Black Lives Matter
In support of the BLM movement calling for Justice and Equality for Black people and people of colour
George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man living in Minneapolis, USA, was tragically killed by a police officer who forcefully knelt on his neck for over eight minutes, as part of a cruel and merciless form of detainment and apparent act of police brutality. Mr Floyd, unarmed and unable to defend himself, helplessly cried out:
“I can’t breathe.“
The police officers at the scene did not care. In video footage that went viral, they can be seen to have remained defiant even in the face of members of the public pleading with them to stop with their aggressive and disproportionate force.
Mr Floyd had moved to Minneapolis to work, spending years trying to turn his life around before he was killed so unnecessarily over allegedly possessing a forged $20 bill; an extreme disproportionate use of force and a further damning representation of police brutality and racism in the USA. Mr Floyd has joined a long list of black people who have been killed by those whose job it is to protect people and communities. Mr Floyd, yet another decimated black man, leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter and a devastated group of family and friends.
And yet his last words have become a rallying call in major western and European countries and cities for an end to the injustice and oppression that continues to permeate all aspects of life for black people and people of colour.
His killing has sparked fury and outrage across the world, with many condemning police brutality and violence that too often targets and fails to protect the lives of black people. Mr Floyd’s death was, in some respect, the straw that broke the camel’s back: there is an unsettling yet undeniable history of oppression and violence towards black people in recent times, stemming from a long and dark history of it.
Since 2015, around 4,700 people have been reportedly shot and killed by police in the USA , of whom about 1,250 were African-American, 877 Hispanic, and 214 from other minority groups. In addition, the notable killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardiner, Walter Gray, Matthew Abijade, Eric Harris, Paterson Brown Jnr, Walter Scott, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown. Atatiana Jefferson and numerous others all contribute to the context in which the killing of Mr Floyd must be seen. These are not the actions of a few “bad apples” but instead represents a prevalent and systemic problem of racism and discrimination. The sad reality is that black lives do not seem to matter to police officers in the USA.
However, this is not only an issue in the USA and one would be ignorant and oblivious to think so. In Scotland, we need look no further than the region of Fife and the death of Sheku Bayoh, a 32-year-old male and father-of-two from Kirkcaldy who was killed in police custody in 2015 after being forcefully restrained by a team of police officers using whatever unchecked physical force they could along with their batons and incapacitant spray to restrain him. Mr Bayoh was knocked out and never did regain consciousness. The case is chillingly similar (and arguably worse) than the killing of Mr Floyd and it left behind another devastated family.
There are also examples of discrimination in cases that have resulted in the deaths of black people, such as the tragic death of Shukri Abdi, a 12-year-old refugee who drowned in a river last year in Greater Manchester, UK. The police had published a press release “within hours” of her death that ruled out the possibility of suspicious circumstances, and instead suggested she had drowned after going into the water herself, despite her family noting that she could not swim and was terrified of water. Despite all the evidence and loose ends, her death was deemed a “tragic incident” and nothing more. The case of Sean Rigg, a 40-year-old who died in police custody in Brixton, is also a notable example of discrimination and ignorance of facts. His mental health had been deteriorating and police were called by members of the public when he began to act strangely. They restrained him on arrival for public disorder and theft of a passport (which turned out to be his own). He was incapacitated and leaned on before being placed face down in a caged boot of a police van. He suffered serious physical as well as mental injuries and became unconscious; police offers claimed he was “faking it”. He later died in hospital.
Black people are extremely vulnerable and susceptible to dire consequences as a result of police brutality. As highlighted by the infographic above, police officers are almost four times more likely to use force on black people than white people in the USA. A black person in the UK is twice as likely to die in police custody: in 2017, the independent Angolini report into police custody deaths found that “a disproportionate number of people from BAME communities (and those with mental health concerns) have died following the use of force”. It found that between 1990 and 2008, 16% of those in police custody from use of force were black, twice the proportion arrested.
Events in the USA – Mr Floyd’s death and protests across the world that have followed – have given us all reason to reflect on the blatant and insidious racism that exists in our own cities and countries. We acknowledge and empathise with the pain and hurt felt by all communities following the killing of Mr Floyd and the injustice, oppression and inequality that it represents. “Black Lives Matter” is more than just a blanket statement; it’s a call to action that we must actively support in our words and in our actions if we are to fight for the ideals of justice and equality for all.
The Better Days for Men Foundation stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We are proud to raise our voice on this important social issue – and at the same time amplify the voices of black people and people of colour – to call for and work towards a fairer, just and inclusive society.
If you have been affected by racism or any of the issues discussed in this article, or if you have any personal experiences that you wish to discuss or share with us, then please feel free to reach out to us. We would like to hear from you.