*Disclaimer - I am a white person living in England, and as such my voice and opinions on this do not matter as much as a black person (particularly living in America). I have not been negatively affected by racism, and thus can never understand how people of colour must be feeling. There are many black voices on the internet speaking about this (I link one video which has a collection of eloquent young black women speaking at the bottom of this page) and I urge you to find them and listen*
If you spend any time on the internet, you won't have been able to escape the things that have been going on in America over the past year.
Police brutality and the thuggification of black men has been going on for centuries, but after the murder of Mike Brown (an unarmed eighteen year old who was shot 6 times by police officer Darren Wilson whilst he had his hands in the air and running away), and more recently the murder of Eric Garner (a man who was stopped by the police for selling cigarettes and was put in an illegal chokehold - he died from a heart attack as a result of asphyxiation) the general public are taking notice.
This isn't even mentioning the shooting of Tamir Rice, a twelve year old boy who was shot for holding a BB gun in Ohio - which is an open carry state.
Or the shooting of seventeen year old Trayvon Martin in 2012.
There are some people who will claim that the police were just doing their job, and things got a little out of hand, and that these crimes are not racially motivated.
I would disagree.
In all of these cases the mainstream media have fed us information as to why these men and children were killed. We are told that Mike Brown robbed a store (the store owner denies this) and then physically assaulted Darren Wilson (I couldn't see the bruising on his face from where he was punched twice so hard that he thought a third punch would kill him as he so claims). We are told that his stepfather is a criminal, as if that makes it okay for him to be murdered. Mike Brown has been turned into a thug by the mainstream media, despite the fact that all of his friends and family have described him as a gentle giant, a kind sweet boy. (Interestingly, Darren Wilson's mother has also been criminally charged, but that is a fact glossed over by the media). It was decided at the end of last month that there was not enough evidence to put him to trial (despite numerous eyewitness statements and some seriously suspicious excuses for various police staff not following procedure) and the prosecutor directly benefited from a fund set up to support Darren Wilson (the man he was supposed to be proving was guilty).
In the case of Eric Garner, once again the police officer involved wasn't even put to trial. This is despite the fact that when a police officer performed the same chokehold on a white student he was fired the next day.
There is no doubt that these crimes were racially motivated. Why else would a twelve year old boy get shot in state where it is legal to carry guns than for the colour of his skin?
I also think we cannot ignore the lynching of Lennon Lacy - a promising young student who was a day away from starting his college football career
And the fact that black Americans are being incarcerated at the same rate of black South Africans during apartheid.
So what can we do about this?
The first thing to do is to speak up, to protest, and to make our voices heard. As a white person, I have to be careful with this. I can be disgusted by what's happening, and speak up about it - use my white privilege to try and get this cause heard. But, I cannot speak for black people. I cannot speak for the communities involved in this. I have no idea about the pain of institutionalised racism.
The best thing white people can do is educate themselves. Go on Tumblr, look through social media, take everything the mainstream media says with a pinch (or handful) of salt. And know when to shut up, stand down, and listen to those who know more than us. It's #blacklivesmatter and #theycantbreathe (not #icantbreathe - that is reserved for people of colour).
I hope I've made myself clear on this. I've been quite vocal about this on tumblr, but it felt wrong not to talk about it on here too, and I'm sorry it has taken me so long to write a post about it (admittedly it is part of my white privilege that I am able to 'ignore' the events and not talk about them for so long). Thank you for reading.
As I promised, if you want to hear black voices on the matter, there is a great video. I urge you to watch it.