George Floyd: A year on
It’s been a year since the death of George Floyd. A year since the Black Lives Matter movement carried its voice over to our side of the Atlantic. So how much has really changed?
Many people have asked me what made George Floyd’s death different to the many other Black folks that have died at the hands of law enforcement not just in the USA but right here in the UK too. My answer to that is this is the first time we witnessed the death of an innocent Black man at the hands of law enforcement whilst in the middle of a global health pandemic. That just hasn't happened in our lifetimes and it might not happen again where both things happen simultaneously.
Last year spring/summer the majority of the western world was in lockdown or we had curfews dictated to us. The majority of us had nowhere to go and we had nothing to do other than consume the media that surrounded us.
It meant that many people who sit at heights of privilege couldn't continue to feign ignorance to injustice anymore by going out for dinners, meeting up with friends, going on holidays or by doing anything that means you didn’t have to inhale the traumas of others.
For me, the biggest awakening over the past 12 months is how many British people have finally accepted that racism is not just an American problem - it's everywhere white people are the dominant race problem.
Tony Sewell and his sewage induced race report aside, anyone who can decipher right from wrong knows the UK's hand are not clean in race relations. We have a long history of institutional racism from selling Black people for profit, race riots in south London, Grenfell Tower and even not reporting on numerous missing people because they're Black.
What's apparent is the same people saying that we make "everything about race" are the same racists who almost cancelled Christmas last December because Sainbury's dared to feature a Black family bonding over Christmas dinner gravy. I mean, what did these people think we put on our potatoes and Yorkshire pudding? Rainwater???
The same people who say "I don't see colour" are the same people who miraculously have colour vision when there are a few more people of colour on TV. All of sudden it's "are we in Africa" or "I'm not represented" and on and on the complaints go. But you don't see colour right?! So what's the problem???
George Floyd paid the ultimate price by someone who used his knowledge and faith in a system that he thought would protect him from being held accountable. Now the culprit (he who shall not be named) has since been convicted....BUT....surely I can't be the only person thinking he was only convicted because the eyes of the world were upon the judicial system? I mean, I'm sure I can safely say we might have had a global race war happening if he had been acquitted. That with all the pressures and uncertainties of Covid-19 was not the kind of smoke they could roll the dice on.
The aftermath of his death and the fury that followed meant people like myself could finally use our voice and say the things we've been wanting to say for decades if not centuries. I had the courage to say "enough" and that I was not going to join organisations that caused me emotional pain anymore. I had the voice to say "no" to being mistreated and start holding people accountable for the way they silenced me out of fear of being called the "angry Black woman".
I think back to all the promotions I worked my tush off for and was overlooked, and all the pay rises I was owed that never came simply because people fed on the crippling fear Black people have of daring to be confident and good at their jobs.
It was about power. Making us remember our place on the food chain.
We've seen a lot of people become DEI leaders and that's awesome as I think there's enough room for us all IF the space is being taken authentically. I say this because I've witnessed a few "consultants" who clearly have all the privileges of the world handed to them doing anti-racism or LGBTQ+ work and that has me baffled.
It's clear that many white people would rather have a white person speak to them about racism because the information will land in a way that doesn't threaten their fragility.
It's almost a year since I officially started my own consultancies and though using my lived experiences, skills and education to help the organisation's along in their DEI journey, I still find myself being sad for all the Black people and people of colour who still haven't been able to use their voice yet. I mean, you can't undo years and years of racial trauma in the workplace because it's been spoken about. To this day, I still see a therapist over the traumas two employers I had inflicted on me and the left wounds that might never completely heal.
Add that to the fact that over the past 12months, Stasia and I have worked with some people who don't care about disrupting the status quo. They don't care about the trauma their Black and employees of colour have to go through.
They only care about looking good to those on the outside. They say they don't want to be seen ticking boxes but that's exactly what they're doing. They want us to come into their organisations, stroke their ego's and reassure them that they're doing a good job when in fact they're not.
We've worked with leadership teams that make us want to weep for humanity.
These "leaders" have shiny titles but when you ask them about how inclusive their organisation is their eyes begin to start glazing. These "leaders" will tell us they don't have bias bones in their body but then will exhibit behaviours that make us want to incinerate their titles.
What's apparent to us is that these leaders just don't know what they're doing. I'm not just talking about D&I, but I'm talking about actually leading a business. But because they are at heights of privilege and they are in various proximities to power - they have been allowed to do whatever keeps them sitting comfortably at the top even if it means being unfair.
Many people used George Floyd's name in reverse psychology to continue to gaslight their employees of colour. Their logic is, "if we throw in some unconscious bias training and put out some spiel about being an antiracist organisation - that'll shut them up".
But a furious flame has been lit! A flame that can not be put out because the flame is made out of the voices of millions of people. People who have found each other in the fight towards racial equality both in society and the workplace and when our voices connect - that will be a megaphone to teach the naysayers.
I hope people do continue to educate themselves in institutional racism and educate themselves on privilege because it's something we all have even if it's not apparent to you. Of course, there are different levels of privilege and if you want me to explain that to you...well.....that part comes at a price 😉.
Ajagun out x