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I watched a small part of George Floyd’s funeral yesterday and had to turn it off quite quickly. As they spoke of him ‘looking down’ on them and effectively being in heaven I was reminded of the following-
George Floyd moved to Minneapolis in 2014 after being released from prison in Houston, Texas following an arrest for aggravated robbery
On May 25, 2020, Floyd was arrested for passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in Minneapolis
He was under the influence of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time of arrest
Floyd has more than a decade-old criminal history at the time of the arrest and went to jail for atleast 5 times
George Floyd was the ringleader of a violent home invasion
He plead guilty to entering a woman’s home, pointing a gun at her stomach and searching the home for drugs and money, according to court records
Floyd was sentenced to 10 months in state jail for possession of cocaine in a December 2005 arrest
He had previously been sentenced to eight months for the same offense, stemming from an October 2002 arrest
Floyd was arrested in 2002 for criminal trespassing and served 30 days in jail
He had another stint for a theft in August 1998. Source.
He is unfortunately not the best symbol by any stretch of the imagination.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. Not for one moment can the way he died be excused. It was appalling on so many levels and highlights the way American police can act when faced with a perceived threat.
Sadly, the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 429 civilians having been shot, 88 of whom were Black, as of June 4, 2020. In 2018, there were 996 fatal police shootings, and in 2019 this figure increased to 1,004. Additionally, the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity, standing at 30 fatal shootings per million of the population as of June 2020. Source.
According to the US Department of Justice, African Americans accounted for 52.5% of all homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008, with Whites 45.3% and "Other" 2.2%. The offending rate for African Americans was almost eight times higher than Whites, and the victim rate six times higher. Most homicides were intraracial, with 84% of White victims killed by Whites and 93% of African American victims killed by African Americans. Source.
The above takes me back to the start. Yes, US cops certainly do arrest more black people, but all of the stats show that proportionally black people commit more crime.
The problem is that it is such a complex subject that no objective point of view is correct and all of the stats in the world cannot help anyone come to the ‘right’ answer because there is no single answer.
As a white British man I cannot possibly understand what it is like to know what prejudice is. In the UK I am in a privileged position, just as a white man is in America and so many other countries. We are judged on what we do for a living, what wealth we have and how we behave, but we are rarely judged on what we are. This accident of birth means that I am in no position to understand what is going on, but I have some third hand experience of what it is like to be a black person in Britain.
I witnessed racism on a continual basis thrown at a friend of mine when I was younger. If we went to a bar or a club there were countless incidents of racism, both minor and major, coming his way every night. I asked him once how he coped with it and he just said “You get used to it.” I then witnessed it when working in a black dominated office, and it was apparent how the distrust of white people pervaded so much of what was said and how the white people in the office still had the power.
A friend at work during this time was stopped and searched by the police three times in a month, I have never been stopped in my life. She was angry, upset and genuinely sad at what she perceived to be blind prejudice by the authorities. It is, however, all of the hard to spot occurrences that cause as much harm. From the way a black person is greeted in a shop to the way they are viewed when in a park or standing near a car, it must be obvious all of the time while completely invisible to us privileged white people.
The real problem is that the vast majority of white people, in white dominated countries, have a prejudice towards black people. We all do it, if we see two young black men stood near our car we likely feel differently than if we see two young white men stood in the same position. There may still be concern either way, but I know for sure that I feel differently and I don’t consider myself racist at all. The problem is that I am in some ways because of the culture I live in, the films I have seen, the books I have read and the TV shows that I have watched.
There is a culture surrounding us that creates a view of black people that is less than positive and so it continues to this day, but I do wonder if we are reaching a tipping point that has been reached so quickly that it will do more harm than good.
The removal of Little Britain, Gone With The Wind and other shows and films from streaming services is worrying. In particular with Gone With The Wind we run the risk of erasing history and I am concerned as to how far this will go in the next few days.
And then I consider some of the TV shows that are not allowed to be aired in the UK from the 1970s and 80s, and with very good reason. We progress as a race and certain things become unacceptable, but a knee-jerk reaction is not the way to apply it.
The same applies to the Edward Colston statue which was torn down and dumped in the water. My first thought was that this was a good thing and then my son reminded me that simply tearing something down cannot possibly be right because of what would follow. Where does it stop?
I agree with him on that, but am then reminded that for many years there were attempts to remove that statue, but the authorities would not allow it. The Berlin Wall comes to mind- some things will never be made right by following accepted paths.
You cannot judge a person by the time they lived in, but maybe we should recognise that their actions should also not be celebrated by monuments centuries later. It comes back to hiding our history, of which the UK and US should not always be proud, and I believe it is just as important to keep the memories of our troubling past as alive as the good that we have done. By removing films and statues the people who want to see the death of racism are in actual fact removing all trace of what has caused us to reach this point today. A film detailing how a time was racist in a past time is not racist in itself, it is merely a lens with which we can view what that time was like.
If we carry on like that what will follow? Do we remove all war films, all TV shows that displayed a time when the woman stayed at home and the man went to work? Do we burn books?
No, we never burn books because that is seen as a step too far. It is, however, merely a medium that should deserve no extra consideration over a film.
I am also concerned about the coverage of the recent demonstrations that have taken place. It is easy for someone like me, slightly left of centre, to view the demonstrations positively, but the media has not always covered it objectively and there are elements on the left who are jumping on this to progress their own anti-authority agenda. As concerned as I am that these demonstrations could easily cause another COVID-19 spike, which would adversely affect those who are not white, I am just as concerned at the hijacking of this moment by white middle class people who run out and demonstrate while simultaneously being sub-consciously racist every day, and by the way the police are being treated in countries outside of the US.
I have little sympathy for the US police force, there are too many videos showing how out of control they can be, but these demonstrations are attempting to change the entire world in a way that can only lead to anarchy.
Black people are (in general) poorer, given fewer opportunities, work in lower skilled occupations and as such are more likely to commit crime and suffer at the hands of an unregulated police force. The problem is that you do not solve a structural problem like this over night because it is entrenched in every level of society, and this retains the real power in the hands of the white majority.
Governments pretend to be concerned about this, they run enquiries and do little with the results, and they tend to be happier keeping a section of society below the majority. COVID-19 has magnified this by the number of ethnic minorities losing their lives and suffering economically. They help to keep the county running, they get little respect for doing so and they suffer to a much greater degree when a disaster such as COVID occurs, and then a bunch of middle-class white people, who cannot possibly understand this level of prejudice, jump in and fill the streets in the most patronising of ways.
I don’t know how this massive issue is resolved, but I do know that it is getting better. The problem is that it is getting better very, very slowly and for many it is taking far too long. If you look back to the 1970s, 80s and even the 2010s you can see that there has been positive change in recent times, but we remain a divided society in almost every country and it does make me consider if a dramatic change is needed after all to accelerate the process. I just worry that it will do more harm than good for everyone, no matter what colour they are.