Featured Image Steve Biko. Stained glass window by Daan Wildschut in the Saint Anna Church, Heerlen (the Netherlands), ca. 1976. One of 12 modern saints
How the Ethics Matter Podcast is developing intergenerational/intersectional allyship
In the year since 46 year old George Floyd’s public execution on while allegedly being arrested for using a counterfeit twenty dollar note at the Cup Food store at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis what has changed?
Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His colleagues Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane will go on trial in August.
Have we really absorbed that insight?
A man was murdered in plain view of the world. A 17 year old’s (Darnella Frazier’s), phone camera got there before ethics, before love, justice, opportunity, peace.
Here’s her statement May 25th 2021:
“A year ago, today, I witnessed a murder.
The victim’s name was George Floyd. Although this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a black man get killed at the hands of the police, this is the first time I witnessed it happen in front of me.
Right in front of my eyes a few feet away.
I didn’t know this man from a can of paint, but I knew his life mattered. I knew that he was in pain.
I knew that he was another black man in danger with no power.
I was only 17 at the time, just a normal day for me walking my 9-year-old cousin to the corner store, not even prepared for what I was about to see, not even knowing my life was going to change on this exact day in those exact moments… it did.
It changed me.
It changed how I viewed life. It made me realize how dangerous it is to be Black in America.
We shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around police officers, the same people that are supposed to protect and serve.
We are looked at as thugs, animals, and criminals, all because of the color of our skin. Why are Black people the only ones viewed this way when every race has some type of wrongdoing?
None of us are to judge. We are all human. I am 18 now and I still hold the weight and trauma of what I witnessed a year ago.
It’s a little easier now, but I’m not who I used to be.
A part of my childhood was taken from me. My 9-year-old cousin who witnessed the same thing I did got a part of her childhood taken from her.
Having to up and leave because my home was no longer safe, waking up to reporters at my door, closing my eyes at night only to see a man who is brown like me, lifeless on the ground. I couldn’t sleep properly for weeks. I used to shake so bad at night my mom had to rock me to sleep. Hopping from hotel to hotel because we didn’t have a home and looking over our back every day in the process.
Having panic and anxiety attacks every time I seen a police car, not knowing who to trust because a lot of people are evil with bad intentions.
I hold that weight.
A lot of people call me a hero even though I don’t see myself as one. I was just in the right place at the right time.
Behind this smile, behind these awards, behind the publicity, I’m a girl trying to heal from something I am reminded of every day. Everyone talks about the girl who recorded George Floyd’s death, but to actually be her is a different story.
Not only did this affect me, my family too. We all experienced change.
My mom the most. I strive every day to be strong for her because she was strong for me when I couldn’t be strong for myself. Even though this was a traumatic life-changing experience for me, I’m proud of myself.
If it weren’t for my video, the world wouldn’t have known the truth. I own that.
My video didn’t save George Floyd, but it put his murderer away and off the streets.
You can view George Floyd any way you choose to view him, despite his past, because don’t we all have one? He was a loved one, someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s brother, and someone’s friend.
We the people won’t take the blame, you won’t keep pointing fingers at us as if it’s our fault, as if we are criminals.
I don’t think people understand how serious death is…that person is never coming back.
These officers shouldn’t get to decide if someone gets to live or not.
It’s time these officers start getting held accountable.
Murdering people and abusing your power while doing it is not doing your job.
It shouldn’t have to take people to actually go through something to understand it’s not ok.
It’s called having a heart and understanding right from wrong. George Floyd, I can’t express enough how I wish things could have went different, but I want you to know you will always be in my heart. I’ll always remember this day because of you.
May your soul rest in peace. May you rest in the most beautiful roses.”
In May 2020 we were in the middle of the covid pandemic itself an indictment of institutions built by people of colour then locked out of the economy by resource and opportunity segregation in the post second world war reconstruction of health, education, housing, manufacturing and service economies.
