As the world spirals out of control: lessons from George Floyd

Africanfinestmums blog - As the world spirals out of control
Picture by Tama66

It just keeps coming

Trying to gather my thoughts, on what’s going on, and been going on in the world, particularly since Covid-19 lockdown, has been incredibly difficult. It’s been one thing after another, after another, after another. Each time I’ve wanted to write on one thing, something else has happened, and I had to pause again and gather myself. I am one woman, in the midst of millions of millions, but if this year has taught me anything, it is that my one voice counts, so I’m going to let it be heard, in the hope that it reaches someone who will be positively impacted by it. The strength to split it into a few different posts, eludes me right now, so please bear with me, this is a one for the price of four or five, or ten. I don’t know, let’s see how we go.

Pandemic tings
It started, and overnight we moved from business as usual, to feeling like we were in a Hollywood zombie movie, where you had to stay indoors to stay alive. It was a mix of figuring out homeschooling, figuring out how to work from home, trying to save our fridges and their contents from our children, praying to still keep our jobs and have some money coming in, getting our minds right in order to protect our bodies and those of others. Okay, it’s going to be challenging, but for the sake of our health and others, we can do this. Then it quickly became obvious how selfish, and self entitled some people are – buying up all the toilet roll, pasta, eggs, when they didn’t need to, and without thought for others. Okay, not cool, side eye, raised eyebrows and all, but fingers crossed it will only be for a couple of months. We can do this (repeated chants to myself in my head, “We can do this”).

Domestic abuse
There there was the issue of increase in domestic abuse. This is an issue from time memorial. We hate talking about it. Many would rather not address, deal with, or will excuse it, because it’s not a sexy topic to talk about. No, not when we could be posting about every meal we eat, or funny videos about animals or babies, or hundreds of selfies from our holidays. Domestic abuse is painful, complicated, and is more prevalent than we as a society are comfortable to admit. The pandemic if anything helped in some ways to highlight the depth of the issue, with the growing evidence of the terror abuse victims were suffering, now that they were forced to remain in close quarters without respite, with their abuser.
How the pandemic trapped domestic violence victims in hell

Narcissistic abuse particularly is of pandemic proportions, and many don’t know or understand fully that this is what they are dealing with, and the full impact it over time on the victim of abuse, and children if any children are involved.
The particular challenges with domestic abuse, and particularly when the abuser is narcissistic, or has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), is the loss or absence of the victim’s self esteem and self worth following the abuse, and the lack of accountability of the abuser whether it be by institutions, or individuals who should hold them accountable. Charities were speaking up about it, the government, individuals were lending their voices, and practical steps and initiatives on how to help were being spread and shared. Refuge UK – Help for women and children

Racism and police brutality
Then along, came that old devil that we know is there, but try our best to ignore it. I reckon we ignore it because many black people have resigned ourselves to, “well, there really isn’t much we can do about, so let’s work around it as best as we can”. The other subconscious thought I think a lot of black people have is, “I’ll just put my head down and work as hard as I can, then maybe they’ll (white people) see I’m really an okay person”. But as much as we try to operate and go about our business on that premise, the entitled racists ones won’t let it be.
Cue Ahmaud Arbery’s killers. Two white, wicked, evil men who had no rights whatsoever to take the laws into their hand, from all indication did so, and killed an unarmed 25 year old black man who was out jogging in his neighbourhood, Brunswick, Georgia, in broad daylight. This happened on February 23rd, and they were going about as free men, with no charges brought against them until the video taken by the killers neighbour (now also charged), surfaced on social media, sparking worldwide outrage in May. Ahmaud Arbery: What do we know about the case?

Then there was the story of Breonna Taylor, a 26 year old black woman who was in bed at home in Louisville, Kentucky, but was killed after police allegedly barged in unannounced with a “no knock” warrant, with the claim of searching for two people as part of a case (they were already in police custody). This happened on March 13th, with the only arrest being Breonna’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who had fired back at the officers in self defence. The news went viral in May, with calls for the police involved in the shooting to be investigated. We must keep fighting for justice for Breonna.

