George Floyd’s public killing has broken human hearts across the world. His name will, with no shadow of a doubt, resonate throughout history as a tipping point in racial relations. And it’s my hope this movement will, like the end of apartheid or Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, leave an imprint on the pages of history.
In the wake of Floyd’s death, I was troubled and challenged myself on how I could use my voice, influence and platform. Initially I reflected and shared inspirational thoughts on social media, but was soon overwhelmed with Caucasian apologies, and friends asking me to help them understand. Why did it happen to him? Why does this happen in 2020? Why are people not awake to this? Why is the government reacting this way? Why? Why? Why?
I began to feel the desire to wake up from my coronavirus slumber, and help my community. This time, it just felt different. In simpler words, I was tired of complaining about injustice and reposting human atrocities on Instagram and Twitter.
When I heard of protests here in the UK, I felt I had to be there, and urged friends to join me in peaceful protest. I have never attended a protest before and did not know what to expect: Notting Hill Carnival? A rave? A concert? But I knew I had to be prepared for huge crowds, and possibly exposure to Covid-19.
“The possibilities, the hope, the collective action will drive me out of my front door. Frankly, the prospect of going makes me feel alive.”
The days before have messed with my emotions, bouncing between anxiety, nervousness, excitement – and an underlying fear. But my desire to stand with Black communities in achieving a ‘level playing field’ and for achieving justice trample the fear of catching a deadly virus. The possibilities, the hope, the collective action will drive me out of my front door. Frankly, the prospect of going makes me feel alive.
Reports about BAME people being more likely to die from Covid-19 have had my family on edge. Britain’s BAME population – including my mother and father – have been the frontline soldiers of this pandemic.
NHS workers like my mum have traded their lives for guaranteed weekly Thursday night patriotic claps, instead of concerns of improved remuneration and safety. And now BAME voices are the foot soldiers of this war, standing in the frontline and risking our lives, our voices, our jobs to fight this war of justice.
“Unlike Dominic Cummings, I will be breaking lockdown rules for a just cause – even if it is to make just a tiny contribution.”
We are in the belly of the beast already, with high risk of catching the virus – just like Belly Mujinga, who died from covid-19 after being spat at by a man claiming to have coronavirus, and has yet to receive any justice.
Of course, I have worries: what if it gets violent? What about my career? What about the police? What if we are arrested or fined for breaking social distancing rules? What if I get infected... or worse? At 19-years-old I face less risk, but I will wear a mask and gloves. To me, it cannot be worse than losing this opportunity to take ground in the battle for racial justice.
And so, unlike Dominic Cummings, I will be breaking lockdown rules for a just cause – even if it is to make just a tiny contribution to the largest civil rights movement of my generation. Yes, we are fighting coronavirus, but we are fighting another pandemic in our society, one that has roamed the earth for centuries. One has ruined lives, caused divides, and killed more people than coronavirus ever could.
That pandemic is systemic racism. And I cannot miss the opportunity I have to fight it.
Debora Raquel Araujo is a student journalist at Birmingham City University