Dr. Elizabeth Ebiere Pinneh
This is an inspiring and eloquent speech by Malcolm X whom I consider a hero like Martin Luther King Jr (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auWA7hMh5hc). Now I am not advocating violence because times have changed – things have become better (which may be worse in the long haul – a tolerable disease will still kill you – it takes longer and sometimes you don’t notice it until it is too late). Had I been alive in his time, I would probably have advocated violence as a response to the brutality people of colour faced on a day to day basis. Fighting for the right to live is not terrorism, it is called self-defence.
I bring this video up to show how even after 56 years after his speech and the election of a black president (which was followed by the election of Trump the racist), in an age of information, we still can wake up, turn our TV on and see a person of colour casually murdered on the street by law enforcement ‘Government officials or representative’. George Floyd calls out ‘I can’t breath’ and do the police men even consider this? why can’t they hear him when it is so clear to hear? Why did the police officer not consider standing up whilst holding his hand so at the very least, George can breath – in effect the police officer is saying what George Floyd says is irrelevant, his words mean nothing, even if listening to him could have saved his life. America has moved on from hanging black people on trees in the day light, to killing them on the streets whilst wearing a police badge (clearly thinking the badge gives them protection from being judged as murderers). In an age of information, there is no excuse as to why anyone can be a racist – we live in a globalised world and there is no excuse. Even before we lived in a globalised world, I firmly believe that only a savage in psyche would look at someone that is different from them and proceed to destroy them – it is a barbaric thing to do.
I have always known that racism is systemic in society, you just have to look around to see the evidence: the overwhelmingly high percentage of prison population being black bearing in mind they are a minority in the population, the pay gap which affects wealth distribution, the unspoken biases and the outright discrimination (what is in a name? racism – you are less likely to be offered an interview if you have an ethnic minority name). Over the years, a number of men and women have died because of their skin colour in the US and UK, and I have not spoken out, why? I asked myself this question and I realise that the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted to me that racism is endemic in society (especially in America, South Africa and Brazil) – way worse than I thought. Even when the world literally stopped to make sure no one got killed by the Covid-19 virus, a man was still killed because of the colour of his skin. This told me we live in a world where it is accepted that the colour of your skin could kill you at anytime or place, regardless of what is going on in the world – we can protect you from a virus but we cannot protect you from a racist. To me, that is a great failure on society’s part – there must now be severe consequence for crimes that are race related. so that every human on this planet is aware that racism will never be tolerated regardless of your position in society (no matter how rich or prominent you are in society)- whether you are police officer (a public official) or not, it will never be tolerated.
This disease is endemic because we the people have allowed it by tolerating it –saying words of condolences that unfortunately make no real difference – I think flipping the script is necessary. How would you feel if someone who looks like you is repeatedly killed and all I can say to you is ‘sorry’? Worse is shrugging our shoulders and thinking there is nothing we can do, and much worse is being silent. Sitting in our houses and hoping that one day the world will become a better place, when history has repeatedly taught us that real change demands sacrifices, demands screaming at the top of our lungs that black lives do matter, because until the world is as enraged as we are, regardless of gender, race or class, then we are in effect saying that all lives do not matter; except maybe our life, the lives of the people we love and the life of that old person that lives down the street.
This is a historical moment because the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted that no matter what, you can still die because of the colour of your skin. This problem America has, affects every black person around the world – think about it – if you are black and male visiting America you have to worry about being stopped by the police with the potential of being killed just for being black (added to this, there is a dumb historical idea that has been planted in the American subconscious that a black man is dangerous especially if he is well built and tall). I am black and African; I have a dad and brother who are both black, 6 feet tall, and will have to worry about this when visiting the US. This is not a world to be proud of when the colour of your skin can dictate your fate and dictate if you are more likely to live or die. We just about tolerate the inequality we see around the world in relation to race, but we will not tolerate being killed for existing.
To end on a positive note, I was happy to see that the protests in London were attended by people from different walks of life, different nationalities, and races. Even old people using the support of a cane to walk, joined the anti-racism protest, which is truly heroic. A special thank you also to the people who could not join us but popped their heads out of windows and came out to the balconies to show their support. We have sent out a message to future generations and history will remember this – no matter what is at stake, we as a people will never sit still and watch a racist murder aired out, without speaking up against it in the exposure of daylight, and in spite of the criticisms.
Written in honour of George Floyd (14th October 1973-25th May 2020) and others that have died as result of racist police brutality and/or racism.
Dr. Elizabeth Ebiere Pinneh is a Post doctoral research scientist in the United Kingdom.