Updated: Jun 13, 2020
On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis, after white police officer Derek Chauvin unlawfully pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes until he was unresponsive. Floyd repeatedly cried out for his mother, and his last words were: ‘I can’t breathe.’
Since then, the community of Minneapolis, and America more broadly, have been in pandemonium. Floyd’s cruel death is not only an affirmation and reminder of America’s racial divides, but also calls to a global audience. For many non-black citizens the death of George Floyd has allowed for deep reflection into their own ideologies and the political climate of their nation.
African Americans make up less than 14% of the US population, yet they accounted for 23% of fatal shootings in 2019. In 2018, they made up almost one third of the US prison population. Statistics for Hispanic minorities were similarly disproportionate in comparison to the white population. The disparity in the US’s incarceration rate and fatal killings is indicative of a much greater problem: racism.
Hence, the street-level protests that incurred demanding that justice and reformation of racist institutions started on 26th May in Minneapolis and have spread globally. There has been great controversy over the protests, heightened due to their breaking social distancing rules during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet protestors believe that it is vital to speak out against this injustice, even at the risk of their own health. Labelled as ‘vigilante behaviour,’ protesting has only exacerbated relations with the police in the USA, resulting in more brutality, unlawful arrests and tear-gassing. The media has attributed protestors’ ferocity as being mainly motivated by a ‘black violent narrative,’ with Trump calling protesters, “THUGS, who are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd.” Yet protesting is not a new form of political insurrection in the USA, or globally, and it has often been led by white minority groups, such as the Suffragettes or the LGBT community. The media needs to be careful how it portrays protestors against George Floyd’s death, and more generally protestors of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM movement).
Belly Mujinga, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery, Shukri Abdi, Tamir Rice, Mark Duggan, Sarah Reed, Stephen Lawrence, and now George Floyd are the names of some who have been failed and tragically died at the hands of police incompetency and the legacy of racism. The global impact of George Floyd’s murder has been powerful in resurfacing an often overlooked, but very much prevalent issue in the world – the pandemic of racism. Within the UK, it was highlighted by the Windrush Scandal, when thousands of Caribbean immigrants were wrongfully detained, denied legal rights and threatened with deportation, despite living in the UK for most of their lives; or cases like Stephen Lawrence, a black British teen who was murdered in a racially motivated attack, that the UK is also guilty of racially driven inequities and institutions.
Being a black woman myself, the first London BLM protest meant a lot for me to be there, it symbolised a battle for equity and equality. The sheer numbers of protestors instantly filled me with a sense of support and solidarity that I don’t often feel in a white-dominated society. George Floyd represents many loved ones for us. Our sons, brothers, fathers, nephews, friends. Black people are victims of prejudiced behaviour on a daily basis. Hence, when people chanted ‘no justice, no peace, no hatred police’ and ‘no silence, no violence,’ in commemoration of Floyd, it deeply resonated with us, as we thought of many other fallen brothers and sisters of the black community.
The march was a moment when my voice finally felt heard. A homogenous solidarity and a day of reckoning. It was amazing to see protestors of different races and ages in support of the BLM movement, as, although these individuals will never fully feel the prejudice that comes with being black, they were there to listen and make change. Fundamentally, this is a crisis of humanity. We kneeled in silence in a moment of respect for George Floyd and many others – it was beautiful.
Within the media, the slogan ‘All Lives Matter’ has come under a lot of scrutiny of late. However, what is not clearly addressed is that the ‘BLM’ protest and message is not to lessen the significance of all lives, but to tackle the current issue that until black lives matter too, then we can we say all lives matter.
The pandemic of racism cannot be changed by black people alone. I myself know the plight of feeling like a small voice in an environment that is surreptitiously racist. I know the feeling of being labelled the ‘angry black women,’ when my conviction in character and steadfastness in assertion is stereotyped. Current events urge us all to reflect on our position on All Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter. To stay silent in these times reflects a position of complicity.
We at GlobalGirl Media stand united with BLM and urge all of our readers to help educate people on racial matters, donate, and petition. I hope that something powerful can come from George Floyd’s death, which tragically didn’t come out of the deaths of so many before him – real change. It starts from your homes, reading and exposing yourself to the history of racism, educating family members, making localised change through writing letters to local party representatives to show support.
Campaigns and petitions are gaining momentum for the UK to change its education curriculum to include a more balanced view of black British history, so that young people can understand the UK’s role in centuries of racism, starting with the enslavement of black people at the hands of white, British colonisers. But the history of black people and black culture did not start there… we must address this misconstrued narrative of black history.
George Floyd is one of many names persecuted by systemic racism, but this time his name will be cause for global insurrection and race-related discourse in the fight for Black Lives Matter. May he rest powerfully!
Photo credits @Jorja Oladiran and @Joseph Omole
AUTHOR: Jorja Oladiran
My name is Jorja Oladiran and I am 19 years old. I love to write and discuss political issues, especially topics that resonate with my life. I am currently studying at the University of Warwick and have hopes of travelling in the future and documenting the lives/ experiences of people that I meet along the way.
 Reality Check Team, “George Floyd: How are African-Americans treated under the law?,” BBC News, June 1st, 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-52877678  Donald Trump (@DonaldTrump), Twitter, May 29, 2020, 5:53, https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/1266231100780744704