If you haven’t seen the harrowing video of the last minutes of his life, you will know his name by now. George Floyd, a 46-year-old security guard from Texas, was killed on Monday after a Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for at least seven minutes while arresting him for allegedly using a counterfeit bill at a local deli.
‘I can’t breathe,’ Floyd is heard sobbing in the video, pleading with the officer and saying ’I’m about to die… don’t kill me.’ Taunting him, the officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for four minutes are he appeared unresponsive, only lifting it when emergency medical services arrived and put him on a stretcher. Paramedics performed chest compressions on what the Minneapolis Fire Department noted was a ‘unresponsive, pulseless male’.
The recordings of his murder have rightly enraged protesters around the world, on social media and in real life, with police responding with rubber bullets and teargas to disperse growing crowds around Minneapolis. The four officers present at the arrest have been fired, but justice has not yet been served. Floyd’s family have called for them to be tried for murder.
People are angry, and rightly so, but for white people, it’s not enough to turn Floyd’s name into another trending hashtag and tweet about how wrong this all is. There is more work to be done – and it's time we had a conversation about it.
Address your privilege
You may think you have a grip on what white privilege is – that is, the societal benefits that come with having white skin – but if you don’t think it infiltrates every aspect of how you live your life and that doesn’t make you angry, you don’t have a strong enough grip.
It’s not just that white people are more represented in the media or less likely to face police brutality or more likely to get a job they want, it’s never having to think about how the colour of your skin makes people treat you differently. It’s feeling protected rather than afraid of police.
If you can know all of that and not be angry, upset or frustrated, that in itself is privilege. If you can read everything about George Floyd and not attempt to do something about it, that is privilege.
And in turn, addressing our privilege means addressing our internalised racism and thus the fact that because we were all raised in a racist society, racism exists in all of us. Florence Given said it well in her Instagram post. ‘Racism isn't “out there” in “those” white people; its inside all of us. Yes, me. Yes, you. In the more covert, insidious ways that it shows up in our everyday normalised behaviour.’
Talk to your friends and family about race
Doing something about it doesn’t just mean tweeting or signing a petition – which are also valid forms of protest – it means taking what you know about racism into your everyday life and everyday conversations. Just by having more conversations about racism with your white friends, you could be unknowingly educating someone and igniting more fire behind the fight against it. Having uncomfortable conversations with your problematic friends or colleagues may not be easy, but it’s the least we can do. And if you want to understand more about how to do this, there are endless resources available to help facilitate those conversations.
Whether it’s through reading books, paying for courses or following the gracious people that continue to educate the world on racism, there are tons of resources available to understand the way racism infiltrates every fibre of our society and your own responsibility within that system.
It’s not the job of your black friend or colleague to educate you on why something is problematic, to expect someone to perform the emotional labour of rehashing their own daily trauma and troubles for your personal education. Yes, some of your friends may be happy to have these conversations, but they also come with an emotional burden that you should address beforehand. But ultimately, it’s your job to do the work, read the books and pay the people who are offering those services already.
People you can follow on social media who offer such services include Rachel Rickets (@iamrachelricketts), Layla F. Saad (@laylafsaad), Rachel Cargle (@rachel.carge), Sassy Latte (@sassy_latte) and Sharyn Holmes (@sharynaholmes).
Or, you can read these books.
Girl, Woman, Other
Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, Girl Woman Other follows a cast of twelve black British women on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years.
Donate to anti-racism causes
Right now, there’s an official George Floyd memorial fund to which you can donate to help his family. There’s also an online petition here calling for the officers who killed Floyd to be charged with murder.
There are also countless other causes in the fight to end racism that you could donate to. In the UK, there’s Show Racism The Red Card, Stop Hate UK, Runnymede and in the US there’s Black Lives Matter and NIOT (Not In Our Town).
Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds aged 13 to 30 to inspire and enable them to succeed in the career of their choice
Write to your MP
You can write to your MP about any problem you have with the way our government tackles discrimination. You don’t have to wait for a racist incident to happen in your area to get angry, write to them now. Ask what the government is doing to end hate crimes, to educate people on racism, to improve diversity in parliament – where currently only one in ten of the 650 elected MPs are non-white. All of these are in England, with no black, asain or minority ethnic MPs in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Racism is not simply a problem for the US, as Tobi Oredein explained in Grazia back in 2016 after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philano Castile. ‘America is an exaggerated version of everything that happens in the UK.
The burden of dismantling racism should not fall on the shoulders of those it continues to oppress. There is a conversation happening about white privilege now – and it's up to all of us to acknowledge it, learn from it and amplify it.