Over the past week, protests have been happening across the US in the states of Minneapolis, Atlanta, Washington and Phoenix amongst many others in response to the horrific and senseless killing of George Floyd. I’m nervous about writing this post to be honest. I’m anxious that It won’t do justice for the ongoing acts of oppression, violence and marginalisation faced by black people across the world, not just in America, because of the colour of their skin. However, I feel I have a moral, human, and personal duty to stand up and speak out against something that is so wrong. The current situation happening in the US is heart-breaking to watch as monopoly white power continues to abuse and outrightly ignore the civil rights act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion and sex. But it is not just the US where violent racism takes place, this happens right here in the UK too and is embedded deep within our society. The horrific killing of George Floyd last week has sparked a national movement and uprising against the mistreatment and oppression of black lives that has been happening for centuries in the US. It’s 2020, racially motivated killings, abuse and attacks should not be happening. Change is needed and people need to be heard. As it has been widely spoken about in recent days, it is not enough just to not be racist, we need to be anti-racist. The death of George Floyd is only the tip of the iceberg.
I sat down yesterday and watched a video clip of protestors in Washington DC, and as they stood together to make their voices heard, they were shot at by armed police with rubber bullets. Not all of the protests have been peaceful, and inexcusable violence, looting and arson have taken to the streets of many American states. However, people are angry. Thousands of individuals regardless of skin colour stand in unison to fight for equality against police brutality and institutional racism towards black people that has been happening for many years. Eric Gardener, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Bettie Jones, Breona Taylor. These are just a few of the names from those killed by the police in America since Eric Gardener’s death in 2014. Statistics show that ‘the rate of black American deaths in the US is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans’. I have no words to describe how sorry I am for all of those families that have lost mums, dads, brothers and sisters because of this brutality.
After studying African American literature during my time at university, I found a love for the stories and memoirs of African American women and their experiences which have often been forgotten, silenced and overwritten. The marginalised voices of the African American experience doused in intersectional oppression and controlling stereotypes has been fought against through the power of words and writing for centuries. The draw I had towards learning more about African American literature inspired me to write my dissertation around these experiences. It was called Breaking Free: Controlling Images and Fragile Stereotypes in Twentieth-Century African American Literature. During the project, I read stories and experiences that were difficult to hear, and uncovered secondary narratives surrounding the fight for justice, equality and change hidden deep within pages of a text and characters of a novel. Words hold no colour, but the experiences they are based upon do. I think that reading and learning more about black culture, race and history can help us to become a more inclusive society and value everyone, not just those born with white skin.
Born with white skin, I am immediately born into white privilege. The things I take for granted such as going to the shops, going jogging and calling the police for help are not things that people with black skin are always able to take for granted. Whilst watching the video of protestors In DC yesterday, I cried. I am angry and upset and it’s hard to express in words the way that the situation in the US is making me feel. As a white woman, I will never have the same experiences as that of a black woman, and I understand that I will never understand. I didn’t choose the colour of my skin or the way that I am treated because of this. But, what I can choose is to make my voice heard and fight for equality for everyone, regardless of race or sex. I feel a real sense of guilt and responsibility seeing the ongoing situation in the US. As much as white skin is seen as a privilege, it is also a curse. We have a lot of history behind the power associated with white skin and heritage that I am not always proud to acknowledge and inherit. As white individuals in positions of power continue to carry out horrific acts of racially motivated violence, the distance between a unified community is distanced that little further. I feel guilty and responsible for what is happening. I am linked to these people by the colour of my skin and I’m cannot shake the feeling of sadness away that I’m overcome with when I hear the racially motivated violence that continues to happen in the US.
I feel so very far away from everything that is happening, but at the same time, I feel so connected. I can’t make people behave the right way, but I am standing with you in the fight for change. Black skin should not mean you have to fear walking to the shop. Black skin should not mean that you should fear playing out in the street. Black skin should not mean that you fear ringing the police. We need to stand together during this time and stand as one. I am standing up and speaking out on behalf of those who can’t, and those who won’t. Change is needed right now, and the urgency of this message is unprecedented. To all of my brothers and sisters that have stood up before for what they believe in; for feminism, for LGBT, for civil rights, for equality, the fight continues and we need to stand up again and raise our voices even louder than before. I want to live in a world where all lives have equal value, regardless of the colour of our skin. And so today, I stand here and I promise to read more, learn more, and raise my voice more in support of black lives matter and the creation of an equal future that is more than worth fighting for.