George Floyd’s death was shocking – nothing short of murder in my eyes.
The first person you look to in this type of situation is the person right at the very top of your country. For the United States, this is Donald Trump. This an emergency – and he has failed to step up to the plate.
Instead of highlighting the race and police brutality issues the country faces, he has made two serious errors, both on Twitter. The first was celebrating what his administration has done to combat racism.
In the United Kingdom, I feel like we have evolved and made progress on combating racism but this is my attitude: one case of racism in the world is one too many. Not only is there still a major issue with racial discrimination worldwide, but Trump’s tweet was also totally inappropriate.
Think of how George Floyd’s family must feel seeing that post. At a time when it was vital to abandon arrogant behaviour, Trump has chosen not to do it.
The second cardinal sin he made reinforces another major problem in the United States: gun violence.
‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ That was part of a social media post from the President of the United States. Looting is wrong in my opinion – and people need to understand that however angry they are, stealing from businesses and setting things on fire isn’t the way forward, despite people’s negative feelings towards the effectiveness of peaceful protests.
However, when a man of Donald Trump’s power threatens US citizens with deadly guns, this is something that needs to be magnified. It may also encourage others with guns who are anti-protests to take the matter into their own hands and start shooting.
Although I do agree that officers will need to protect themselves against looters, was that tweet responsible? I don’t think so.
Even Boris Johnson’s comments in the past need to be highlighted. As a Conservative voter, I voted for him very reluctantly, trusting him to redeem himself and do more for the BAME community after his offensive comments towards Muslim women and people of colour.
He made a promising start as Prime Minister, building a diverse cabinet and giving us the hope that his comments were long behind him. However, his initial refusal to apologise for his offensive comments did make me question if I should vote Conservative or not.
In the end, I had to look at the cabinet as a whole and vote on manifesto policies, rather than the actual person in charge. This does encapsulate the state of British politics.
That has been my main issue and something that I have learnt about myself. Although I stand by one of my social media posts the other day saying that British police officers should be treated respectfully, I think it was wrong to make my views on the protesters the main argument of the post instead of the movement.
Plenty of things could be the focus; the fact that a lot of people will forget about this issue after a week or two, the fact that some people could just be posting about this issue for attention, looting stores during the coronavirus crisis where some businesses are struggling already, the behaviour of Donald Trump, the past comments of Boris Johnson.
All these points are important and need to be addressed and dealt with. Despite these issues, now is the time to dedicate positive energy into our mission to strive for equality as well as getting justice for George Floyd. There is now a need to get to the epicentre of this issue, so we can dissect it and start solving this problem.
We need substance behind our posts on social media. Two key actions would make a good start: extended articles on this issue and persistence. It’s no good talking about it just for the next couple of days, weeks or months. This is a long-term project, and the death of George Floyd just shows that we have not been talking about this issue enough.
We celebrate the likes of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther-King for speaking out against racial discrimination and rightly so. Despite this, we still have a long way to go.
The next steps depend on the approach we take. This is not white people vs people of colour, this is not people vs the police, this is the world vs racism. In no way is our police force in the United Kingdom perfect. Discrimination was highlighted in Sir William Macpherson’s 1999 report after the death of Stephen Lawrence.
Back then, Macpherson described the Metropolitan Police as ‘institutionally racist’. In a piece by former police officer Kevin Maxwell on Metro, he believes that there is still a problem with systematic racism in UK police forces across the country.
To find out the extent of our police discrimination problem, both the UK government and our people need to launch a full-scale inquiry and continue to speak out about this issue.
Quite frankly, this inquiry will need to be one of the biggest this country has ever had. Difficult conversations will need to be had with police forces up and down the country – and we need to ensure that this investigation is honest, fair, detailed and can give us both short-term and long-term solutions to implement.
We also need to ensure that we do not tar all police officers with the same brush. I strongly believe that a large proportion of officers sign up to serve and protect their citizens. Even though we need to address this issue, we need to do it calmly with respect to those officers who sign up for all the right reasons. It does not mean that I am on the police’s ‘side’.
There shouldn’t be sides, except the world vs racism. Despite this, the officers who are role models and set a good example would need to play their part in the inquiry, because their honesty could go a long way in solving this problem.
Understandably, this is a very emotional issue and one we cannot put up with any longer. If we can take steps to improve this situation without violence, this might just be one of the earth’s greatest achievements. An inquiry in the UK is the first step for us.
Boris Johnson, this is your chance for redemption. Help improve the lives of the BAME community. The pressure will be turned up on you if you do not take action.
I still maintain that the public needs to act calmly and legally, via non-violent demonstrations. Others would disagree and I respect that. Some feel as if peaceful protests do not work – I hear you. However, looting could do more harm than good to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The main issue I had with writing this article is because I am a white male. Perhaps I might be less educated on this issue because I’ve never received discriminatory comments on race.
In the end, whether I take a different angle and approach to other writers or not, I would like to think most of us have one main aim: to strive for equality.
Media producers across the world need to ensure that this issue is not brushed under the carpet like it has been several times before. If it does end up being brushed under the carpet, we will continue to see many more cases like George Floyd in the months and years to come.