Don't become blinkered to the racist core of this killing | Verity Lush

The sheer atrocity of the murder of George Floyd has rocked the globe.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 4:54 pm
Updated Friday, 5th June 2020, 4:54 pm
Demonstrators at Portsmouth Guildhall for Black Lives Matter on June 4, 2020. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The heartbreaking footage of another human being, struggling and pleading just to breathe, makes for extremely hard watching.

From a position of white privilege – and there’s no point in pretending that does not exist – you cannot possibly understand what people of colour experience or live with.

But you can try hard to educate yourself, to empathise, and to pass this onto your children in order to make a meaningful impact.

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Disappointingly, though not surprisingly, some members of the public seem to have become blinkered to the racist core of this killing, focusing on the protests (too complex for a small newspaper column).

We must not lose sight of the lesson that the world needs to change. Now.

There is no place for cruel and abusive language

I could start practically every column at the moment with ‘what a week it has been’. It seems that since the UK lockdown started, tensions have risen inexorably online, presumably due to not being able to socialise and having fewer venting outlets.

The written word is a powerful thing. Something you read online – without being able to see the person’s face, hear their tone, be within speaking distance of them – can make your blood boil and your heart beat so that you can hardly even think. And that is precisely the point when not to respond online.

I have seen innumerable examples of people being extremely and personally abusive, to the point of making downright vile comments about someone they don’t even know, simply because that person has expressed an opinion that differs to their own.

The abuse that is trolled out onto newspapers’ Facebook pages is extraordinary. Sometimes you find people commenting who appear not to have even read the article, just the headline, and then they begin abusing one another and whoever wrote the piece.

I have even seen folk moaning that ‘this isn’t news, it’s an opinion’ – despite the fact that they are the person who has chosen to click on an obvious opinion column and read it.

Every paper on the planet has opinion columns and the very point of them is to engage readers in debate – but the healthy variety, where respectful points are posed and arguments made, with constructive critique and an attempt to appreciate the other person’s point of view.

An engagement of one’s high order thinking skills, categorising, sorting, ordering, analysing and so forth. Not attacks launched with vicious language and cruelty. Because if you cannot appreciate someone else’s point of view, and you are the sort of person who simply resorts to abuse if they disagree, then that is truly sad.

Since our days in the playground we’ve all known people who are cruel, teasing, mean, and bullying. Seriously – who the hell wants to be that when they’re an adult and they definitely know better?

Life simply plods on – even through global pandemics

It is inconceivable that our children are living through something that their grandchildren will learn about in school.

Schools have worked hard to ensure that vulnerable children are at school during lockdown, and those of critical workers, but plenty of us have our children at home.

This will never happen again in their lifetimes nor ours (if we go by the thinking that pandemics hit only once every century or so). They are making a history of their own to contribute to the books and footprint of the future.

Yet, to all intents and purposes, and because humans are excellent adaptors (it’s Darwin), life simply plods on. We adjust, we cope, we are resilient.