An open letter from Rebekkah
I hope you’re all doing well.
As a Black woman, I want to bring to light an issue that has been affecting me and others who look like me for the past week or so, and to be very honest, our whole lives.
As you will have seen by now, there are a number of protests taking place in America (and around the world) which have been sparked by the death of a Black man, George Floyd who died after being arrested by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The world was shocked by footage showing the white officer kneeling on his neck as he was pinned to the floor for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. You can hear Mr Floyd repeatedly saying "I can’t breathe" before he lost his life and was later pronounced dead in hospital.
Whilst you may see this protest as just a reaction to what happened two weeks ago, in reality this is a reaction to centuries of institutional racism and systematic oppression against Black people like myself. Black men and women experienced police brutality for longer than all of us have been alive. Four police officers were involved in the death of George Floyd, and the protests took place for the arresting and charging of the four officers involved. While that has now happened, (one being charged with second-degree murder and three other officers at the scene charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter), the initial response was to deploy the National Guard which saw a number of protestors injured with pepper spray, batons and rubber bullets. Another five people have died as a result of the protests, including another Black man, David McAtee who was shot and killed by the police trying to disperse a crowd.
Black people have been fighting for their right to be seen and treated as equals in society for years and years and years. We have been peaceful in our approach and we have received violence as a response. We shout Black Lives Matter, and others will shout All Lives Matter in response. How can all lives matter if Black lives don’t matter?
Let me ask you a question - would you switch places with a Black person for a day, knowing that you would be judged merely by the colour of your skin? If the answer is yes, then you’re ready to take on being called a plethora of racial slurs, as well micro-aggressive words such as ‘angry’, ‘aggressive’, ‘scary’ and ‘sassy’, having your hair touched for no reason other than it being ‘different’, being followed around the supermarket by security guards unnecessarily, having somebody cross the street when they see you because they think you will attack them, having to have a conversation with your children about the racism they may face in their lives, how to wear your hair to a job interview, worrying about whether your employer will even read and accept this email because it’s bringing to light an issue people may be uncomfortable with. If the answer is no, then you know you won’t be treated equally and that all lives in fact do NOT matter. If you haven’t had to worry about or experience the things I have listed above, you are currently benefiting from something called White Privilege.
Last week there was a social media blackout, where social media accounts were posting black squares and showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Whilst it was amazing to see so many people standing up and educating themselves about the plight of Black people for a day, I would love for this to continue into the future. It’s a lot more than saying “I’m not racist’, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and smiling at your Black colleague. It’s about standing with Black people and demanding equality. I would love to be able to walk the streets and not have to suffer from anxiety when a police car drives past. I don’t want to have a conversation to my future children about the hardships they may face because of the colour of their skin. Black people don’t want to add another name to list of those who have been killed by the police.
In conclusion, I hope you have learnt something from what I have written and are aware of what is happening right now, and has been happening for many, many years. When you have the time, I would be grateful if you could educate yourselves on the history of racism against Black people and how you can make a change to stop this. If you would like any further information or if you have any questions you would like to ask, please don’t feel afraid to email me.
Thank you very much for taking time out to read this.
Black Lives Matter. Yesterday, today and forever.