In the midst of Covid-19, we are witnessing another devastating pandemic, resulting from the perpetuation of systemic racism and white supremacy. This also occurs worldwide, across international borders and affects large numbers of people. Covid-19 has resulted in many people being confined to their homes, with limited physical social contact; which has led to the fast pace of life coming to a halt, leaving time for reflection instead. The recent amplification of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has forced parts of society to acknowledge their own privilege and racial bias. There is a resounding movement which stands in solidarity with the Black community and is committed to combatting racial violence, inequality and injustice.
Social media has been used as a platform to bring communities of people together, to educate and place a spotlight on racial discrimination, especially police brutality. This desire for change has come about after a video went viral on social media showing the brutal murder of George Floyd, an African-American man at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. He died on the 25th May 2020. The harrowing footage shows how police officer Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. George Floyd’s last words were “I can’t breathe” which has become so poignant in the Black Lives Matter campaign.
George Floyd’s death has highlighted that no country is immune to racism. Mass protests took place across the US, which quickly spread to the rest of the world from Minneapolis to London to Sydney to Pretoria in South Africa. The protests have achieved so much already: the officers involved in the killing of George Floyd have been sacked and charged; commitments have been made to dismantle and defund the police in Minneapolis (this includes redirecting services to involve the community, like mental health provisions) and the toppling of confederate statues in the US, along with slave trade figures in the UK. Further attention has been brought to countless unarmed black civilians throughout the world, who have been unlawfully killed by police, simply because of their skin colour: Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Sean Rigg and Mark Duggan, to name just a few.
The Black Lives Matter movement today feels monumental. It has made people from all around the world question their own privilege- ‘all lives matter’ is not good enough. White privilege is the idea that people have basic rights and benefits simply because they are white. The BLM cause is not trying to dilute the hardships that white people face, they are simply saying that their skin colour has not made their struggles any harder.
White privilege can manifest in all types of ways in which white people benefit. For example, white people can turn on the television or radio and see and hear people of their race widely represented; the school curriculum will heavily focus on their race and white people do not have to fear for their life when they walk down the street or if they got called over by the police.
There is now an awakening and realisation that it is not enough to be ‘not racist’ or ‘not see colour’; instead, we must be actively ‘anti-racist’ acknowledging racial disparities and breaking down the barriers of systemic racism. Everyday actions to help can include: creating space for black imagination and innovation; talking to family members and friends about racial injustice; calling out acts of racism in person and online; signing petitions and educating ourselves about black history. White people can no longer be ignorant or oblivious to their own privilege and must act as an ‘ally’, someone who is willing to support the black community and combat racism in their everyday lives.
“Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And that’s the only way forward” -Ljeoma Oluo.
Shona Hutton, UK