In the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul where George lived, you can see racialisation in health:
In St Paul, in Minneapolis where George died, you can see the 150 year history of police used to uproot indigenous, settling and settled black communities, after the civil war and now: still using the police service to achieve that highly contested goal:
Enough Is Enough: A 150 Year Review Of The Minneapolis Police Department:
When you see the detail of how the racialisation of state power has removed diverse communities from the centre of what could be a healthy economy and society: see the history of how the diverse and thriving neighbourhood of the Rondo in Minneapolis (about seven miles from where George Floyd was murdered). From the 1930’s to the 1950s the war against the freedom of indigenous and settler communities to grow was bulldozed by redlining philosophies (with the normalisation of social commentary a narrative, that Italians, ‘negroes’ and jews occupied ‘slums’):
So that a place like The Rondo which had been growing and thriving, disappeared. Removing tangible economic gains made by black and other communities, making them permanently migrant on the outside, always on the back foot. All that remains of community economies are festivals, like relics. (Rondo Lives Still Matter):
When you think about this history you realise how the tweet from Donald Trump on April 17th to liberate Minnesota in response to the governor’s executive order to stay at home, was a clarion call to the gun lobby, to the racists in Minnesota (and in the police service) to come to the aid of the party.
George Floyd had been a target in the past and was in mortal fear of his life because of the racial targetting and profiling. In the year since his death Joe Biden’s been elected and Trump’s tweets have been silenced. Biden introducing a Police Reform Bill is a beginning of reshaping presidency that he and Kamala Harris were elected to implement. A better planet for everyone
The Wellbeing Economy Alliance: https://wellbeingeconomy.org/about
In the Ethics Matter Podcast Compassionate Disrupter Coach Charmaine Roche champions the ethics of a wellbeing economy with guests from all over the world:
Last year, having finished the first season of the podcast she brought together a group of people from all generations, family and work colleagues to talk about George Floyd’s murder and its impact on them. You can listen to the podcast
On the first anniversary of the killing, after the trial Charmaine, Ayesha, Cara, Nicole and Martha reunite to consider the last year in terms of social justice, economics, psychological safety, ethics, wellbeing and the global future. I’ve transcribed the conversation.
Charmaine Dear Listeners: welcome back to season 3 of Speak Up Speak Out the Ethics Matter podcast so much has happened since the launch of the podcast in 30th April 2020 we’re still experiencing a global pandemic social climate and racial justice issues that are challenging our sense of who we are and what we want to strive for. I promise you more generative conversations to feed the imagination and fortify the spirit.
Welcome to this special edition of Speak Up Speak Out. I’m really pleased to welcome back Nicole Ayesha, Cara and Martha we first got together last year after the murder of George Floyd and it’ll be the first anniversary of his death so I thought it would be timely to reconvene for a conversation about what we feel has changed since then. Derek Chauvin has been on trial and found guilty of murder. While we often reference the US when we’re thinking of GeorgeFloyd there’s also what’s been going on in the UK since his murder. But then we’ve also had the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities which tried to tell us that there’s no such thing as systemic racism in the UK. That went down well. We have a seriously frightening policing and xenophobic immigration policy being introduced so it’s not just a US issue we know it’s a global issue. I’m having lots of conversations about race, I’m being invited to have conversations I’m having more conversations but I’m feeling ambivalent about that.
Ayesha I think you’ve sort of touched on there around it’s definitely having more conversations I’d second that: it’s definitely opened up the conversation at a scale that I haven’t been personally been exposed to before in my lifetime or in my career if you think about the last ten years as a Clinical Psychologist working in the NHS who’s always had an interest in thinking about equality and the ethnic inequalities that are really apparent in health care.
I’ve always paid attention to it so I think for me it feels there’s definitely been a shift in amounts of conversations we’ve been having in how even terms like white privilege which often before people were afraid to use terms are being used in a blatant and slightly (slightly more) more accepted way in some circles I’m relating this again a lot to work in public discourse more prevalent but comes with a lot of different things comes with a personal tension in relation to how I get involved in those efforts and the toll it takes on me….and the realisation of
the impact of the fact these conversations haven’t happened before so mixed feelings but despair a lot of the world…is still…. there’s still quite a lot of education to be done in understanding to be gained in different spaces so many spaces with people who are just getting to grips with these conversations mainly people of colour who start these conversations but not just but mainly who start these conversations. It’s nice to not only be the one to start these conversations though the effort I’m having to make is still taking its toll. I’m interested to know how it’s going to grow.. a small seed has been planted…and it needs to grow…
Cara Bouncing off what you’ve said the factual is that Derek Chauvin was charged. We don’t know. That moment is so full of ambivalence relief, exhaustion…. ambivalence.
