By Emily Duff
“I see no colour” is not the goal. “I see your colour and I honour you. I value your input. I will be– Carlos A. Rodriguez
educated about your lived experiences. I will work against the racism that harms you. You are
beautiful. Tell me how to do better.” …That’s the goal
I’m writing this as a White woman. I understand my privilege and I know that I have a voice which I will use to fight for the equality of our Black community, not to overshadow Black anger but to amplify it. I do not claim to truly understand what any other ethnicity has been through or attempt to lecture a reader of any background. I merely want to discuss how we as White people can play our part in trying to work against the political maze of mixed messages during this fast paced trend-changing but structure barely-changing of a social climate.
For a long time I believed police brutality was an American thing. As a nation I knew the UK was racist, whether that be “our” reaction to imigration or to stereotypes within knife crime and gang culture. While knowing this, I never believed our police to be targeting ethnicities to the same extent that America has continued to – but they do, we just don’t talk about it.
Having watched multiple films from Boyz n the Hood to La Haine to a plethora of Spike Lee productions, I was definitely aware of discrimination within the police system. However, I think having watched these all from the safety of my home or my local cinema gave me a false sense of isolation – if these films are foreign then these issues shouldn’t apply to where I live. Obviously, I am now understanding that subconscious belief was wrong.
The racism in the UK is clear in issues from The Windrush Scandal to Grenfell Tower and even to the fact our government continues to sell the plastic pellets and tear gas that is continuing to be used to abuse the protesters in America. The UK is not only sitting back to watch the US and mirroring their racist actions but aiding America with their on-going abuse. For this reason, I urge you as a reader to contact your local MP. Email, call, write letters. Try to make them speak up both on behalf of the Black Lives Matter campaign and against our country providing tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields.
Until recently, I think I had been taking a naive and ignorant approach to racism. Believing that the idea of ‘not seeing colour’ and so treating everyone you meet as equal was the most just way to be when, in fact, each race is not equal. We all have different experiences that change our reactions to things. The history of Black people, even if it did not affect those alive currently, is so much richer and traumatic than our own. We each have struggles whether that be money, health – physical and mental – but to be targeted and killed purely for skin colour is incomparable. It should be talked about more than the bare minimum and this uprising has come at a perfect time. People are sitting at home bored looking for things to do – well, I suggest doing some research on what you don’t understand. Improve your knowledge even if it is just watching one of the films I mentioned but understanding that this fiction comes from a reality closer to home than their country of production. Share the posts that raise awareness but make sure you’re also signing petitions and donate if you can. Don’t pass around a #BlackLivesMatter Instagram Story chain to tag your friends. Don’t be performatively “woke” – it’s more disrespectful than your ignorance. Don’t go to protests or riots to live out a desire for anarchy or because you’re bored of sitting in the house. If you’re going to risk catching a killer disease for a greater cause, do it because you want to learn and support – not because you want to fill your Instagram story with the banner you spent longer making than researching what you’re fighting for. Superficial activism does not help the community – even if it is well intended. Question those who are being silent and try to educate those who are ignorant. Even if they are uncomfortable conversations, they have to happen to cause change.
I love so many things Black culture has offered me; I write this while “singing” along with KRS One’s Sound of Da Police as if I could even comprehend the emotion behind it. If we take a second to pay attention, we realise that a lot of the things we love would not exist if it weren’t for Black culture. For this reason it was even more naive of me to believe that not differentiating colour was the best way to be when I should have been educating myself. While I took the Black culture’s impact on my life for granted, I am also human. Watching the videos day after day of the riots and police brutality makes my stomach ache because I am human. Not because of their colour but because they are humans just like me. They are sons and daughters just like us. Not one person on this earth deserves the abuse they are facing and have faced for so long. We shouldn’t be waiting for someone else to tell us about their experiences. While we’ll never be able to understand the experiences that have happened and the impact this has on Black lives, we can understand that we will never understand. Don’t lecture but support and stand in solidarity with those who need it. While I am only at the start of my journey of trying to comprehend the complex issues within racism, here is a very very limited list of names from deaths in the UK for us to both find out more about and to progress our research into further cases:
Adrian Thompson became unresponsive in a police vehicle after being tasered at a property in Newcastle-under-Lyme. This happened because there had been reports of burglary – he had been invited there for his friend’s birthday.
Anthony Grainger was unarmed but shot and killed by an armed Greater Manchester Police officer in Culcheth, Cheshire.
Aston McLean was being chased before by police responding to a burglary. He was hit by an armed response vehicle (ARV) in Reading.
Azelle Rodney was unarmed and shot eight times, six hitting, by an armed officer Long of the Metropolitan Police. Rodney was the third suspect Long had killed in his career. Long said he fired in self-defence and so has been cleared of murder.
Belly Mujinga was on duty when a Covid-19 patient spat on her. She died from the virus and no further police action has been taken.
Christopher Alder had been punched at a nightclub and was arrested after becoming aggressive at hospital. He died face down due to being unable to breathe while in custody with his trousers around his ankles and his hands cuffed behind his back. Five officers stood trial and all were cleared.
Derek Bennett was shot six times for holding a lighter police assumed was a gun. His killing was ruled lawful.
Dorothy (Cherry) Groce’s death kicked off the 1985 Brixton Riot. While in bed in her home where her six children were, a group of police officers raided Cherry Groce’s house searching for suspected armed robber Michael Groce. During the raid, Mrs Groce was shot in the chest – Michael was not found in the residence.
Rashan Charles was restrained by police holding down on his neck which led to Charles choking to death. The police officer was cleared of misconduct.
Sarah Reed was wrongfully placed in prison for her self-defense towards a sexual assault. She suffered serious mental health issues before and while in prison but was never offered any aid and strangled herself to death.
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