One year since George Floyd’s Death and it feels like little has changed.
A year on from the murder of George Floyd, events around the world, and the world itself, have undoubtedly seen change. Mass Black solidarity and activism emerged across the United States and the globe. The George Floyd Justice and Policing Act is being put to Congress and President Biden has verbally committed to pushing for police reform.
Wales have and Scotland is aiming to update their curriculums to introduce greater Black history and anti-racist education. Even small numbers of local authorities in the US have committed to defunding their police. This is all change.
But it isn’t enough.
For much of the past year, the world’s relationship with just talking about race has changed. Conversations have made it into the zeitgeist after years of a colour-blind approach in much of the Western world. But the extent of the activism from white people and non-black people of colour feels like it hasn’t gone far beyond talk.
There has been a lot of talk about many monumental issues regarding race: the importance of Black history and slavery in the US; the end of mandatory minimums; the continued need for affirmative action schemes; police brutality and the need to defund the police. That’s all just in America – Europe has had to reckon with its past colonial crimes and the UK with its own issues of police brutality and unjust legal system.
But these issues have all been known about or advocated for by the Black community for decades. Non-Black people starting to talk about them is a step, but it ultimately means nothing if there is no follow-through by using their political power to demand change too.
The system is still keeping Black lives as disposable and allowing white people to get away with being judge, jury and executioner
Advocacy beyond the spread of Instagram infographics and sharing academic discourse on race has dried up over the past year. Now, even the performative posts are waning in their number. The attention paid to the injustice faced by Black people across the globe is slowly fading.
The main elements of change have been cultural ones. While important, cultural changes can be seen to have masked the vital institutional ones that need to take place to generate racial equality. In lieu of the actual dismantling of anti-Blackness and systemic racism, the news cycle became dominated by changes that won’t really have an effect on the day-to-day experience of Black people.
It’s arguably a chicken-egg situation – cultural change can bring institutional change, but institutional change facilitates the rise and opportunities of those able to bring cultural change. But with Black Lives Matter forming under Obama, it’s clear that the cultural and representative change isn’t resulting in justice or the dismantling of anti-Black racism quickly enough.
Come Fly with Me being taken off of stream services won’t bring justice for Blessing Olosugan or Richard Okorogheye, failed by systemic racism within the UK police force. Democrats taking the knee in Congress doesn’t free all those incarcerated on marijuana-related charges in states where it’s been decriminalised. The George Floyd Policing Act wouldn’t have saved and can’t bring George Floyd back.
Dereck Chauvin sat in front of a jury and the world held its breath. Despite the crime being caught on camera, there was doubt over whether a ‘guilty’ verdict would come back.
There might be some progress, but it doesn’t feel like much has changed
Only minutes since Chavin was found guilty, 768 miles away, Minneapolis police shot and killed 15-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus Ohi. She was one of the hundreds of Black Americans killed by the police since George Floyd’s death. The system is still keeping Black lives as disposable and allowing white people to get away with being judge, jury and executioner.
As someone who is mixed-race and has studied a lot of race history, I have tried to be amicable to the changes the world has undergone; progress is progress after all. I didn’t expect centuries of anti-Blackness to be dismantled in a year.
But I am still forced to see Black suffering on my Twitter timeline and add name after name to the list of people executed at the hands of police and white supremacists that I’ve known since I was 14. There might be some progress, but it doesn’t feel like much has changed.
The world has shifted this past year, but it shouldn’t have taken a man to be murdered on camera for the world to finally pay attention to racism. George Floyd wasn’t a martyr and didn’t die for white people to become aware of racial injustice.
The year has brought about some change. But it hasn’t made being Black any easier – we just have to hear our oppression talked about more while watching very little being done to change it.
As the sun beams down, I’m reminded of how it was a similar story this time last year. June has been hot both this year and last. But now the streets of the world are no longer ablaze with the demands for racial justice. The movement has simmered back down to its core embers that keep the fight for racial justice aglow.