Then on May 25th, there was the story of Amy Cooper, who weaponised her white privilege against Richard Cooper who was bird-watching in Central Park, New York, by calling the cops claiming he was threatening her and her dog, when all he did was ask her to do the right thing and put her dog on a leash. The horrifying thing about the video, is that we all know what could have happened to Richard if the police had attended and found him at the scene. Amy Cooper – called police on black man bird-watching

Then as if ALL that was not already enough to deal with and wrap one’s head around, that same day May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a 46 year old black man, George Floyd, was killed by police officers, in full view on the streets, in broad daylight. The video of his death is one of the most haunting things I’ve ever seen. The police officer who directly killed him, knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes, whilst George was handcuffed, face down on the ground, begging, “I can’t breathe”. Passersby pleaded with the officer to get off him, to no avail, whilst another officer stood guard to prevent people from helping, and two other officers used their bodies to restrain him on the ground. George was not resisting arrest, but was murdered in plain sight, treated worse than an animal, his murderer the whole time had his hands in his pockets, knee on his neck, and ignored all pleas to release him, even after he was no longer responsive. George Floyd: Account of final moments of his life

As the video and news went viral, the police department responded with lies, then fired the officers involved. This was not enough for the public as the general outcry only grew louder. This was apparently, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Echoes of Eric Garner’s incident in 2014, with the same “I can’t breathe” scenario were too much, especially where time and time and time again, these injustices keeping happening to black people, the police lie and cover up, and there’s no consequence meted out to the perpetrator, and no justice for the victim or their families. I am willing to bet, based on past trends, that if not for the national and global outcry against this, the police officers involved would not have had charges brought against them. The murder of George Floyd felt like a watershed moment that broke the dam of the pain, hurt and despair of black people across the world, and particularly those living in non-African countries. These highlighted acts over the past few months from every indication were all racially motivated. As per usual black people were expected to just accept them as “that’s the way the world goes”, and just move on after the initial dust from the uproar had settled. However, this seemed too much to swallow yet again. Talks of “it only happens in America” were also too hollow to accept and move on. UK might be more covert, but it is still very present, and sometimes the covertness is more damaging because it is easier to twist and swat away so the victim then looks like the unreasonable one for calling attention to it. I, (and I daresay many others like me) now have to face and address the truth that as much as I might want to keep my head down and hope for the best that it won’t touch or affect me, it ultimately does, and the system just won’t let me be. George could have been my uncle, or cousin. What we, as black parents, and our parents before us have been teaching our black children about how not to get killed if and when stopped by the police (because we know if you are black you are more likely to be stopped, arrested and racially discriminated against) is no longer working. Before you even ask how I know, research the stats, or talk to any black family so they can tell you their experience. Being respectful isn’t working, not resisting isn’t working, just going about your business isn’t working anymore. HOW DO WE KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE FROM BECOMING THE NEXT STATISTIC, when all we’re doing isn’t working anymore? The pressure to be and act almost Jesus-like for every black man outside Africa is very real, very draining, and very unfair when our white counterparts are not held to the same standard by society, and the law both in writing and in actual application of the law. Swallowing this truth everyday is draining, and knowing that even when you do that, it generally seems like other loopholes are still being sought and exploited to move the goal post against you, because of the colour of your skin, is soul destroying. How do I win the internal battle of letting my pre-teen son just be, instead of trying to protect him? All he wants to do is express himself through his hair, and I’m trying to dissuade him from doing so, because I’m afraid others will see and racially profile him as a threat or irresponsible, before they even take the time to get to know him, simply because his hair is in cornrows, and he is a black boy.

We’ve not even gotten to the pain of knowing you are less likely to be called for an interview, because of your African sounding name, or that you get passed over for promotion at work in favour of your white counterpart, when you are more than qualified, and have proven yourself time and time again. They “ummm” and “aaah” if you dare to ask why, or there just never seems to be a good time to discuss it, or the pretense of “that’s not what happened”, when there is no other explanation for it. I’ve been fortunate, and had milder occurrences in that regard, but for every 10 black people I know or speak to, 9.9 have experienced similar events in their places of work. The anger, pain and fed up ness of having to battle this day in, day out, whilst pretending it’s not happening, just so you don’t come across as “angry black male or female”, “too sensitive”, “difficult”, is real. If you’re white, please try and hear this. I’m not in favour of looting, but the protests and the anger are totally valid.

