By R. T. Luke V. Browne
I associate myself with the protests going on in the United States of America and across the world under the title “Black Lives Matter.” The people have risen up with righteous indignation against the evil of police brutality mixed with racial discrimination. These protests were sparked by that now famous incident in Minnesota in which a white police officer suffocated a black man by the name of George Floyd to death by pressing his knee to the neck for almost 9 minutes. Shocking.
Horrific. I looked at footage of the incident in disbelief and outrage. The police officer had accomplices in his colleagues and wore a smug look of sinister satisfaction on his face. The people had to rise up.
The George Floyd matter is just the latest scene in a long string of mistreatment based on colour prejudices playing out in the USA. The litany of abuses need not be covered here. It constitutes a blotch against an otherwise largely glorious history and stands in the way of a great nation living up to and being true to its highest ideals. It must be brought to an end.
Discrimination on any grounds is wrong. Being Black is not a Crime. It is a Virtue. The recent turn of events made me think of our forebears in the Caribbean who fought to rid themselves of slavery (and then colonialism) which invariably labelled them as “sub-human,” “second class citizens” or “chattels” (property). We remember too the activities of more contemporary freedom fighters like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X who struggled and ultimately sacrificed their lives for justice.
They sought to topple an oppressive system drawing inspiration from one of our West Indian compatriots – Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
Thank God we live in an age where advanced technology is so ubiquitous that a bystander can use her or his cell phone to capture a recording that shines a bright spotlight on injustice and triggers worldwide reaction. The problem of racial discrimination and police brutality is not particularly acute in SVG given the fact that we have a relatively homogeneous society. However, a problem for our brothers and sisters in the United States is a problem for us.
My message to the racial oppressors of the 21st century is simple: take your knee off our necks. Stop trying to hold us down, suffocate us, stifle us and prevent us from breathing.
Americans are rising up against police brutality and racial discrimination in all settings – healthcare, law enforcement and criminal justice, schools, public parks and beaches, the streets and everywhere else. George Floyd may end up playing a powerful role in bringing about necessary and desirable change in this world even after he left it. It’s interesting how we could take a powerful stance by kneeling down. In the words of 12-year old Keedron Bryant whose sang a powerful song that went viral: “We are just trying to live.”