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Black Lives Matter everywhere

Published on 8 June 2020

This article by our CEO Amanda Khozi Mukwashi on why the George Floyd tragedy ought to make us all angry, was first published in the Times Red Box.

It has been difficult to absorb the story of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in the US last week. The pain of black America is palpable. Watching the killing of a human being imprints an image that is hard to forget.

Watching custodians of safety and protection casually squeeze the life out of an unarmed man angers and frightens. Black America has the right to be angry. Anyone who is on the side of humanity, regardless of colour, ought to be angry.

In an article for Times Red Box yesterday, Mercy Muroki dismissed such a view as the spread of “racial panic” and “racial hysteria”. I disagree. When people take to the streets with such intensity, calling for justice, it is because they feel they have no other way to express their outrage.

Blatant disregard for human life diminishes us all and robs us of our dignity. As a black African woman leading a British charity whose mission is to reach out to those suffering from extreme poverty and experiencing immeasurable injustice, I cannot disconnect myself from the pain of what is happening.

Because this is not just about the US; it is about racial injustice everywhere. Beyond the injustices that are the immediate focus of my organisation, I must use my voice to call out institutional failure to address racial oppression.

In my work, I have travelled to many countries, and stood with some of the world’s poorest people: those suffering injustice, displacement and exclusion. Globally, black people are at the bottom of the food chain.

Black lives seem to be considered cheap and easily dispensable. It would be easy to look at the US, seeing the injustice in this state-sanctioned brutalisation of black people, condemn it and think that is enough.

But black lives matter everywhere.

Look at Covid-19 deaths on both sides of the Atlantic. The disproportionate number of black people dying has at best been met with a muted response from those in power.

Their inaction speaks to a malaise that has infested humanity. It is a sickness that drives us to think of others as less human and less deserving of dignity.

In the case of George Floyd, four officers were present. Most of us would push the offending colleague off to save a life. Similarly, when those in power, mandated to serve and protect, remain silent or do the barest minimum, they might as well sign the execution papers.

Globally, our economic systems exploit the poorest. The face of a person in poverty usually belongs to a black person.

We are comfortable talking about lending a hand to the poor, but are not upfront about how we exploit their resources and corrupt their politics to generate billions for the richest economies, leaving them in further distress and living off crumbs.

The international rules that allow for tax havens and tax avoidance, for example, are set up to protect the wealthiest at the expense of the most vulnerable. Even though we know this is wrong and will lead to deaths, it doesn’t seem to matter.

Last month the G20 rolled over some of the unpayable debts of the poorest countries until the end of the year. We applauded them, like this was a great favour.

It is the same with climate justice, where black and brown people are already bearing the brunt. While others deny that it is happening, those who accept that it is are looking for ways to save some lives while other lives are already being lost. This is what injustice looks like.

Every society seeks to explain away, if not justify, its discrimination. In the past few years we have seen the re-emergence of a more naked discrimination, the kind that leads to a policeman putting his knee on a man’s neck and watching him die, as his colleagues look on.

The effects of this brutal approach are visible everywhere I go in my work. But I continue to have hope, because of all the people who believe that there is only one side: the side of dignity, respect and humanity.

As one human family, we are all connected. It is those people who make me believe that a time is coming when we each need to take a stand.