Caught on Camera: Racism in America

Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.

Will Smith

On Monday evening, 25th May 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old African American man was murdered.

Suffocated by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Holding him down like an animal, George showed no signs of resistance, except for calling out for his life. The incident was recorded by a bystander nearby, with George laying face down on the side of the road with Derek Chauvin’s knee in the crook of his neck. According to the original police report, he was handcuffed for “suspected forgery,” to which he apparently resisted. But the question is – how did Derek Chauvin end up with an innocent dead man under his leg? The answer might seem pretty explicit, George Floyd was murdered at the expense of white supremacy and police brutality. However, Derek Chauvin, along with three other police officers were fired. Just fired. So this situation is not as clear cut as it seems.

Below is the video of George Floyd’s murder, even though this clip might make you feel uncomfortable/upset, it is important to be exposed to this kind of violence, as more awareness does need to be spread.

(But please do watch at your discretion)

It makes me sick to my stomach to think that police brutality is only visible when a camera is involved. When George was put into the ambulance, the officers claimed that the cause of his death was a “medical problem.” Which would probably have been written off as such without the evidence on film. Using such force on another human does not come naturally, nor can it be disguised as an accident. The force on his neck was intentional.

I see a lot of comments on the internet claiming that the video does not show the whole story and that it might have well been an accidental or that the excessive force was necessary. “To protect himself and the other officers.” But all I see is a man, showing no resistance, calling out:

“I can’t breathe.”

George Floyd was held down for 8 long minutes until he became unconscious. His death was pronounced on the arrival at the hospital. He wasn’t even given a chance.

To say that I was surprised by this wouldn’t be true, it is not the first time, nor the second – in fact, we don’t even know the true statistics of these such violent events. Because in order to hear about it, someone has to be recording and in order for something to be done about it, protesting has to start. But protesting only seems to do so much, these four police officers were fired. Not prosecuted for murder – which is exactly what should be done. Like every one of these incidents when a black man or woman is left dead at the hands of a white cop, it is a race problem. A white privilege problem. A white supremacy problem.

Derek Chauvin and three other officers are walking away from murder with unemployment. As of recently, 36 million Americans have been made unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Why is it that these police officers are getting the same treatment as other Americans who lost their jobs to an uncontrollable virus? Their actions were controlled.

The use of social media has brought more of these murder cases to light, helping spread awareness across the country and globe. On Tuesday night, protesters took to the Minneapolis streets, chanting we can’t breathe! Demanding justice for George Floyd’s death, supporting his family, who are now left with a dead son, brother, and father in the middle of a pandemic.

Protesters were met with tear gas and rubber bullets.

If you are reading this and thinking that this might be a “freak accident” or that “this isn’t a race problem”, may I remind you of what we saw in America only a couple of weeks ago:

These are armed white Americans protesting the lockdown and denying the severity of Covid-19. The main excuse the police use for killing a black man or woman is because they were apparently “armed”, “a threat to their life” or they weren’t “complying”. Those are the excuses justify a police officers actions, exempting them from prosecution and sentencing. Yet, here we are actually seeing armed, angry protesters who are not complying with the law – and yet, no police brutality?

This woman is even holding a sign saying “we will not comply.” Do we see excessive force used against her? Do we see her now murdered? No, we do not. The reality of this is that George Floyd wasn’t even doing anything that day, except for doing his job. There is no way that his actions should’ve cost him his life. Because his actions were innocent and unprovoked.

So what can we now do?

No matter your race, each and every person can do something about this injustice. This will unfortunately not be the last murder of an innocent black person we see. But it can be the last time we see a guilty police officer walk away from the scene with only unemployment. With social media, speak up. We all have a voice and we all have followers who can listen. Whether you reach one person or one hundred, spreading awareness is what is needed.

As a white person, I recognise the privilege I hold and I know the term “white privilege” makes some white people uncomfortable. But it shouldn’t have too. If you are white, you can use your privilege to help educate others, to educate those who might not understand that their privilege grants them safety from being murdered on the side of the road. There are so many articles, videos, Twitter threads etc. that you can read to teach yourself about terms like “white supremacy” and “white privilege.” Putting in the work to make yourself aware of the racism in the world, makes you an ally. And that is needed. Systemic racism holds so much power that it can only be brought down if white people recognise where they stand in society.

Do the research, educate yourself, speak UP and take action. To stay silent is you exercising your privilege in the wrong way. Use it to the advantaged to help those who have been silenced.

A friend of mine sent me a quote, which I think speaks for itself:

“It’s not enough to not be racist, we need you to be anti-racist.”

Angela Davis
View this post on Instagram

Racism is not a black people problem, it is a white culture issue. Sexism is not a female problem, it is an issue with male dominated culture. Classism is not a poor people problem, it is a capitalism issue. Homophobia and transphobia aren't queer people problems, they are issues with cis straight post-colonial society. In order to push forward, we need to shift the perspective of oppression being the problem of those who experience it. We need to acknowledge that privilege exists as a spectrum and is an indicator for where the work needs to take place. Expecting marginalized folk to be the ones to deconstruct their own oppression is as good as saying "not my problem" and letting it happen, as it doesn't acknowledge where the problem is coming from. The definition of privilege is thinking that something isn't a problem because it isn't YOUR problem. The best thing about being part of so many minority groups, is that I'm plugged into so many incredible communities to draw my strength, inspiration and perspective from. But we need allies doing the work also. White people, hold your own community accountable. Straight and cisgender people hold your own community accountable and bear in mind that you are also a community. Not the standard. Once we start to decolonise society's mindset and decentralise white, straight, cis and male as the standard. Then we can begin to work towards an equal world. But until then, assert your privilege. #whiteprivilege Image content @courtneyahndesign @wetheurban @emmadabiri @ll_mckinney

A post shared by MUNROE (she/they) (@munroebergdorf) on

Before I end this post, I wanted to include a video I came across on Twitter last week. It already made me angry, but watching it back just now puts what I am trying to say into perspective. This lady, otherwise known as a “Karen” on the internet, posted a video about how wearing a mask left her feeling “dizzy” and “tingly” because

she wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

Wearing a mask in public is for the safety of yourself and others, protecting those who might be vulnerable or know someone vulnerable to the virus. It is for safety. This is really where the phrase “there are bigger things worth worrying about” comes into play. Because on Monday, a black man died because he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. He wasn’t safe, he wasn’t protected, he was a victim of police brutality and white supremacy. He was the one who couldn’t breathe, not this lady here. 

This is white privilege and it’s not just a problem in America.

Click here to sign the petition “to demand that the County Attorney, Michael Freeman, arrest and charge all four Minneapolis police officers involved in murdering George Floyd, immediately.”

Featured Image: Photo via Allendale UMC – St. Petersburg/Facebook

Other images used: Getty Images

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