We have all been horrified and outraged at the news from the US over the past week. Our television screens and computer monitors are full of accounts of racism and police brutality, followed by protests and then destruction, arson and looting.
So what started it?
George Floyd, an African-American man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill (just under £16) died in Minneapolis, Minnesota after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street. This, despite Floyd crying out repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”
Many of us have friends and family living in the US, some of whom have been directly affected by recent events. For those of us here in the UK, it’s sometimes difficult to know what to do and how to react.
Historically, the WI has been a very “white” organisation. We hope we’re becoming more diverse over time, but we have a long way to go yet. Still, we are proud to include among our membership women of different ages, races, nationalities, religions and sexual orientations.
Our goal has always been to open a welcoming door of friendship to all women.
Our goal has also always been to educate ourselves. And that’s where this subject comes in.
Racism is not a comfortable topic of conversation, and never has been. But sometimes talking about uncomfortable things is what’s needed to help us educate ourselves and embrace new ways of thinking.
Now, more than ever, we need to look inside ourselves and think about how we can help eradicate racism. It’s not just a problem in the US – we have our share of racism here in the UK as well.
We’ve all heard the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’, and some have responded by saying, “Well, yes, but all lives matter!” Of course they do. That has never been in doubt. However, at this point in our history, black lives are the ones under constant threat. An article published today in the American magazine Good Housekeeping explains it this way:
While the intention of the phrase “All Lives Matter” may be to put everyone’s life on equal footing and convey a sense of unity, responding “All Lives Matter” to “Black Lives Matter” is actually more divisive than unifying. That’s because it discounts and diminishes the focus on the violence and discrimination Black individuals face every day [in this country].
You can read the full article here.
If you’d like to do more reading to educate yourself further and to help you become a real ally, here are some suggestions:
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla F Saad
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The WI has been an instrument of change since it began in 1915. We sincerely hope our members will continue to fight for justice and equality, and to help make our world a better place to live in for all of us.