On Monday 25th May 2020, George Floyd was mercilessly killed by a police office in Minneapolis who kneeled on his neck for a whole eight minutes. George’s crime? Allegedly using a fake twenty dollar bill, which actually proved to be false. Yes, George did have a criminal history, one he paid his time for. But, the underlying issue here is George’s skin colour – black.
Like so many others, George fell victim to systematic racism and a power-tripping cop. I do understand that police are there to uphold the law, much like us teachers within the classroom. The issue is the law seems to be dependant on the colour of people’s skin.
Why does there have to be an uproar before justice is served and something is done? Yes there were riots, yes it wasn’t always peaceful, but you have to understand that these people are tired, tired of our prejudice.
I remember a student of mine who was very upset at the beginning of the school year. I sat him down and asked what was wrong. He said his Art teacher commented on him and moved him to the front of the class as soon as he walked in. He felt judged, like he hadn’t even been given a chance. Now I understand that as a teacher, you do everything you can to create a conducive classroom environment – strategic seating plans playing a big role in this. However, his sadness always forces me to start every lesson with a clean slate – no one should feel that way.
Breonna Taylor was shot in her home eight times – they had the wrong house. The police barged in whilst she was asleep and opened fire. The worst thing? Her killers are still walking free. This isn’t good enough. This has to stop.
There are loads and loads of cases like these. It’s important to recognise that it isn’t only happening to people of colour, police brutality is very real. However, majority of these cases are. There are so many names we know, and so many we never will.
One that resonated with me was Shukri Abdi, a young girl who was a refugee. Heavily bullied and then pushed to her death in a river. There was a witness who has been disregarded and no action has taken place. It is with a heavy heart that I followed Shukri’s story – not that there’s been much development. I’ve been through the motions of being overcome by anger, but now I’m just hurt and sad. I am full of remorse, I’ve never met Shukri, but I am surrounded by kids like her every day.
I’m full of remorse for the teachers and the education system that failed her. This resonates with me because many teachers like myself battle bullying every single day, we have zero tolerance, we put kids’ well-being at the forefront, we become a voice for the unheard…but who was Shukri’s voice? Who fought in her corner? Why wasn’t she saved? I hope to God that she gets justice. I also hope that I have never and will never fail a single child like this. I hope my students know that they can count on me, they can reach out to me, that I’ll fight in their corner ? so saddening, please do sign the petition so her family can have some closure. She escaped and came to the UK for safeguarding and we failed her.
#BlackOutTuesday on the 2nd of June was a day to pause normal content and listen on social media. I still feel like I have so much to learn, so much to be taught. Now it’s easy to blame the school curriculum, but it’s even easier to choose to be ignorant. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips, use it, educate yourself.
I, as a person of colour, has been subjected to racism a few times. Combine that with my hijab and it’s safe to say a lot of people give me the wide berth! Now I don’t particularly mind that, each to their own. Whatever anyone says, we all do stereotype and prejudice – it’s human nature. When this becomes an issue is when you disregard people based on these characteristics. When you treat them as anything less than a human based on these characteristics, when prejudice becomes discrimination. I mean this irregardless of skin colour, it it’s wrong to treat ANYONE differently because of their skin.
There are some great resources out there, I particularly found the below shows on Netflix to be eye-opening: When They See Us – Five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they‘re falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story. 13th – Aptly named after the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which legalises slavery as a punishment of crime, the documentary follows the increase in prisoners, the systematic racism and the unjust silencing of influential voices. Scary to think that there’s many more names that we don’t know.
In the South Asian community, colourism has been a massive issue for as far back as I can remember. I remember being told to scrub myself as I’ve gone dark, I remember being told not to sit out in the sun at the risk of going dark. I remember receiving Jolene and Fair and Lovely in a bid to lighten my skin. The first question upon hearing of a new baby or an engagement – is she fair? It’s become so embedded into the community, that even Bollywood is full of light-skinned skinny actresses and actors. The darker actors were always villains or comedians, like somehow, being dark is derogatory.
I think there is a lot of change to be made. A lot of learning to be done. Most of all, I just hope people learn to be kind, regardless of skin colour, race or religion.