When George Floyd was killed, it happened at a time when lockdown had entered the stage of celebrating birthdays through FaceTime and Zoom, still sanitising my shopping with washing up liquid which I don’t do anymore, and desperately praying things would get back to ‘normal’. Then it happened. A video circulated online of George Floyd being suffocated by a police officer with their knee on George’s neck. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. All I needed to be distraught was to see his face and hear that he cried out for his mother before he died. The description of events was enough to haunt me. It still makes my eyes water and fills my heart with sadness when I think about it. That was how I felt at first, and then it turned to anger then frustration and the guilt of not watching the video. ‘What about his family?’ I thought to myself, ‘What about what they’re going through, and I can’t even watch the video?!’ I felt extremely guilty and selfish. Trying to avoid the news just to not have to deal with all the emotions that came like a flood.
I remember becoming so angry my hands would tense up as if I wanted to ferociously grab something, but I couldn’t. Instead I sat on the sofa and cried, consoled by my dear partner. How could they have done this?! Killed him like this?! Like he was worthless. How can they treat Black people like this?! It enraged me. I began to cry tears of anger, the ones that radiate heat and your eyes become so red and swollen you can barely see. I started to relive all the racial abuse I had experienced and what a miserable, horrible and sick world we live in, and why living my life as a Black person meant not being treated as a human being. There was just so much unfairness and inequality buried inside me, that became unleashed when I saw George Floyd. I was grieving for him and for myself. The symbolism of the way he was killed was so traumatic to see and struck such a deep cord in me. George Floyd’s murder impacted and triggered a response that meant defeating this monster called racism would need to be met with a radical response. Radical as defined by Angela Davis, meaning to grasp ‘things at the root’. I had to act. I grabbed my laptop and wrote a letter to my colleagues at work asking for us to band together and effect change. Then I took to Instagram to try and have those ‘difficult conversations’.
When I decided to take action, it was about effecting change wherever I could. I had counted on there being some resistance from work because of politics, but I hadn’t counted on losing friends, followers and losing my mind at times to be honest. I think I lived in a bubble, where I knew people were racist but not so openly to the point that a few candid posts on IG would move them to get rid of me on their aesthetically curated timelines. It makes me laugh to think of it to be honest. I know I rubbed some people up the wrong way, but I never thought to the extent of never wanting to see me again which really does make me laugh because it sure does help to smoke out the racist frenemies. But that’s Instagram isn’t it, a collective of many acquaintances ‘who are in your views but never in your likes’, which is something I factored in to be honest. (If you’ve come to this blog from Instagram, I appreciate you, whoever you are…) But when it came to friends outside of social media, it really makes you think about what really holds your friendships together especially during this pandemic. Is it going out for drinks, travelling, a love for football or fashion? Unfortunately, during the pandemic a lot of those similar interests couldn’t really be shared. The things I could share were about the state of the world, about George Floyd, about tackling racism. I tried to have discussions with friends about this but they resisted, and that affected me the most. I had to reassess what friendship meant to me and to be honest I’m still assessing it. In the end I removed myself from sparking those conversations and I think that was the best thing I could have done. It made me realise who would actually want to have the conversation and to be honest it came from the people I least expected.
The people who stood by me and tried to keep the momentum going gave me fuel for this fight. They gave me the energy whereas those who didn’t just left me feeling defeated before I had even started. The people who stood alongside me are people I will never forget. They say you really get to know a person when they’re under pressure and it is a pleasure to have met these people. They have helped me persevere. I think I am on the other side of grief and exhaustion. I feel a sense of joy. A sense of hope that things will get better and that there are enough people to fight for it. Enough people who aren’t afraid, who will put themselves on the line for the right thing. To be honest, I meant to write this blog about how I coped with the mental effects of going on this journey of achieving equality, but I guess that will be for another day. I just want to say that, it has been a hard journey and it will be a long one, but if it means being treated as an equal human being and never having to see another Black man killed, then it will all have been worth it.