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#blacklivesmatter: beyond the hashtag

Cover art by Shirien Damra

A few days ago, on the 25th of May, George Floyd was murdered over a suspected fraudulent bill. The police officers involved arrested him, handcuffed him, lay him on the ground face down and held a knee between his neck and head for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd repeatedly asked for help and told officers he couldn't breathe but he was refused help. He became unresponsive six minutes into this ordeal, and yet the knee was not removed. An hour later he was pronounced dead.

This incident was filmed and shared on social media to an immediate outcry. This is not the first of these tragedies to occur in the United States. But something hit home a little harder this time. People are more united than they have ever been over the death of a black man at the hands of a police officer. There was something different about this event. Maybe because it was so confronting to watch, maybe it was because the power was so obviously imbalanced or maybe because at the heart of all of us we saw that footage and our stomach's screamed "WRONG" at us over and over until we heard it.

There is no way to worm an excuse into the officer's actions. His direct actions led to the death of George Floyd, all over a suspected fraudulent $20 bill. That is wrong, he is wrong, that event is so undeniably wrong and we can all feel it resonating among us.

For myself and for many other Caucasian people this event has left us with a choice. We have to pick a side. We can either continue to stay silent and let these events continue to happen or we can say something, anything, against these crimes. We can make it known that we refuse to condone this behaviour in any form because it is wrong, because it is unjust and because it is not how people treat other human beings.

There is a problem with how black people are treated in comparison with white people across the globe, not just in America. It seems to me that the racism that was once a normalised part of our society has moved underground, it's become subtle, it's become ingrained so far into our societal culture that it is not recognised as racism anymore. But it is. Before in our history we had laws that obviously discriminated against people for the colour of their skin. But now we say we've changed. We say that we are not "racists" and that we love all people equally.

At parties we discuss current events and talk about how what happened is so shocking. Inside we satisfy ourselves with believing we're "good white people" and we talk about how "it's so awful that happened" and say things to each other like "I was shocked". Then we drink our beers, agree that none of us would do the same and continue on with our lives.

But we're not shocked. It's happened too many times for any of us to truly claim that we are still shocked. We just don't want to believe that racism is still alive and well because it is such a horrible and disgusting thing to occur. We want so badly to believe that our past ancestors were the bad guys and that we have moved beyond their behaviour. So we shutdown, we go back into our white privilege bubbles and wait for today's storm to pass.

We can't do it anymore.

Continuing to ignore it or stay quiet because you are not personally responsible only further ingrains the racism. In refusing to acknowledge it we publicly allow it to continue. No, it wasn't me that put my knee on Floyd's neck but I should still be outraged that it happened.

It takes more than that. To enact change on a scale such a amending whole societies perception on race we have to remove racism in every form. From subtle racist jokes, to locking our car doors in black neighbourhoods, to calling the police because a black person is just existing near us. We have to refuse to participate.

We have to step aside from the podium and let the people affected speak. Take notes on how we can improve and start to actually try to change from the the most basic level up.

I have, in the past, participated in refusing to step aside from the podium and I am ashamed of that. I denied the need for Australia Day to be changed because in my opinion it would only serve to make people feel better and I decided that that was not important enough to me.

But it's not about what's important to me in that situation. It's about what's important to people who are personally affected by it. I am incredibly sorry to those I offended by refusing to listen to you.

As a rape survivor I would be disgusted if someone tried to tell me how I should feel about my attacker, or tried to reason with me saying "not all men" like its a mantra I should adopt to make me feel better.

In the same way it is not our place as white people to tell a black person that it's "not all white people." It is our place to stand by them in the fight and show them that it's sure as hell not going to be something that gets by us.

I'm sorry that this has happened and I am sorry that it has taken this happening to get me to speak.

I’m not black, but I see you. I’m not black, but I hear you. I’m not black, but I mourn with you. I’m not black, but I will fight for you.

It's time we took the hashtag #blacklivesmatter and we put it into practice.

Ways to help:

  1. Sign the petition here to get justice brought to the officers involved.

  2. Donate to the George Floyd Memorial fund here and assist his family directly.

  3. Donate to NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund here to assist with landmark legal battles and advance the cause of racial justice.

  4. Donate to the Black Lives Matter movement directly here to fund their campaign.

  5. Donate to Reclaim the Block here which seeks to move funds from their police department to other areas of the community.

  6. Donate to a bail fund to assist with getting protester's out of jail.

  7. Read up on other ways to help, try to reach out on social media and find ways to help.

Ways to help (a little closer to home):

  1. Sign the Petition to Change the Date here.

  2. Donate to the National Close the Gap Foundation here.

  3. Donate to Reconciliation Australia here.

  4. Read up on Indigenous Incarceration.

  5. Reach out to your local member to see what is being done in your community. Talk to local groups and see if there are ways you can help.

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