I don’t even need to talk about how disgusted and how sick I felt learning of the death of George Floyd but there are some things I do feel that I need to say. The phrase, ‘I can’t breathe’ always resonated so deeply with me since the death of Eric Garner in 2014 because it doubles as a tragic metaphor for black people in our world today.
Having to live in institutionally racist countries means that we, as black people in the Western world, do feel very often that we cannot breathe. We are constantly oppressed both subtly and overtly by the education system, the government, the police force and many other factions of power. I have seen black teachers constantly having to handle ‘difficult’ classes because they are seen to be tougher. I have seen highly intelligent black students unfairly placed into bottom set classes. I have seen black people feel bullied in predominantly white workplaces. I have seen the work of black creatives go largely unnoticed and stolen from them by white people. Even in my home country, Benin Republic (West Africa), nearly 70% of our national reserves are taken each year to be fed into France’s national budget. To make matters worse, they then teach their students in schools that colonisation benefited Africans.
What I am getting at is, the deaths of Eric Garner, George Floyd and all the others who have been murdered due to racism, are emblematic of a large problem internationally. We must fight to achieve change. We must fight to be able to breathe. However, most of those in power are not concerned with making this change. Our predominantly white, middle-class leaders benefit from their racial and class privileges and have not made sufficient efforts to make changes to our oppressive system. Our prime minister openly claimed that ‘inequality is essential’. We cannot count on people like him to make change. This is why it is so important for people to realise that diversity in positions of power is imperative. We cannot wait for leaders to make a change for us if they do not care. Instead, we, black people and our truly progressive allies must make a change by mobilising ourselves and our young people to become politicians, teachers, lawyers and change makers in society. By fighting to enter positions of power, it is only then that making change will become a reality and it is only then that we will truly breathe.