An innocent man died on the 25th of May 2020. The man was unarmed, forcibly pinned on his neck from behind, under the crushing weight of a man’s knee. For eight minutes and forty-six seconds, this man pleaded for mercy. He never received it. The thought of such brutal imagery of this attack may even leave a hardened individual speechless and scarred. The worst part is that it was inflicted by an officer of the law. George Floyd died while in police custody, in front of helpless members of the community, unable to save the forsaken man.
What is more jarring is that other police officers stood by, almost senseless and devoid of emotions in the face of the tragedy. A man accused of using counterfeit money was left begging for the life that the broken police system was robbing him of. And this incident is a familiar one. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Dreasjon Reed. All African Americans who have died at the hands of civilians. And these names only go back to February this year. There have been many more in the past and these wrongful acts should not be allowed to fester within the police system.
The Black Lives Matter movement arose from such a killing after the death of an innocent African American - Trayvon Martin. In 2012, the young man was killed by a civilian who wanted to exercise his right as a citizen to arrest - just like the police - and later on, was acquitted of the heinous crime. The movement was formed to voice against the injustice that the police, and those who support the atrocities, against the African American community. Like going through the five stages of the Kubler Ross model - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - the community has shown collective grief through the years. But actionable change is needed now instead of acceptance. This systemic cycle of violence needs to end.
So how can this happen again and again eight years on? Unsurprisingly, the incidents of police brutality against the African American community in the United States have been grossly normalized in its system. Culturally prominent African Americans have repeatedly documented the systemic problem in the police - from Tupac Shakur to Dave Chappelle to even Pulitzer Prize recipient Kendrick Lamar - the racial profiling and brutality refuse to end. In 1991, Rodney King was savagely beaten by a gang of police officers. When the four officers were subsequently acquitted of their crime a year later, riots tore across the West Coast - reminiscent of the restive violence that has recently razed the streets across several countries such as the UK and Australia. Police brutality against the African American community, especially the male youths, has been so pervasive in the community that it has become a form of cultural reference.
Many have spoken out against the injustices. Knees have been bent on the sporting fields. Even the most eloquent and only African American president Barack Obama has taken the pedestal to voice his concerns. Alas, all those words have fallen on deaf ears. Like rapper Killer Mike’s agonizing call to halt unrest, the people have made social media their bastion to “plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize”. Words of anger seething through the medium, more than 143 million mentions of the cause since Floyd drew his final breath. Fists raised, bandannas wrapped around their mouths to temporarily practice personal hygiene during a pandemic. Even President Obama admittedly said he could have been one of those who have died in the hands of the police.
So where do we go from here? With almost four million mentions per day, elaboration on the topic is exactly what needs to be done. Mainstream media have been reporting on the issue, more than a million times, and that comes with wide-ranging opinions and perspectives. This satisfies the first course of action - the education and awareness of the problem and finding ways to address it. And this is where the next dimension is important - the people who are not affected by the problem, the ones with the privilege of still being served and protected by the men in blue. Those with privilege are now tasked with exercising their ability to further support their African American communities and demand wholesale changes to the system. This final stage of mobilizing their support is integral to force law and policymakers to draw lines in the sand. An immediate victory for the movement came when the authorities banned the controversial carotid restraint technique used to pin down Floyd since his death.
Knowledge is important and there are tons of online resources available for one to absorb as much information on the matter. Truth be told, there are many excellent sources out there on the internet but the number of questionable ones makes it much harder to decipher the complexities of the issue. Below are some of the many organizations and movements that provide essential and thought-provoking information.
As an organization, Meltwater is taking action in empowering our African American members of the community. We will be pursuing partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to offer greater opportunities and collaborative work. We are also partnering with diverse student organizations at target schools to reach out and connect with the communities. Internally, we will be conducting diversity and bias elimination training for our hiring teams. We will also be establishing employee resource groups that are specifically focused on diversity and inclusion within our organization. Finally, we are offering complimentary access to our platform and consultancy services to non-profit organizations that are championing the causes of social justice and racial equity. With these actions in place, Meltwater aims to drive out cultural biases within our organization, advocate a harmonious society, and make our offices welcoming for everyone.
I can’t breathe. A plea for those who were suppressing his ability to live. His ability to lead a life he once knew. But those pleas were left rejected by brute force, one that stemmed from an endemic nature. However, Floyd’s pleas left an indelible mark on the rest of the society to ensure that not another strange fruit is left hanging on the poplar tree. Another martyr for the cause of the fundamental human right to live without fear of arbitrary persecution. We heard the pleas and now we are breathing that hope for him - and countless others - through our actions.