A perspective from Keyu Sumaria, Co-Founder of The Oblique Life
The brutal death of George Floyd is a stark reminder to all of us that we continue to fight a huge battle against racism.
It is a grave reality that in 2020, racial profiling and police brutality are still ingrained issues in the USA and other countries. Outrage over racial profiling and the killing of African Americans by police officers and vigilantes in recent years helped give rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. But tensions between the police and black communities are nothing new, and have been around for hundreds of years.
My brothers and I founded The Oblique Life, a multicultural and diverse community that embraces difference, promotes inclusion and champions equal representation, with zero tolerance for racism. We have always accepted people for their ethnicity, beliefs, gender, and race, and will continue to uphold that openness for the rest of our lives. However, it is now clear to me that being part of such an inclusive community is a luxury, and it is easy to forget that fairness, equality and diversity are not the norm. We are in a bubble, and outside this bubble people are suffering and need our help.
I’ll be quick to admit I am no expert in this matter, and despite both growing up in Kenya (a predominantly black country) and living in a multicultural city like London (where I am surrounded by people of all backgrounds) I still have so much more to learn. But when it comes to simply creating a space to discuss fundamental issues in society, I don’t need any qualifications — I just need an open mind, and so do you. To help me understand more, I turned to some of the American members in our community to educate me on the situation from their point of view.
A major point I took away from our conversations was that the real issue is our collective understanding of how deep rooted and institutionalised racism and discrimination are in America. The current unrest and protests are a systemic product of decades of racial injustice, police brutality and widespread inequalities faced by black people — which holds true not just in America but across the world. The members I spoke to have all experienced and witnessed racism with their own eyes, in the workplace, at school, in public and even within their communities. Sadly, they don’t see this stopping soon because these issues have been suppressed and normalised in society.
Another thing I have struggled with is finding the most reliable sources of information to keep up with how the situation is developing in real-time. Most people outside America rely on social media and mainstream news to keep updated on what is happening and this is a big part of the problem. There is no lack of information, however many reports can be mis-leading with a clear intention to divert the rhetoric away from the fight against racism and to alternative agendas. Ask yourself the following:
How many news articles focussed on imagery of looting and violence rather than the multitude of peaceful protests happening in America? Have you made an effort to understand why things have gone this far?
Have you questioned why it took an ‘independent autopsy’ to declare George Floyd’s death as homicide?
Have you questioned why the efforts made to safely arrest Peter Manfredonia (who committed murder(s)/abduction/assault, and was armed) without injuries in comparison to the arrest of George Floyd who died in police custody (unarmed)?
We have to take responsibility in what we consume, understand the motives of media organisations and question the validity of the source (Full Fact is a great place to start).
As I wrote this article, it became clearer to me that these institutional issues are also present in our own backyard. This is why it is essential that we all act and act now. We need to educate ourselves and participate in our local communities with our councils and people. We don’t need to wait for change at the top, but can start from the grassroots level. Barack Obama puts this into perspective, reminding us that although we all strive for change through large-scale institutions the changes can be made locally, “The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.”
We need to speak with one another, share stories and bring these discussions to the table. The fight has been and will continue to be long, but we all have a role to play to understand what discrimination is occuring and how we can act to stop it. As a community it is our duty to acknowledge the issues, it is our duty to challenge the problems, it is our duty to share solutions but most importantly give our members an opportunity to share and discuss their views with each other.
I, you, we must take more responsibility.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Here are some links and information that I took the time to research and fact-check, hopefully giving you some food for thought and also ideas of how you can support and contribute to supporting black people in America and beyond.
Learn and Educate Yourself
Talking About Race: The National Museum of African American History & Culture today released Talking About Race, a web portal designed to provide free educational resources and tools from scholars, activists, historians, and more with the goal of teaching everyone how to have conversations about race and racism.
Anguish and Action – Obama Foundation has collated resources to learn what you can do to create a more just and equitable world.
New Era of Public Safety, An Advocacy Toolkit for Fair, Safe and Effective Community Policing shared by the Obama Foundation
Blood in my Eye, George Jackson
The Fire Next time, James Baldwin
Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine
Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon
Watch Series/ Films
13th, Ava DuVernay, Netflix
Flint Town, Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper, Jessica Dimmoc, Netflix
When They See Us, Ava DuVernay, Netflix
#ARRAY101 by Ava Duvernay – free supplemental learning companions that take viewers beyond the screen to explore key themes in our films and productions.
Support your local community
Start by finding and supporting charities, community organisations and political groups in your area that are anti-racist and fighting for racial equality.
Push for change in regards to economic diversity — support nearby businesses run by black people, and spread the word about them.
Enter into conversations and do not stay silent — speak up when confronted with racist comments made by family members and colleagues, however uncomfortable or difficult it may be.
Make a donation
If you are in a position to provide financial support, you can donate to organisations such as the Minnesota Freedom Fund – the non-profit is supporting the bail costs of people jailed for protesting George Floyd’s death – as well as local Minneapolis outfits led by black community members, including Black Visions Collective and Reclaim The Block. You can also support the George Floyd Memorial Fund, set up by Floyd’s brother Philonise, to help cover funeral and burial costs, legal fees and the care and education of George’s children.