The brazen and callous murder of black American George Floyd in Minneapolis, US, has left the public in the UK and the wider western world in a state of disbelief, shock and outrage.
It is incredulous in the twenty-first century that such an atrocity can occur in a country which claims to be the leader of the free and civilized world. Make no bones about it, Floyd was murdered by the State masquerading as a white police officer in uniform who obviously believed that he could act as he did because there would always be the protection of the State to absolve him from a charge of criminal liability.
The fact that this policeman is endemically racist would not be disputed by sane minds. We have watched in amazement the fall-out from this heinous crime as our TV and video screens are filled with violence, the level of which has not been seen in the US or elsewhere since the race riots in the 1960s and later in the uprising in 1991 after the black American Rodney King was savaged to near death by five white American policemen.
The slaying of black Americans on the streets goes back some years and Floyd’s murder is not an isolated incident. The murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant and Eric Garner litter the history of racism with the chilling reality of life for the black man in America. They would appear to be easy prey for lawmen of doubtful character and judgement. Sadly, there is cloudy evidence to suggest that the perpetrators of these crimes have been justly and publicly punished by the law of the land.
Floyd’s death and the consequences therefrom may prove to be the tipping point in the catalogue of brutality on black people by those in authority in the US.
Every person who has seen the screened execution of Mr Floyd must feel sick in the pit of their stomach. Many have told me that they have been driven to tears.
It therefore begs the question: is there a negative impact on the minds of black people, both young and old, as they watch the brutality of the State upon their brothers and sisters across the ocean? Who knows what trauma they suffer as they experience the sight of a defenseless black brother being murdered in public? This is a humiliation that can run subconsciously through the veins of black people for a long time. It may not surprise that after the looting and demonstrations there is a studied calm in reflection as to where race relations in the US will go from here.
There are so many reported incidents of cruelty and brutality by white policemen on black people in America that action must be taken to stop any escalation of abuse by the State. However much we accuse the individual policemen, ultimately the State is the sole arbiter as to how policing should be done. 12 per cent of black Americans are believed to have experienced police brutality and harassment.These figures are disturbing to the fair-minded and need to be cleaned up before further damage is done to communities both in America and the UK.
There is a pressing need for justice for those who have suffered because of the colour of their skin, and that justice must be swiftly executed. Moreover, those who give judgement and justice must not be from a background of an inbuilt prejudiced mind.
I spoke to people of the diaspora in the UK and have learnt that they too are traumatized by the events in America. They speak as one in their condemnation of the actions by the white ruling classes in the US.
One retired civil servant said: “I do not condone the looting and rioting, but what can you reasonably expect if you suppress a people for many years? At some point there will be an implosion.” Warming to his theme, he continued: “This nonsense of black oppression by the white man in America has been going for 300 years and it does not seem as if it will soon disappear.”
But what is it that makes a white American lawman feel it is his inalienable right to brutalise and murder black people as he sees fit?
The demonstrations in the UK have seen black and white come together in significant numbers across many cities, but alarmingly at the time of writing there has been no official record of sympathy to the Floyd family from the British Government. The demonstrators have gathered at the American Embassy and Trafalgar Square in numbers and clusters that show no regard for social distancing in this COVID-19 environment. Their message is that injustices on the grounds of the colour of a person’s skin have no place in a modern and civilised society.
Americans must be educated about their history of 100 years ago. The days of the Jim Crow society which enforced racial segregation in the Southern States to disenfranchise black people must remain only as a bookmark. Also, the dark memories of the actions of the Ku Klux Klan club which enforced the evil deeds of Jim Crow and gloried in brutalising and lynching black people must not be the catalyst for what is happening in America today. The actions of the policemen in Minneapolis are stark reminders of the days when these groups ruled over black people and committed crimes against them with impunity.
We now seem to have agents of the State acting like vagabonds under the cloak of a uniform with a gun in their hands and a truncheon at their side. Young black people both here and across the pond need explanations regarding what happened last week. They see it as crucial that black people come together to fight international racism.
One university graduate from London told me: “I have always viewed the events in America over the last ten years as a sideshow, but somehow this is different. I feel as though I have personally been attacked. There is now a sense of brotherhood and empathy with the black American that I never felt before. To have witnessed the murder of George Floyd has been a game-changer for me.”
As I sought the views of many others, one common thread ran throughout the comments: black people in the UK are hurting and feeling pain. One female Probation Officer told me: “It is sad and ignorant that many in authority across the US see the demonstrators and protestors as liberal left-wing do-gooders who are spoiling for a fight in an act of insurrection. That view could not be further from the truth. Those who protest are simply decent and fair-minded citizens. The comments and acts of these critics are those of which an ostrich would be proud.”
As we reflect on the injustices of American society over many years I am reminded of the words of the great black American novelist James Baldwin who wrote: “When any white man in the world picks up a gun and says: give me liberty or give me death, the entire white world applauds. But when a black man says exactly the same thing word for word, he is judged as a criminal (by whites) and treated as one. And everything possible is done to make an example of him, to ensure there wouldn’t be any more like him.”
Baldwin’s words can best be interpreted as suppression of the black race.
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired Land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and the diaspora.