There are scenarios for which neither a placard nor a hashtag is sufficient. From the moment 17-year-old Darnella Frazier’s smartphone lens recorded the nine-minute murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we – in the US, the UK and beyond – entered such a scenario. In this sense, Darnella’s lens can be seen as a portal through which the world cannot reverse.
The distress and outrage expressed globally since the killing, and the police brutality that (as night follows day) that energy provokes has been harrowing to watch. The reflex to share this material is inescapable, and the technology to propagate and distort it is at our fingertips. We know how to cultivate outrage. Can we now learn to challenge inevitability?
In the glare of breaking news, the spectacular physical and digital reaction to racism and brutality is elevated and can be cathartic to all. But in the days to come, it’s in the tyranny of “normal” where the battle for justice will be faced.
The tyranny of normal for black people on either side of the Atlantic means the sickening, immutable numbness of police murder, assault, economic and social degradation and segregation, tokenised visibility and a jury that’s always rigged.
The tyranny of normal for white people in those two countries, means a profound ignorance of our colonial history that still informs and enforces the present; of never seeing or hearing a black colleague crying in a bathroom cubicle, of never experiencing a criminal justice system that reaches a verdict in the patrol car, and of never feeling that any type of opportunity is deeply conditional.
Can we avoid “Black Out Tuesday” being one isolated day beside a whitewashed 364?
The challenge for all who wish to see an end to racism now lies in the everyday and commonplace. That challenge might mean resisting the powerful algorithms and corporate brand platitudes that seek to appropriate human emotions, and instead to choose to act on what can be seen in plain sight. Our biological lenses can be as important as Darnella Frazier’s digital version.
Thinking, learning, educating, listening, and intervening to the point of personal discomfort are now radical acts to be deployed at home, socially, in the workplace and in the streets.
Showing up, daily, after the spectacular stops trending and the words on placards have changed is the imperative.
Black Lives Matter.
PS: In the spirit of personal recommendations, here’s ours: “13th” by Ava DuVernay