I didn’t watch the video. I didn’t need to.
The image of George Floyd being ‘restrained’ was enough. Social Media has fulfilled Marshal McLuhan’s prophesy of a Global Village and in recent monts the Internet has been full of videos and photos of black men being killed – for jogging, for reaching for their wallets – for a myriad of reasons. So I knew at once how the video would end.
But the agonising nine-minute death of Floyd was the spark that blew the lid of a pressure cooker scenario that had been building in the US for weeks. A countrywide lock down, the resultant economic hardship, the failure to address the issue of racism and a President that – to put it mildly – lacks empathy. The streets and Social Media erupted and the hashtag ‘Black Lives Matter’ was everywhere.
Along with millions of others, on ‘Black Out Tuesday’ I put up a black square across my platforms. Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am not virtue signalling. But my parents brought me up to treat everyone as an equal, and my grandfather RSM Robert Hendrie Wilson, Royal Engineers, landed on the Normandy beaches 75 years ago to defeat Nazis.
Before the global fallout to George Floyd’s death, people were saying that the reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic was that we would have more of a feeling of community, that things would never be the same after the quarantine and the Black Lives Matter protests.
Alas, the keyboard warriors blew that utopian ideal out of the water. I’ve seen everything from ‘All Lives Matter’, to claims that reverse racism exists. When I dated a mixed race girl in Balham in the 90s, I had an idiot come up to ask her what she was doing with me. But it went no further than assumptions on my lack of virility. Which is hardly the same as a sustained campaign of race hate),
Just for once, I practised restraint of tongue and pen and consoled myself in the wise words of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals ‘ We all bleed red, even racist motherf**kers’.
I hope that George Floyd’s death marks a turning point. I hope that my African – American, Afro-Caribbean, Native and Hispanic friends in the States won’t have to worry about their beautiful and brilliant children – many of them now graduating from the virtual class of 2020 – coming home safely every time they leave the house.
But most of all I hope that these tumultuous times will make us all pause, take stock and rethink how we treat each other.
And in case you were in any doubt – Black Lives Matter.
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