Most days I don’t wake up thinking about my skin colour, but in these last few weeks it’s felt inescapable.
Whether it’s seeing the injustice of Ahmaud Arbery being fatally shot while out for a jog in his own neighbourhood, or George Floyd being killed in broad daylight at the hands of police officers, it’s pretty painful to be black right now.
Painful to watch videos of their deaths shared on social media. Painful to be introduced to someone, like George Floyd, as their life is taken away from them in eight minutes and 46 seconds of brutality.
But most of all, it’s painful to see the same injustices arise again and again.
The black community in America have gone through this tragedy repeatedly and many of them feel like they’ve exhausted every option.
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The community – and many across the world – are angry, not just about George Floyd’s death, but the structural injustices that lead to deaths like these.
Structural injustice is the cornerstone of racism, and sadly, it isn’t just present within the police force in the US.
Right now in the UK black women are 4.3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts, while black men are 4.2 times more likely to die according to research conducted by the Office for National Statistics.
Studies have already shown that these results are partly due to the socio-economic disadvantages faced by black people in the UK.
This week, the government published their long awaited review into the disparities in the risk and outcomes of Covid-19, which only confirmed what we already knew.
People from BAME backgrounds are more likely to live in urban or deprived areas, live in overcrowded households, or work in frontline jobs – all factors that increase the chances of them being exposed and killed by the virus.
But crucially, the report was silent on how these risks – which are amplified by racial and health inequalities – would be reduced or tackled.
On top of that, just last week, the police watchdog announced that it would be investigating West Midlands police over their use of force on black men following multiple claims of racially motivated brutality.
The allegations include a black man being tasered in the throat by a police officer while observing the scene of a car accident, a 15-year-old black boy being punched to the floor by a police officer and a 44-year-old black man being pulled off his bicycle before being punched in the back three times while pinned against the bonnet of a police car by two officers.
The manner may be less overt, but the same injustices across the Atlantic happen here in the UK. And as if these injustices aren’t enough, we also have to deal with equally demeaning microaggressions that crop up in our everyday lives.
Whether it’s being rejected entry into a bar or nightclub because ‘you look like trouble’ or having someone randomly grabbing your afro-hair as if you’re some sort of exhibition, it can be tiring and belittling being black.
Growing up in a predominantly white area I was always told that I wasn’t ‘really’ black because I didn’t sound or act like the black people my school friends watched on TV or in movies.
It took me years to realise that there wasn’t a right or wrong way to be black – it was just a generalisation, and one which looked to further ingrain a racial bias against black people.
Speak to any black person you know and they will be able to name countless times they have gone through the same thing.
When Stormzy said that he 100 per cent believed that there was racism in the UK, many people seemed to be outraged by a simple truth. As someone in the black community I was neither surprised by Stormzy’s answer nor the damning response it got.
It was typical of a society that struggles to talk openly about the issues of race and racism – instead opting for a defensiveness and awkwardness that tries to ignore, shut down or, worse, gaslight the debate.
It took me years to realise that there wasn’t a right or wrong way to be black.
It’s exhausting for the black community. Imagine being told that racism doesn’t exist in the UK when so many of us see and experience it in our everyday lives. And when we try to explain the instances of racism, we’re told to be fortunate that the racism isn’t as overt or blunted or widespread as it is in America.
We cannot stare in shock at what’s going on in the US and not take the action needed to combat racism in the UK too.
As the Rapper Killer Mike said in Atlanta last week, now is the time to ‘plot, plan, strategise, organise and mobilise’ in order to turn George Floyd’s death into a trigger for change.
We cannot allow our own political leaders to dodge this conversation, like the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab did over the weekend when he refused to comment on the numerous inflammatory comments and actions made by Donald Trump regarding the ongoing protests.
This felt like even more of a kick in the teeth when Raab rightly went on to criticise the reaction of the Chinese government to protests in Hong Kong.
And crucially, we – the black community – cannot do it alone. It’s been uplifting to see so many people wanting to address and educate themselves on the issues of race and racism over the past week.
People who have previously been silent or unaware of their privilege wanting to speak out, show solidarity and urge for change.
This is something that should give us all hope. The greater the movement against racism and injustice becomes, the harder it will be for those in positions of power to ignore our voice.
So don’t let this be a passing phase – take action to back up your words and help change our society for the better.
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