking good. For years and years we have seen light skinned celebrities become the face of Black celebrity culture, something even more deep rooted in the South Asian culture.
And the communities are not completely blameless. When are the non-black people going to teach our kids and ourselves that it is not cool to act Black but not wanting to be Black. Time to challenge this vision of how black culture is ghetto culture and limit it down to Grime or Drill music, which is filled with misogynistic and violent lyrics, that further perpetuates the stereotype of being Black. When are going to fight to see the real representation and countless other achievements of the working and middle class Black people, rather than concentrate on the minority inner-city youths as the real Black experience and voice of the UK?
The time has come to challenge so called quotes like “Once you go black, you never go back” or “I’m into Black guys”. “Black people are good at sports” “Black guys are strong and can lift.” These quotes may seem like you are promoting the Black race as superior, but don’t get fooled in your misguided and so called good intention positivity. All you do is single out the Black race from the rest of the population as something other than ‘us’, even if that something is seen to be a positive. It is this level of singling out that has been a virus to the Black community and what leads to stereotype in an effect lead to the dehumanisation of Black people that leads to events such as the George Floyd incident.
Racism is a deep rooted systemic way of thinking and belief. In order to fight it, we have to challenge the everyday living of our lives from global policies to the way we think and act in life. Blacking out pictures, attending protests and sharing hash tags and then moving on in the world saying I am going to think differently, is not enough. For many, it’s gaining points and likes for your own self indulgent publicity with no real root of change. Fighting racism is not a romantic struggle- it is a real hard one that people in an ideal world, do not want to fight. It didn’t suddenly come into existence when the police officer put his knees on George Floyd and it is not going to end there either. So if you are ready to question and change everything around you, then do it. But please save your blackout pictures and hashtags, if you just want a moment of glorification to show your new found ‘wokeness’ because to be honest in this day and age, if it took a clear concise video of three Police Officers standing by whilst another one put his knees down on the neck of a Black man for eight minutes… yes, eight minutes, whilst the guy was screaming “Officer I can’t breathe” fifteen times, yes fifteen times. For you to finally acknowledge and blackout your screens to say that you think Black Lives matter and racism needs to be addressed. Then you need to ask yourself some real hard question and your knowledge of this world.
I for one chose not to Black out anything for me the struggle is deep rooted and less orchestrated.
“I can only be responsible for what I do. I don’t know how to be responsible for what every black man does.” – Tupac Shakur
RIP George Floyd.