“All we want is for black lives to matter now. It’s as simple as that” - Michael Holding
George Floyd: an unarmed black man brutally murdered in broad daylight as a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine agonizing minutes.
As the harrowing footage of George Floyd circled the internet, I eventually encountered it and was confused as to how his actions warranted his death. As a young black woman, I was heartbroken especially when I discovered he died on my birthday. His dying words, “I can’t breathe”, now ingrained into my mind, awakened an anger and a feeling of injustice in me. I can only imagine the pain George himself went through in that horrific situation and the repercussions his tragic death has had on his family.
So, has there been change since the death of George Floyd?
His death opened up a global debate around white privilege, police brutality and racism. This led to global tributes and millions protesting in 50 countries including Japan, Argentina and all 50 states in the US, all protesting with one message: Black Lives Matter. People were tired of racism; they demanded change. For the first time in history, it felt as if others - mostly white people - actually cared about the widespread oppression, discrimination and racism that black people experience. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held objections to taking the knee, a symbol of support for Black Lives Matter protests, saying he does not believe in “gestures.”
On Tuesday 2nd of June 2020 a series of black tiles were posted across various social media platforms as part of a protest called Blackout Tuesday, intending to ‘black out’ usual activity and take the time to learn about the BLM Movement. However, this was criticised as a performative gesture because it takes minimal work and effort.
After Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis City Council forced the police department to ban the use of chokeholds and neck restraints. Furthermore, unannounced police raids were scrapped in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor died. The Minneapolis City Council also vowed to defund its police department after protestors argued that too much money is given to the police.
In several countries, including the UK, the US, France and Belgium, statues and monuments of significant figures linked to slavery were defaced and taken down by demonstrators. In Bristol, slave trader Edward Colston’s statue was removed. Some campaigners fear that changes such as the removal of statues are cosmetic and erases history. Instead, they believe these statues should be displayed in museums.
In October 2021, a memorial statue of George Floyd was shockingly vandalised multiple times, with the damage starting just two days after that statue was unveiled to the public. As New York Governor Kathy Hochul states, “This is an act of cowardice and hate is reprehensible.” Actions like this signify we still have a long way to go in terms of changing racial inequalities.
YouGov discovered 42% of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) adults think race relations in Britain today are no better than they were as of 2020, while 33% believe they have worsened. Only 11% say things are changing for the better. Evidently, most BAMEs in Britain see no change. Although some do believe change is happening.
Recently, Channel 4 launched the Black to Front Project. As part of this, programmes featuring Black presenters, actors and writers were broadcasted all day on television.
Channel 4 is the first and only broadcaster that has made a significant commitment to increase the number of Black talent working in front of and behind the camera. It was awe-inspiring as a viewer to be able to identify with the people I was watching on my television, due to lack of Black representation in the media. I believe The Black to Front Project will make a remarkable difference and have a lasting impact, ensuring we see more Black talent working in and progressing in the TV industry. The project is creating a national conversation about black portrayal and representation. Hopefully, we should see change, resulting in increased levels of racial harmony and racial integration.
Undeniably, there will always be some resistance to the idea of overcoming racial injustice and inequality but what has changed is that we can no longer ignore the issue of racism and the mistreatment of black people. Combatting racism and oppression has been a long, ongoing fight. Ultimately, it is the fight for the basic right to live. George Floyd was denied that basic right and we cannot allow that to happen to anyone else ever again.