*This article has been written by a white student and is offering their perspective on what other white people, as well as themselves, can do to recognise their privilege, and work to undo systemic, institutionalized racism in our society. ‘ I know I will never understand, but I will always stand’.
On Monday 25th May, another Black man, George Floyd, was murdered by a white policeman in America. The policeman, Derek Chauvin, was filmed kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minuets, and forty five seconds. Two other policemen held Floyd down, and another ‘controlled’ the crowd. All while Floyd shouted ‘I can’t breathe’, until he lost consciousness and died.
As a white woman, I cannot fathom the feelings of Black people both in America and across the world, the privilege of having white skin will never allow me to understand the fear of Black people going about their everyday lives.
This however, does not mean white people should be silent. We have benefitted from a system which has discriminated against people of colour for centuries. Since Britain began colonising nations, to the first shipment of slaves of which profits built cities such as Newcastle and Bristol, racism has been institutionalized within Britain and America, to ensure white people benefitted from being white.
A saying which is very commonplace for understanding white privilege explains that white privilege accepts that you may have faced hardships, however these were not due to the colour of your skin. It is thus our duty to undo centuries of systemic oppression. It is our duty to teach about colonization in schools, it is our duty to be uncomfortable. It is our duty to be called out for appropriating certain parts of Black culture that we deem ‘acceptable’.
It is not the responsibility of Black people to fight for their equality. As white people, it is our responsibility to address the system we created, we benefit from and to educate ourselves and fight for a system free of injustice. Before the heroics start, and the ‘likes’ pour in, white people should understand that we should not be seen as ‘fighters’ or ‘the good ones’ for standing up against racism, for we would should never have been benefitting from a corrupt system in the first place.
We should have been outraged since Emmett Till was sentenced to death on false accusations with a biased trial that only cared about white opinion. We should still be outraged over the murder of Michael Brown, being shot six times was no accident by the white police. We should still be outraged when Eric Garner also screamed ‘I can’t breathe’. His words should never have found home in another dying black mans last breaths.
American history, since its colonization, was built on status differentiation and white supremacy. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until Native Americans have what’s left of their land and ancestral sites back. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until Native American land is not torn apart for pipelines, their culture not appropriated globally at Halloween, and their genocide not swept over like that of the Aborigines in Australia.
It is not the ‘land of the free’ until every school teaches about America’s role in the slave trade, slavery in America and the repression of the rights of Black people to this day. It is not the ‘land of the free’ until there is collective action from a white population whose ignorance towards issues of race and injustice is as astounding as Britain’s denial to face its colonial and imperialist history.
It is not the ‘land of the free’ until the rate of black male arrests is unbiased.
African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites. As of 2001, one of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys. In 2016, Black Americans comprised 27% of all individuals arrested in the United States—double their share of the total population. Black youth accounted for 15% of all U.S. children yet made up 35% of juvenile arrests in that year. It must be stressed that the rise of mass incarceration begins with disproportionate levels of police contact with African Americans.
It is imperative white people take accountability for their role in allowing the continuation of institutionalized, systemic racism that perpetrates the ideology that discrimination is a ‘Black peoples problem’. It is instead necessary that we change ourselves and our institutions.
It was a white officer that murdered George Floyd.
It was white officers who did not stop him.
It is a white settler society that now rules an already occupied indigenous land, it is a white settler society built off the backs of slaves, the genocide of Native Americans, and the compliance to live in a society where Black people are continuously murdered by white people. There should have been protests every day for the fact Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. There should have been protests every day that police killed 1,099 people in 2019, and that Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population . Another Black person should not have had to die to recognise what has been happening in America, and Britain, for centuries.
It is, and always has been imperative to address racism in all its forms, and Britain is certainly not exempt from this task. We, the white people, must be outraged that everyday by being compliant, we are killing Black people and people of colour. We must confront uncomfortable truths about who we are, and how our western, liberal societies came to be.
This rage should not die out. It is long overdue that we address one of, if not the, most deep rooted injustices in our society. As Desmond Tutu famously said: ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’.
George Floyd should not have died that day. It is as simple and as complex as that.
May the injustice being faced by Black people and people of colour be finally, properly addressed. Our complacency, our sympathy is not beneficial. We must stand as allies, we must deconstruct the basis of our society, until it no longer forces the life out of Black people and people of colour.
Written by Sarah Tennent
SIGN THE PETITIONS/DONATE HERE-
Black Lives Matter UK Fund- https://www.gofundme.com/f/ukblm-fund
The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust- https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/support-us/donate/
The Minnesota Freedom Fund- https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/
Justice for Belly Mujinga- https://www.change.org/p/govia-thameslink-justice-for-belly-mujinga
Justice for Breonna Taylor- https://www.standwithbre.com/
Petition to suspend UK export of tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to USA- https://www.change.org/p/suspend-uk-export-of-tear-gas-rubber-bullets-and-riot-shields-to-usa
Petition for the UK government to condemn President Trump’s response to BLM protests- https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-the-uk-government-must-condemn-trump-s-response-to-the-murder-of-george-floyd?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_22522561_en-GB%3Av3&recruited_by_id=d21766b0-a5a4-11ea-9a05-b3d780603ee9&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&utm_term=4931b21bd4f04c7cbdd896d94658b364&pt=AVBldGl0aW9uAMGqVwEAAAAAXtew7gG9E6s5OWZkZjM3ZA%3D%3D
Petition for British schools to implement teaching British children about Black history- https://www.change.org/p/gavin-williamson-mp-teach-british-children-about-the-realities-of-british-imperialism-and-colonialism?recruiter=1100366940&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_petition&recruited_by_id=63f782c0-a35e-11ea-8907-8fc7af712ec3&use_react=false
Reading List to educate yourself-
Nikesh Shukla – The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America
Layla Saad – Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World
Reni Eddo-Lodge – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
Akala – Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire
Ibram X. Kendi – How To Be an Antiracist
Wesley Lowery – They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of Black Lives Matter
Support Black owned businesses, find them here- https://www.ukblackowned.co.uk/