June 02, 2020
The world watched in horror this week as George Floyd was killed in broad daylight in Minneapolis by a white police officer who was filmed pressing his knee down on Floyd’s neck while he repeatedly told him: “I can’t breathe.”
White People, Your Solidarity With Black Lives Matter Is Not Enough
Black people, regardless of where they hail from have inhaled this trauma the most deeply. Some will have experienced police brutality themselves. Most will know the unique pain of racism on varying scales, the micro-aggressions of incorrect name pronunciations and “no, but where are you really froms.”Some are still unwilling to do the extra work and be inquisitive about their own privilege and how that feeds into a system of white supremacy.In response to Floyd’s murder, white people and high profile brands posted messages of solidarity and “togetherness”, but the sentiment often doesn’t run much deeper than what could be conveyed via a hashtag or Instagram post. fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing was dragged for tweeting a tone deaf image of a black and white hand clasped together with the caption “stand together,” while Amazon tweeted they “stand in solidarity” with “the Black community,” while seemingly doing nothing to support the community in question and no mention of or calls to donate to any grassroot movements.
Elsewhere, other individual tweets read: “This is not a race issue, it’s a Human Rights issue!!” and “This is not about white or Black, this is about being anti-racist.” And, if you can believe it, there’s even a video circulating showing a group of white people in the US kneeling down and begging their Black neighbours for forgiveness for years of racism, which makes for uncomfortable viewing. 
Racial equality — an idealistic concept whereby people aren’t treated differently for their ethnicity or the colour of their skin — defines the underlying message of many of these examples, but unfortunately doesn’t travel very far before it hits a roadblock of its own making. My own experience growing up testifies to this. My mum would always tell me the colour of my skin didn’t matter, and that it was the person who I was on the inside that was important. This was a nice idea, in theory, but it didn’t prepare me for the ignorant taunts thrown at me carelessly by the kids at school who would make fun of my unruly head of curls and the light brown colour of my skin.Promises of solidarity mean very little if white people do not take the time to understand that their own lived experiences are entirely different to those of Black people.My mum, who was white, and my dad, who is Black, raised my brothers and I in rural Kent where we were one of two families of colour in the whole village. In an attempt to shield us from the racism my dad lived through growing up in Northampton as a child, my parents taught us that race would never be a key factor of influence in our lives. It was a “mind over matter” kind of lesson, one that was meant to remind us that if we worked hard enough, there was nothing we couldn’t achieve. This parenting technique, while effective in making me a hard worker, would prove discombobulating later on, no matter how well intentioned I believed it to be.
As I got older and started reading into Black history, race became a topic that fascinated me as I grappled with my own identity. I wrote endless think-pieces about the importance of the #BlackLivesMatter protests that were just heating up in America, and my own experiences of racism throughout my life. My mum, while proud of me as she watched me get my work published, always felt a type of way about me discussing race and racism so openly, and on more than one occasion mentioned that by me doing so, I was denying my whiteness and in turn, her. From then on, despite us still having a very close relationship, there was always a glaringly obvious gulf of misunderstanding and foreignness between us. If she were still alive, I’d love to sit down with her and talk about the very real difficulties that I face as a Black woman, instead of brushing over the issue of race as we both typically did. Related... Opinion: Britain's Record On Racism Is No Less Bloody Than America's Because racism simply cannot be effectively addressed without acknowledging that there are differences between Black and white people in society. Choosing not to address these differences in my own household growing up did not protect me from the instances of racism I witnessed once I stepped outside our front door.  
A refusal to acknowledge this crucial difference in many of the responses to Floyd’s murder has been disappointing, to say the least. And this disappointment isn’t excluded to one incident, either. The UK government’s rallying message during the Coronavirus pandemic, that we are “all in this together” completely neglected to take into account the various inequalities faced by BAME people in this country and the impact those would have on infection rates – and more tragically, death rates. We now know that Black people are four times more likely to die from the virus than white people. 
I believe the vast majority of white people acknowledge that racism is wrong, but too often, some are unwilling to do the extra work and be inquisitive about their own privilege and how that feeds into a system of white supremacy. Even white people who identify as non racist need to interrogate their own relationship with white supremacy and how they benefit from this system.  
Promises of unity and solidarity in the form of Social Media posts and yes, even literally begging Black people for their forgiveness for sins from a murky past they don’t even remember, let alone understand, mean very little if white people do not take the time to educate themselves and understand that their own lived experiences are entirely different to those of Black people. 
I understand that for many white people, getting to grips with systemic racism, which ultimately benefits you, isn’t exactly a five minute Job. And if whatever work you’re doing doesn’t feel uncomfortable to you, then you’re not working hard enough. And while black people, through what we say, write, create and produce, can certainly help guide you in the right direction, it’s not up to us to hold your hand. It’s time for you to put in the work. 
Georgia Chambers is a freelance journalist and editor. Related... This Is How Absolutely Massive The George Floyd Protests Are Across The US Opinion: Britain's Record On Racism Is No Less Bloody Than America's Anti-Racism protesters Around The World Demand Justice For George Floyd
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