Pain, loss and protest: Black Lives Matter and the struggle for justice

Protests have broken out across the world following the murder of another unarmed black man. In this blog, Rebekah Bonaparte, Communications Officer at Birkbeck shares her view on the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Black Lives Matter

Image courtesy of Clay Banks

On 25 May 2020, in the Mid-Western town of Minneapolis, USA, George Floyd was murdered. It is likely that many already know this with Floyd eulogized in yet another hashtag of black men and women who have died at the hands of a racist system.

Here are some things you may not know about George Floyd. He was a 46-year-old man, born in Houston, Texas and later moved to Minneapolis. He has a six-year-old child, was nicknamed ‘Big Floyd’, and has been described as a ‘gentle giant’.

News and social feeds are flooded with Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe”. The words he repeated over and over again as four police officers knelt on him, one on his neck for a total of eight minutes and 46 seconds, ignoring Floyd’s cries.

For centuries, black men and women have been brutalised by the police, witnessed by countless people across the globe thanks to social media and the ability to record such instances. Just in the last few weeks we have heard the stories of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman who was shot by police in Louisville, after they stormed her home looking for a suspect who they already had in custody.

Ahmaud Aubrey was killed while out jogging, by an ex-police officer, who pursued Aubrey with his son. This happened in February but it is only now that the video footage has gone viral and those men have been charged with Aubrey’s murder.

These are just some of the cases we have seen this year where black people have been murdered for the simple fact that they are black. What is left for the rest of us who witness these atrocities is the grief and loss, but also a stark reminder of the position held by black people in American society and the West.

What has ensued in the past week is a massive release of anger and frustration that has culminated in worldwide protests organised by Black Lives Matter and other parties, both peaceful and non-peaceful, against a system that perpetuates and condones the killing of black people.

Critics have condemned the use of force against property, calling protestors ‘thugs’. Yet when continual acts of violence are committed against black bodies, the level of understanding extended to the perpetrators implies that the smashing of a store front window is the more heinous crime.

At the core of these protests is a desperate plea to be seen, to be heard, for the suffering and loss of black lives to not be brushed aside once again, for all people to wake up and question and dismantle the racist system in which they live, and truly understand that until black lives matter, all lives do not matter.

Many non-black people have come out and condemned the officers who murdered Floyd and to acknowledge the perpetual racism that has not abated since the days of segregation. But moving forward, the question of how these most recent killings will affect change within people who live in a system which favours one race over another will be the true measure of how far we are willing to come after this.  It is simply not enough to declare yourself not racist, we all must act to eradicate a system built on the subjugation of black and brown people across the world.




One thought on “Pain, loss and protest: Black Lives Matter and the struggle for justice

  1. Ebere Dike-Ugwu

    And yet Birkbeck college remains largely silent about a social issue that has and continues to plague a huge proportion of their students. Amazing!!!


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