In A Post-George Floyd World, Sometimes Even Hope Is Heavy

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Photo credit: Stephen Maturen - Getty Images
Photo credit: Stephen Maturen - Getty Images

During the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in 2020, I wrote a piece about how this form of civil disobedience was a brilliant example of how our collective anger could be used in positive ways.

I held onto hope that the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd would not be in vain.

It seemed as if finally, we were beginning to have global meaningful discourse about a pandemic that has spanned centuries: racism.

People took to the streets all over the world to march for Breonna and George but more widely to show their dissatisfaction with an unjust society and the effects of police brutality.

Photo credit: Warrick Page - Getty Images
Photo credit: Warrick Page - Getty Images

And as all of this unfolded, we began to see hundreds, thousands of brands and organisations putting out public statements declaring their commitment to listening and learning — statements about how they have been complicit in racism and their vows to do better.

And as much as I personally found the gesture to lack substance, scores of people posted black squares to show their solidarity, making individual pacts to be better allies to racially marginalised people.

However pained I might have been in 2020 to witness the vast number of people who seemed only at that point to be discovering that racism still existed, I convinced myself that the global shift we had experienced in lockdown, would finally unlock a change for the better.

But has it?

We know that Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd and killed him - was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for this murder. While many were deliberate in clarifying that this was not 'justice' but merely accountability for a vile act. With that in mind, two years on, I still wonder: where is the accountability for the death of Breonna Taylor?

Photo credit: JASON CONNOLLY - Getty Images
Photo credit: JASON CONNOLLY - Getty Images


Breonna was killed on March 13th 2020, a few weeks before George Floyd, yet the policemen involved in Breonna’s death have managed to sidestep any convictions. It’s hard to ignore the role misogynoir plays in all of this. Misogynoir is a term coined by the Black feminist Moya Bailey, to describe the racialised misogyny directed at Black women. We live in a society where violence towards women is rife and violence geared towards Black people by institutions is disproportionate. When these two realities overlap, what we get is an apathetic approach to the harm done to Black women.

Since 2020, there have been a number of racially motivated attacks against people of colour carried out by civilians as well as various cases of police brutality (where an overwhelming number of Black people were harmed.) Just weeks ago, the world witnessed a racially-motivated mass shooting that killed ten Black people in Buffalo, New York. And yet, there have been no more global protests.

Why?

Lockdown was instrumental in focusing our collective attention towards issues that we might otherwise have ignored due to the ‘busyness’ of life. Now that most of the world is trying to hobble on as normal, even with various governmental failings worldwide, the mass protests of 2020 feel like a weird fever dream.

As a Black British woman though, I am unable to go back to the way things were, because these acts of brutalisation and violence (a result of systemic and institutional oppression) is the way things have always been. Every week for the last four years, I have recorded my podcast, Say Your Mind as a way to address the news stories from around the world that I don’t think are given the attention they deserve in mainstream media.

Photo credit: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE - Getty Images
Photo credit: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE - Getty Images

I for one am exhausted scrolling through news feeds only to see yet another Black person’s trauma flagged by an algorithm that thinks I would benefit from seeing it.

One minute I could be looking at a cute shoe collaboration that I want to add to my wish list, only to be assaulted by an image, video, or story of yet another person, or group of people, who look like me being reminded that in the eyes of the world, their lives don’t matter. I can’t think of another demographic of people who have the violence they’re subjected to consistently displayed like this for public consumption.

Photo credit: BRYAN R. SMITH - Getty Images
Photo credit: BRYAN R. SMITH - Getty Images

I often hear the argument that people need to see these images in order to be awakened to racism, that these images spark protest and action. But I vehemently disagree. If people are already desensitised to Black pain, the only function these constant images serve is to further traumatise Black people by adding to the endless scroll of trauma porn that is so prevalent online. And still, I recognise that without these stories being shared as proof of brutality, a many individuals and institutions would be able to lie about the harm they have caused.

Without public outcry over the mistreatment of ChildQ, and the extreme incompetence of the school Raheem Bailey attended, and the horrid police officers who took selfies next to the dead bodies of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry - we would not have gotten anywhere near what looks like accountability, let alone justice.

I sometimes feel helpless when I consider all the things happening in the world that I am unable to fix. As prolific as I can be in terms of my social media commentary, I understand the power in taking a break from the online chatter in order to just be. I do not believe that as humans we are meant to take in as much trauma as our algorithms feed us.

The reality is that I can only do so much, so I choose my efforts carefully and ensure that I make space for joyful and playful acts so that I might be reminded of my whole being.

So where do we go from here?

We continue with hope. At times the weight of hope feels too heavy to embrace when so much of the world seems to be pressing upon us, but on every hero’s journey, it is not brute force or herculean strength that sees them through – but the hope that there is value in taking the next step and the next breath. Hope has to be the reason we keep speaking outwards and looking inwards.

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