Kneeling on the Neck of Justice

“Tragically, discrimination resides in the United Kingdom and the cry for justice has been snuffed out on British soil too.”

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 08/06/2020 [Online] Available:  [Accessed: 2020, Jun 09]  

A fortnight ago, 46-year-old George Floyd died of asphyxia having gone into cardiac arrest when an American police officer placed his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd was intoxicated with methamphetamine and arrested for using a counterfeit $20 dollar bill. However, reports indicate that, during the latter moments of his detention, he lay motionless and without a pulse. Four days later, the police officer was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The key component to this situation is the police officer, Derek Chauvin, was white and Floyd was black. Now, I need to say this: if there is anything I did not want to write about this week it was George Floyd nor the subsequent riots that have broken out across America and now globally. I had a whole other column lined up and did not wish to contribute to the white noise when many of our black and minority ethnic brothers and sisters’ voices have been obscured during this whole process.

Additionally, it felt too remote. This incident occurred in America. However, protests have struck a chord that reverberated around the world. Demonstrations arrived in the United Kingdom last week and, even yesterday, in Dundee. So what changed, you may ask? Why am I adding my voice to the mass now? Simply this: I read a quote last week from the late Martin Luther King Jr., which said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

My friend, Pastor Greg Boyd, leads a multi-racial congregation of over 2,000 weekly attendees at Woodland Hills Church in St Paul, which is located just 20 minutes from where Floyd died. He attended Floyd’s funeral last week and approached the platform at his empty church the previous Sunday by opening the pulpit to black members of his congregation. One man talked powerfully about systemic injustice, in the form of policies, practices and procedures that have entrenched discrimination.

Tragically, discrimination resides here and the cry for justice has been snuffed out on British soil too. In 2011, a black man named Mark Duggan was shot in London. Early reports implied he opened fire on police but an IPCC investigation found this to be untrue. Two days after his death, a peaceful protest turned to rioting and looting. Now, I am not defending the minority who use legitimate protests for personal gain but Martin Luther King Jr also said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

To quote Dr King one last time, he said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The least the rest of us can do is to listen to the muffled cry for justice and then use our own voices, our hands and our feet to try and bend that arc much quicker.