Cause of death: the system.

Written by: Amélie Davidson

George Floyd. Breanna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Samuel Dubose. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Santa Bland. Trayvon Martin. Walter Scott. Oscar Grant. Philando Castile. Terrence Crutcher. Aiyana Jones. Agatha Felix. Maurice Gordon. Tony McDade. 

These are the names of just some of the many lives lost to senseless acts of racism. For millions of people around the world, their greatest risk is not COVID-19. It is the colour of their skin. Enough is enough. It is time for change. 

Recently, the racial injustice that prevails in America, and throughout the world, has been highlighted with crowds filling the streets to protest yet another police killing of an unarmed black man. George Floyd, an African-American, died in Minneapolis after police officer Derek Chauvin was seen kneeling on his neck for several minutes during an arrest for allegedly using a fake $20 note. In the horrifying video, Floyd’s chilling final cries are heard: “I can’t breathe”. His murder has sent shockwaves across the world.

The systemic racism that led to George Floyd’s death is at our doorstep. Racism is a widespread problem in our society and we all have a role to play in confronting it—in ourselves, in our family, in our friends, in our neighbourhoods, in our world. Systemic racism is not just an American problem and the way that the UK looks at its past will now be a part of its future. 

Yes. Racism exists in 2020. And that is the first thing each and every one of us must acknowledge if we have got any hope of doing anything about it. The UK is not innocent and too often, we are blinded by the deep-rooted and pervasive nature of racism to realise that. Although no one is born racist, we are immediately born into this powerful and discriminatory system. Systemic racism and oppression exist at all levels in the UK; the media, education, healthcare, advertising, employment, the justice system. If you cannot see it, you are choosing not to look. Racism does not exist as a result of the system, it is the system.

Racism is built into every level of our society, in ways that might shock you. A survey for the Guardian (2018) found stark evidence of everyday racial bias in Britain, with ethnic minorities being three times more likely to be thrown out or denied entry to a restaurant, bar or club and 38% of people from ethnic minorities saying that they have been wrongly suspected of shoplifting. We live in a system which disproportionately suspects, arrests and imprisons black people. Black people account for 8% of deaths in custody, but only 3% of the total population. These stark findings show how racism is rife in modern Britain.

The 2nd of June saw millions of social media users take part in the #BlackoutTuesday movement online, filling Instagram and Twitter pages with black squares, and the sea of black squares on Instagram sent a powerful message. However, in order to begin to make inroads into tackling systemic racism, we must all do more. This is not just a trend on social media. 

We can no longer be complacent when it comes to our structural problems with racism. We must take the time to learn more about racism and discrimination to help dismantle systemic racism and take a stand against racial injustice. Listen. Read. Educate. Be a standing voice to those who need help. Each of us has a responsibility to identify and challenge racism and inequality in all that we do and wherever we see it. There is work to be done. There are protests taking place, petitions that need to be signed, and charities that need donations. How will you make a difference?

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” If we spread love as quickly as we spread hate and negativity, what an amazing world we would live in. 

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