Following the horrific and very public murder of black African American George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, there has been a global display of grief and outrage. Even though George had been apprehended and was lying face down on his stomach surrounded by three other police officers and even though George was handcuffed, nevertheless, Derek Chauvin found it necessary to kneel on George Floyd`s neck for a period of nine minutes, ignoring George`s pleas for his mother and his crying out “I can`t breathe.”
George died of a cardiac arrest resulting from asphyxiation.
Derek Chauvin has been charged with third degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and is being kept, awaiting trial in Oak Park Heights state prison in Minnesota. I imagine Chauvin is probably shitting himself, I would be and when he meets his end, most likely in prison, I can also imagine someone kneeling on his neck to see him off. I do not condone this, I hope it doesn`t happen as there has to be a better way to combat blind hatred.
prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
• the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.
I am sixty six, a little bit older than George Floyd was when he was murdered. Can you imagine me, a white OAP being murdered in that way by a black police officer? No? Precisely.
My family and extended family include white Jewish people, Black African Caribbean people, my five grandchildren are all of mixed black and white heritage including white Irish and one of my nephews is of white/Pakistani heritage so we are a proper mixing pot and I feel very much part of a big love in my family, it`s good, it`s enriching and I am really lucky because it has educated me a great deal about other people`s lives, cultures and experiences and that is a two way process.
I grew up in the nineteen fifties, my mum and dad were both white and middle class and had scarcely seen anyone who wasn’t white other than in the context of war, my dad served in the Scottish Regiment in WW2 and was posted to Egypt, Syria, Israel and Greece. The first time I brought home a load of black kids I`d met at Rebecca`s night club when I was about 18, my parents didn`t know what to say to them, there was a lot of respectful hand shaking and `how do you do`s` it was uncomfortable.
Understanding their learned racism, by the time my parents got to know these young men, when they left the house mum would ask to search their pockets and out would tumble a variety of small objects the boys had `stolen` from the house. It had become a joke which we all found funny for these reasons. My parents were trying to `un-prejudice` themselves and rid themselves of negative stereotypes. I admired them for that, it was bold and they were old. I admire the boys I brought home who were fabulous and forgiving and wise.
On my husband`s side of the family his aunties and uncles were white, working class Brummies through and through. Even in their seventies they were still calling anyone whose skin was anything other than white, `Paki` or `coloured,` Tony and I had so many heated arguments with them challenging their language until in the end, if they began going down the familiar route, we would just go home and leave them to it. One of my dearest friends, an old lady in her nineties, used to describe her neighbour Charlie who was Indian as;
`a lovely man, coloured like but lovely – and friendly`.
I did not fervently try to re-educate her, I think it is sometimes more difficult for someone who is very old, to grasp the issues and it would have upset her a great deal, so I left it. Was that right of me? She has died now, bless her. She would have done anything for anyone regardless of their colour.
I have been watching videos of Jane Elliott, the creator of the `Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes` experiment with schoolchildren in America. She is now in her eighties and still lecturing and saying the same things she has been saying for fifty years.
She is videod speaking to an adult audience, `If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment as this society, in general treats our black citizens, stand up.` No one stands. She says, `You know what`s happened – you know it`s wrong and you don`t want it to happen to you, so how come you are accepting for it to happen to others?`
Jane Elliott makes a vital point which is the only point that makes any sense to me, and it is that there is just one race and that is the HUMAN race. No one race is better than, superior to, or intellectually greater than another and until I, as a white woman and you and everyone else gets that, then atrocities such as George Floyd`s death, will continue to happen. Racism can be UNLEARNED, it is not innate, it is not inherent.
John Rawls states this philosophy in his work, `A Theory of Justice,`
1. “Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all”. 2. “Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.”
The first principle is often called the greatest equal liberty principle. Part (a) of the second principle is referred to as the difference principle while part (b) is referred to as the equal opportunity principle.
Rawls orders the principles of justice lexically, as follows: 1, 2(b), 2(a). The greatest equal liberty principle takes priority, followed by the equal opportunity principle and finally the difference principle. The first principle must be satisfied before 2(b), and 2(b) must be satisfied before 2(a). As Rawls states: “A principle does not come into play until those previous to it are either fully met or do not apply.” Therefore, the equal basic liberties protected in the first principle cannot be traded or sacrificed for greater social advantages (granted by 2(b)) or greater economic advantages (granted by 2(a)).
It`s a wordy piece but in the end, I can see he is simply putting into writing what Jane Elliott has been repeating all her life.
I think George Floyd`s death is the saddest, most horrific murder I have ever witnessed and we are not just hearing about racism nowadays, we are videoing it.
When my beautiful black grandchildren go out clubbing with their mates my heart is in my mouth, and when my beautiful white grandson goes into town clubbing with his mates my heart is in my mouth and we should all `take a knee` as the saying now goes and remember George Floyd with huge amounts of love, respect and hope amongst the deep well of grief because I believe his death will literally, change the world and I think he will be recalled for centuries to come, and missed and celebrated as the man who changed the world.
RIP George Floyd.
1st December 1960 – 25th May 2020