It has been a long time I struggled to sleep. Since I watched the horror video of the police officers who murdered a middle-aged black man, George Floyd in Minneapolis, a city in Minnesota, I am still wondering whether we are in an animal kingdom. May be better still, a ‘shithole’ country. Is it part of the police training manual or a colonial heritage to kneel ‘on a man’s neck, compressing his airways and brain blood and oxygen supply, hand-cuffed, face down, held down’? Is being black a death sentence especially in a so called civilised world? No. Using the words of Olufunmilayo Adedeji, ‘armed with truth, a resolve in our hearts, our skin is our proud covering not our limit. Our skin is our proud habitation and within our walls, there will be great peace. Our skin is our life and by God, it must matter.’
Overnight, I thought on these words” Breathe on me Breath of God. Fill me with life anew” as George Floyd’s ‘oration of illusion’ reecho to me. These police officers are anti-God or were they ignorant that Breathe is the Breath of God? Indeed the modern world continue to stop the Breath of God in different facets of our systems. The Spirit is Breath George Floyd was drinking in great gulps and pleading for but the killers knew what they were doing in a broad daylight. Can you see the hypocrisy in humanity without the fear of God, they killed George before calling an ambulance for him. What a wicked world? What a shame!
Bode Ojoniyi metaphorically analysed George’s words as ‘oration of illusion’ while he was in handcuffs and totally immobilised by the police: “Your knee in my neck. Please, I can’t breathe; my stomach hurts; my neck hurts; everything hurts; they’re going to kill me.” While motionless, the officers even taunted George to “get up and get in the car.” Ojoniyi said, “that was not what I heard you saying George. George, I heard you trying to recite Dr Luther King’s ‘I have a dream…’ I heard you trying to deliver another oration of illusion and hopelessness, I heard you trying to proclaim that ‘one day…’ I mean, you were trying to declare that futile day of King’s fantasy… But, you did remember the owner of the illusory dream was gunned down in his prime… and then, your hope, your futile faith in the American dream, died with you Floyd, it died under the knees of those white gods…
Floyd, I heard your heart beats to a coma in my consciousness, then, to a full-stop, and, under a broad day light, your light went off, in a jiffy, everything went blank for you, and for us… Darkness fell again, and life was still… then the gods took your lifeless body up like a worthless black life, we all know the black life has always been of no value…” Many today cannot breathe, they cannot live to their full potentials and gifting just because police officers though not in police uniforms in their different landscapes of modern world are kneeling on their necks.
In the words of Ogor Winnie Okoye, “Most white people that I know would be truly offended if anyone described them as racist but the reality is this; if you’re not anti-racism, (engaging in actions designed to stop the spread of this scourge) then you’re pro-racism and that unfortunately makes you racist through your silence. We need white allies to end this evil.” The painful murder of George Floyd calls for action from everyone, black, brown, red, yellow or white. Let us reflect on the following ‘to help ensure a safer and more equitable world’ as raised by Okoye:
1. Talk to your family members who are ignorant about brown and black people and explain to them how their biases and prejudices are mostly unfounded. Begin early so children understand that black men aren’t scary or prone to crimes. While you may not laugh at a racist joke, your silence means you’re complicit in it.
2. Do listen to people of colour when they share their experiences about racism, don’t try to minimise or invalidate their experiences. 3. Do support legislation that benefit communities of colour. Do support people of colour who are running for elective offices.
4. Do take a moment to research various institutions in this country and how policies and laws from the past 100 or more years have specifically benefited white people while hurting and/or excluding communities of colour.
5. It’s an uncomfortable exercise but do try to reflect on the privileges you enjoy as a white person and acknowledge those privileges.
6. Be empathetic and lead with love when dealing with people of colour. We are not scary people, I promise you.
7. Do support legislation around the topic of criminal justice reforms.
8. Do support diversity and inclusion in hiring, etc.
Purging your mind of false life-long beliefs can be an extremely uncomfortable exercise but understand that people of colour experience and navigate this evil of racism almost on a daily basis. Being anti-racist demands that you take a stand.
Please remember in prayer – George’s family and all those who cannot breathe – professionally, economically, spiritually and socially because of their colour.