On the last Thursday night of May, flames rose from the 3rd Precinct police department in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Protests in the Twin Cities erupted shortly following the murder of George Floyd, which resurrected the trauma and injustice experienced by the black community for centuries. Demonstrations broke out across the country in major cities like Denver, Louisville, Memphis, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York City, the result of which cannot be ignored: America is burning. And people are tired.
A global call for justice has thrust this case into the spotlight as the local legal system faces escalating pressure to deliver justice swiftly and accurately. The response thus far has been further driven by the actions taken to arrest, charge, and convict Mohamed Noor, a black, Somali-American, Muslim Minneapolis police officer for the fatal shooting of Justine Damond in 2017. At this point in time, Derek Chauvin, the officer who used his knee to hold Floyd down, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Charges are anticipated to follow for the remaining three officers involved.
The black community has been repeatedly forced to stomach this brand of violence more frequently these past few months. The cases of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia have further unearthed the racial disparities presently undermining the mission of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. But, let us be clear. Racism and racial violence are not isolated to the US alone.
“Be steadfast and firm in the way toward what is right, even if your journey is full of pain and challenges.” – Hussain ibn Ali
Anti-racism must be a daily practice. We must constantly reflect on our own behaviours, hold our own communities and institutions accountable for the marginalisation and victimisation of our black neighbours, and challenge others in our community to do the same, even if, especially if it feels uncomfortable. Many have publicised their outrage over social media, and while raising awareness is important, our outrage must manifest itself as more actionable and strategic allyship.
Dismantling systemic racism is a massive undertaking, but this does not mean we, as individuals, cannot do meaningful work. We must first and foremost begin by facilitating difficult conversations about implicit and explicit bias in our own circles. This means calling out racism when we see or hear it at our own dinner tables, places of worship, and workplaces. We can all play a part in rendering prejudice in all its forms socially unacceptable.
Context. Context. Context. Recognise your privilege in various contexts, and use it to curate time, space, and opportunities for black people to speak and work freely. Pass the microphone to amplify black voices when you have it. Do not presume to speak on their behalf.
We cannot forget that the flames ignited by these tragedies are only fanned by the current coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected and ravaged black and brown communities. In the UK, Black people are more than four times as likely to die of Covid-19 than the white British population. Persistent poverty, discrimination, lack of access to medical care, and vicarious trauma have conferred higher risk levels. People of colour are more likely to suffer from infection, diminished mental health, and economic hardship.
So what can we do?
- Consider spending your money at local black-owned businesses.
- Support relief efforts by donating to organisations that are working directly with the most vulnerable.
- Fund and promote initiatives to reform the criminal justice and law enforcement systems and support victims and their families. You can find a list of organisations active in this fight here.
- Fulfil your civic duty by exercising your right to vote and mobilising others to do so. Local races are often neglected. Seize the opportunity to elect local champions dedicated to the pursuit of social and economic equity.
Most of all, strengthen your resolve and renew your commitment to righteousness.
History has given us many lessons, among them that of Hussain Ibn Ali, who advised us to, “Be steadfast and firm in the way toward what is right, even if your journey is full of pain and challenges.” In times like these, when equity is coloured as radical, humanity is presented with the opportunity to rise and take their turn bending the long arc of history towards justice.
It’s our turn now.