Rape is a vile, and incredibly traumatic, soul destroying event to happen to any victim of it. It is rife across the world. It often goes unreported, unpunished, and the shame is most times misplaced as it is placed by victim and society, on the victim. The rape culture, and gender based violence is pandemic all over the world, including Nigeria, my home country. Cue, the rape on May 27th of 22 year old Uwaila Omozuwa on May 27th, in Benin, Nigeria. She died days later from the injuries sustained from the attack. Her particular case was even more distressing because it happened in what should have been a safe, sacred place – a church. As rape apologists and enablers started to toot the all too familiar horn of, “well what was she wearing?” (as if that matters), 18 year old Barakat Bello, was raped and killed by robbers in her home. Barakat, a muslim, was often dressed in a hijab, covered from head to toe. I guess that puts paid to the very ignorant, stupid, and insensitive argument of “what was she wearing?”
What causes rape? – piece by Ugochi Jennifer

The stories continue to come out the woodwork from heinous acts committed against children as young as 2 years old, male family members raping their daughters, nieces, cousins. Each story harrowing, triggering, painful, and without justice being meted out on the perpetrators.

Africanfinestmums blog - As the world spirals out of control
Picture by OrnaW

So what now?

I’m drained just writing this, and if you’ve read this far thank you. It’s too much, all at once, so intertwined and complicated, no easy or quick answers in sight. Behind all these incidents are the underlying currents of attitudes of entitlement to abuse and treat others as less than. The enablers (both intentional and ignorant) who excuse, distract, feign ignorance, victim blame, and don’t hold the perpetrators accountable. The victims who are too tired, weary or even scared to complain or fight back. However, the victims, and their advocates are getting sick and tired, of being sick and tired, and the tide seems to be turning. If Covid-19 has done anything for us, it is that it has been the melting pot that sparked off and set the scene for true hearts and mindsets to be revealed, questioned, and given us the opportunity to change. The discomfort in the air is palpable, it is authentic, it is raw, it is necessary. Last year, on 27th of May 2019, I saw and posted on my IG page, a quote /post I had seen on WingedWisdom’s page. It said, “I had to make you uncomfortable, otherwise you never would’ve moved. – God”. I truly believe that’s where we are now. We need this discomfort to reflect, challenge our thoughts, belief systems, boundaries, mental and emotional health. Where the groundwork is dysfunctional or unhealthy, we have the opportunity to change it, in order to be better, do better. Surely that’s the only option we have – to do better?
Following are some of my suggestions on what we can and should do next:

  • Follow the golden rule. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”. Matthew 7:12. It is a good rule to live by, whether or not you believe in God or the bible. It just makes sense.
  • Ignorance is no longer acceptable. We’ve passed the age where good people hide behind ignorance. If you don’t know ask, read, research, be open to learn, and open to change.
  • Let’s communicate. There are some great heart to heart conversations happening across the globe. This is a really good thing, as assumptions can breed misunderstanding. As painful or uncomfortable as it may feel, let’s not stop. It’s time to be real, and if others can’t be real with you, or refuse to see or hear your heart, but insist you must bend to theirs even when your gut conviction is that they are wrong, then stop. You have your answer on who they really are, and you can decide if you still want them to be a part of your journey or not.
  • Don’t get it twisted and stop distracting from the main issue. #blacklivesmatter does not mean non-black lives matter less, but that for too long, societal structures and system have repeatedly demonstrated that black lives have not mattered as much, which is wrong, and needs to be corrected. So yes all lives matter, but right now the one that is hurt and in need of care is black lives. Also, no reasonable person is in favour of looting, many of those doing that are opportunists, but don’t label protestors as thugs when it comes to this issue, but you gave those protesting lockdown a pass and claimed they were exercising their civil rights. There’s that shifting the goal post and demonising largely black people, yet again. It sucks, it’s hypocritical, just stop it.
  • Teach our children right. Abusive behaviour is learnt behaviour. What are we teaching our children? Why should a white person think or feel they are superior to a black person? I’ve watched videos of white teenagers, schooling their parents on why racism is wrong. Whilst I am full of admiration and gratitude to those young people, I can’t ignore how disappointed I am that it is the child having to teach the parent. Also, rapists are the cause of rape. Point blank, period. Something is going wrong where our males are not respecting themselves or other people’s boundaries, so we have to review what we’re teaching and modelling for them. Point blank, period.
  • Let’s advocate louder against all forms of abuse. Let’s be more intentional and focused with our help and support. Sign petitions that resonate with you, donate to causes that resonate when and if you can.
  • Stop enabling abuse. My favourite quote has become – “Evil wins when good people do nothing”, which was adapted from John Stuart Mills famous quote. As individuals we have to be brave and willing to call a spade a spade, and not cover up, excuse or hide abuse, as it only makes us complicit, which is almost as bad, if not worse than the abuser.
Africanfinestmums blog - As the world spirals out of control
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Kindly share this post if it resonated with you, and if you have any comments please pen them. Let’s talk, let’s exchange ideas, let’s just do better. If not for us, then for our children.

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