Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
“Please I can’t breathe. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. They’re going to kill me.” GEORGE FLOYD, 2020.
“I can’t breathe.” ERIC GARNER, 2014.
People are rioting in the US. They are burning police stations and looting shops. But George Floyd’s death does not only highlight the systemic racism in North American culture. It represents a violence and prejudice rife across the Western world. Europe is not exempt.
In New York, data from 2002 to 2014, only 9-12% of people stopped by the police were white. In New York, almost 70% of the population is white. Of the people that are stopped, between 82-90% of them are innocent. Black people and ethnic minorities are being profiled for crimes they did not commit.
According to Release, a charity focusing on drugs and human rights, black people in the UK are six times more likely to be subject to a search for drugs, whereas white people use drugs at almost twice the rate. Racial profiling is not an issue segregated to the US. But The American Journal of Public Health has found that stronger gun laws are associated with fewer fatal police shootings. We can infer from this that in the US, it is likely that fewer black people would die if there were more stringent anti-firearm regulations.
But we should not be complacent whilst the US implodes.
Inarguably, the number of black people who have died from police brutality in the US surpasses the number in the UK. But across the world, black people are being killed by police officers who don’t have guns.
George Floyd was murdered with brute force by one white police officer, as other white police officers watched-on. Thousands of black people in the UK, have suffered from similar extremist violence. A long global history of oppression and elitism has permitted this. A white supremacist pinning a black man to the ground, as his colleagues look on. A societal system that licenses a bigot to use violence and negligence to the point of death. The UK, and every white person that unwittingly benefits from racism, should consider Britain’s colonial roots and how this has directly led to the problems in the US.
CHRISTOPER ALDER died in police custody in England. He was a victim of assault outside a nightclub and was taken to hospital. Possibly as a result of his head injury, he began acting in a “troublesome” manner and was dragged unconscious to the police station. He was placed on the floor with his head sideways. Twelve minutes later, he was dead.
SENI LEWIS died in a mental health hospital in London. His brain was starved of oxygen as he was held down by 11 police officers. He had no history of mental health concerns and was admitted by family after having taken something “bad” on a night out with friends. His mother described him as a gentle giant.
In 2012, SARAH REED was yanked by her hair and dragged across the floor by a police officer in England. Her neck was pressed, and she was, several times, punched in the head. The white man had accused her of shoplifting.
It is important for us to not stay silent. It is important that we read and have knowledge on oppression so we can talk about it.
Donate. Petition. Write to your local MP and ask them what they are doing. Give your vote to someone who values both human rights and politics. Participate in allied protests and demonstrations (when safe from COVID-19). Use your voice.