08 June 2020
THE KILLING OF GEORGE FLOYD AND THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT
The world is outraged at the brutal murder of George Floyd. In broad daylight the African American was murdered by a four man squad of the Minneapolis, Minnesota Police Department. The 46 year old was the latest victim of centuries old racist state attacks against Black people in the United States. Scores of US cities have witnessed sustained protests over this latest crime. Many such protests have been violently attacked by militarised police forces and in many cases by the US army in the form of the National Guard. The ugly state sponsored racism on display has generated a global reaction in which millions of people in every continent have demonstrated in horror against the crime, at the same time highlighting similar injustices in their own countries.
The profiling, targeting, assaulting, assailing and dehumanisation of Black people symbolised by the slaying of George Floyd has brought historical memories flooding back, with recollections of the bestial crimes against Black people over centuries following invasion, enslavement and colonialism. With these traumatic feelings are also a determination to emphasise that which has been known for generations.
Coming in the wake of recent images shared through social media revealing everyday racism and the high-profile deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, the killing of George Floyd was not an aberration. State policy developed over centuries and manifest as racist state attacks by security forces is behind the deaths. On top of that the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 on Black people reflects an encoded example of systemic racism embedded in white supremacy, an entrenched methodical and institutional feature of those countries borne from the genocide of the indigenous people and the kidnapping and human trafficking and enslavement of the African people. All played out in the murder of George Floyd articulated in his dying words: ‘I Can’t Breathe’.
Millions of people of Caribbean heritage live, study and work in the United States and, as Black people, are subject to the same pervasive profiling, targeting and discrimination faced by Black people in that country. That struggle is also our struggle. As human beings, as brothers and sisters of the Africans born in America, as members of a diaspora of descendants of Africa in the Americas who have resisted our oppression over centuries, this is a concern for all of us.
For several decades Caribbean people, as migrants to the United States, have joined with, participated in and in many instances been in the front ranks of the campaigns against racism and discrimination, for equality and for human rights.
Father of the nation Dr Eric Williams wrote his influential study Capitalism and Slavery whilst an academic at Historically Black College and University [HBCU] Howard University. Marcus Garvey, Claudia Jones, Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Toure, CLR James, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, all with Caribbean heritage, and many others known and unknown, have played leadership roles in that struggle.
The callous disregard for humanity displayed by the squad of officers responsible for brutally killing George Floyd in broad daylight has caused widespread indignation. Not only those emotions, but also anger, determination and resolve to highlight such injustice wherever it is.
Jamaican poet and musician Robert Nesta Marley summed this anguish up perfectly with lines from the song ‘Slave Driver’:
Ev’ry time I hear the crack of the whip
My blood runs cold
I remember on the slave ship
How they brutalised our very souls
Today they say that we are free
Only to be chained in poverty
In this International Decade for People of African Descent which includes themes of recognition, justice and development the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stated: “This is the latest in a long line of killings of unarmed African Americans by US police officers and members of the public.” Condemnation of the killing has also come from numerous governments, the African Union and many different organisations.
We in the Tobago Writers Guild add our voice to this cry of anguish, this cry of rage expressed by the citizens of the United States and millions more worldwide.
Enough is enough.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The aims of the TWG are:
- The promotion of writing – creative, historical or otherwise – in Tobago
- The promotion and improvement of literacy and reading in Trinidad and Tobago
- The creation of a community of writers in Trinidad and Tobago
- The provision of assistance to schools and community-based groups in the areas of writing, reading and dramatic presentations in Trinidad and Tobago.