In the last days, everyone spoke up against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Watching this man being suffocated by a cop while another was watching silently triggered loud reactions all over the world because it was unfair and it hurt all of us.
He actually died in front of our eyes and the eyes of the world, while a camera was filming everything, with a knee on his neck by a policeman who should be the embodiment of protection and security.
That moment was not just the destruction of a man’s life but also of the image we have of the security forces, which is the image of protection, safety and help. When someone who is supposed to make justice and protect your life, instead takes it away in that way as if it was normal and socially accepted what does it say to you and society?
When you realize the worst punishment for his act was to be fired, when an innocent life’s punishment -having done absolutely nothing but being of a different skin color- is death, what makes you understand? The video and the images of this episode were among the most powerful because they showed a whole story with its terrible end and total lack of justice.
Unfortunately George Floyd is not the first victim of police brutality, the use of excessive and/or unnecessary force by police when dealing with civilians. The overuse of power by cops is unfortunately not limited to unjust arrests or corruption but it goes further to the use of physical violence, tear gas, tasers, sexual abuse and so on, until its exacerbation perfectly represented by many other episodes in the past like the tortures inflicted to Darrell Cannon in Chicago, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, the violence used with Eric Garner in New York or the death of Breonna Taylor and the death in Florida of the 17 year-old Trayvon Benjamin Martin.
According to a report by ACLU Foundation, among the 4.4 million pedestrian stops made by the NYPD from January 2004 through June 2012, 83% of the people stopped were African-American or Latino and only 10% were white. Moreover, Black people are incarcerated on drug charges at a rate 10 times greater than Whites and in 13 states over 60% of Black people are serving life sentences.
The Police Violence report of 2017 states that Black people are more likely to be killed by police, more likely to be unarmed and less likely to be threatening someone when killed. Another report of NAACP shows that racially-motivated crimes comprise nearly 60% of overall crimes and African-Americans remain the most targeted group.
Only when there is oppression there is the necessity of determining a stronger identity and the need for a demand: in this case no right is going to be achieved without fighting for it before. This is were the necessity to claim that Black Lives Matter and not All Lives Matter comes: from the fact that not all lives need to ask for basic human rights ! The problem is that we are not going to solve the problem if we do not go to the roots of it, back in our history, which sees racism deeply engrained in our social systems.
Among these roots, an interesting fact is that black skin color seems to trigger emotions of threat and violence and fear to those with different skin color. But really what does skin color has to do with safety and danger? Nothing, if not with the perception we developed growing up in this system that has something like racism and white supremacy, which have no scientific roots, at its constitutional basis.
Racism tracks back to very ancient times, but the relatively recent fight for its end is still vivid in our mind. Worth to remember are the years of discrimination and consequently protests against racism in the US, the ‘60s : Nashville, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. and The Letter from Birmingham Jail are stuck in our conscience, representing only a few of the symbols of the struggle of Black people to have dignity and freedom, a decent and respectful life just like any other human being.
It took some time, until 1964, before equality started to take shape with the Civil Right Acts and still today, in 2020, equality feels like a goal not reached at all. As if instead of taking steps forward, we took steps even back and we can experience this through the most recent story of George Floyd.
Imagine now that all the times, everyday, at every hour, something like this happens at the expenses of Black people with no witnessing except for those of the people from the same community. Imagine now living in constant fear and injustice, in a system which does not protect you or defend you but perpetuates in the path of racism and social inequality, with leading voices totally silent or trying to justify that guiltiness.
Imagine how unbearable it is living like this through all your life and then acknowledging your life is only a small fragment of time inside the infinite period of existence, which already saw hundreds of years of racism. I bet you cannot even imagine the frustration and pain, as I cannot either. We, humans, as falsely and unreasonably put inside a chart of skin colors with their relative degree of importance and superiority, are we okay with all of this? Really?
Change happens only if you want to and we shaped our world with prejudice and racism, we all collectively participated in it every time we remained silent in front of it and every time a leader charged with power did not give the good example, but fueled the fire of injustice, prejudice and violence while we did not do anything about it.
So as we were able to spread hatred and prejudice and racism, we must be able to create a new mindset. It is not just our attitude against the member of the Black community we meet in the street that has to change, but the whole system with the inclusion of the special traits this community has in its background and culture into our marketplace, literature, everyday life, so that whenever something to them happens we can feel the same instinct of protesting and need of participation we have whenever one of our right as “privileged” is not respected.
How can we live in a world where only one ethnicity and culture is predominant and others just stand by, being chased by violence and prejudice? I believe there is place to include everyone’s special traits because we can live, work, study, love, struggle, fall and stand up together and we can put together the best of each of us in the world and use it for good purposes.
Only together we can step forward and say we cannot accept this insanity anymore. For all the human lives unarmed and innocent being treated like criminals for no reason. We must elevate to that kind of awareness and consciousness that allows us to be outside the borders of an ethnicity and a specific culture to be inside the identity of world citizens. In order to guarantee that every world citizen like us has his/her rights observed and respected and to speak up and come together collectively whenever this does not happen.
I DON’T WANNA DEFEND BLACK PEOPLE.
I WANT THEM NOT TO HAVE THE NEED TO BE DEFENDED.
I DON’T WANT TO SPEAK UP FOR THEM.
I WANT THEM ALIVE AND PROTECTED TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK UP FOR THEIRSELVES.
I DON’T WANNA SEE A BLACK KID WONDERING HOW TO ACT OR TO SPEAK BECAUSE HE HAS TO PROVE HE DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG AND HE IS A GOOD KID, MAYBE JUST CLUMSY AS ANY OTHER.
I WANT TO SEE A BLACK KID BE CLUMSY AND BE CONSIDERED JUST A CLUMSY KID, DOING STUPID THINGS BECAUSE HE IS JUST A KID.
I DON’T WANNA SAY BLACK ALL THE TIME I HAVE TO REFER TO A PERSON WITH A DIFFERENT SKIN COLOR THAN MINE.
I WANT TO REFER TO THIS PERSON AS PERSON, HUMAN BECAUSE THAT IS HOW THE WORLD REFERS TO ME.
I DON’T WANNA BE THE PRIVILEGED WHITE ONE.
I WANNA BE THE HUMAN SUPPORTING OTHER HUMANS, IN A WORLD OF HUMANS.
I DON’T WANNA TALK ABOUT RACISM ALL OVER AGAIN.
I WANNA SAY “RACISM? WHAT IS THAT?”.
To do this the change must start from us, now. So what are you doing to support and end this unreasonable racism? How are you using your “privileged” life?
I won’t stay silent. I won’t breathe until together we will make even Black Lives really matter.