It’s the first time anyone’s been convicted for murdering probably within ten minutes of that verdict another little black girl was slaughtered.
I tweeted something about how loaded that moment was.
I don’t think you can call it celebrate: finally there’s been a glimmer of justice but it’s so cyclical that you can’t even catch your breath a weird process to juggle what are these slight progressions that we need to acknowledge for our own wellbeing.
This was fought for on a world scale and there’s something in that that matters but be realistic: there’s a long way to go before we can really say we’ve reached progress.
Not a performative show. I’ve been wrestling with that.
Derek Chauvin convicted is just the beginning.
Martha I think this is a very strange place. I was thinking really hard reflecting on the year.
I’m definitely not as emotive as I was at the time, I just feel that this process has almost… kind of…broken something… in a sense of we saw something horrendous happen, the whole world saw something horrendous happen and we still had to debate it.
We saw it and people were still debating it. I know we’d seen other cases but this was to the next level. We saw a meme coldblooded murder. Someone cold bloodedly murdered someone and still had to go to trial and still have to hope and wonder if we will we still get justice.
There are no words for the reality we are in.
It steps into that reality: we’re in a dangerous place because it was so public. The establishment had no choice. It’s almost as if they’re saying: ‘give them this one and that shuts them up, and they can’t say anything about it’, to shut us up. (Derek Chauvin) He’s a sacrificial lamb: ‘you went too far, you got caught we had to sacrifice you so we don’t have to solve the problem’ The problem is how we are viewed.
A young girl, whether knife in hand or not was shot (several times) and killed, whereas white counterparts with machine guns, go into schools and come out alive, come out alive: in fact for the people who kill black people, you check on them
and ask if they’re ok and give them water….
We have to understand what that means in terms of how people see us.
It’s the next level of anti black racism next level any ethnic group faced racism, sometimes our argument is so what but this is an extra layer when it’s anti black racism We need to look at that and see and understand what that what I mean by something’s broken: opens up, shows the atrocities, disadvantage, inequality we are facing even though this happens have to tell our children to fix themselves, fix the disadvantage, even though the world saw what was wrong and said we will deal with it. We will talk the airs of this problem, research the hell out of it put committees together but the actual action is the total opposite. If you look at the laws that have been put in place recently are the total opposite.
If I wasn’t a fighter…. what more literally do we do…?
Charmaine We’ll come back to that question
Nicole I’ll echo what Martha said it resonates with a feeling of exhaustion. How blatant you have to be before people acknowledge that something wrong is happening.
People will justify it. It feels provocative. Whether it feels unconsciously, or the world being provocative, it feels provocative. Whether there’s unconscious provocative irony on the same day of Chauvin being convicted, the young lady being murdered in the street, provocative, I agree.
I agree Cara, It doesn’t give you time to breathe. I was scrolling less than five minutes between those two actions there was no time to be relieved.
I can hear the exhaustion in everyone’s voices, the level of deflation. I was disillusioned with our ability to change the system, I don’t think it’s broken think it’s working the way it was designed to work. I was disillusioned with that years and years ago. Then you have these moments when your fire is reignited with something like this has happened then you go the world has been angry, collectively the world has been been angry and for reasons that have already been stated onwards and forwards. I’ll echo what’s been stated.
Charmaine I can’t let us stay with despair.
My analysis is that through the racialisation of humanity if we become holed up in a position of despair about what we feel is a total dehumanisation of black people.
The reason why race as it currently exists (because racism has changed its form) racism came about under the development of capitalism as imperial power, even though imperialism has ceased to exist in its former occupation of foreign lands, has changed its form , it’s inherently a form designed to protect capitalism, keep it in place.
Capitalism as a form of economic political power maintains itself through the racialisation of people.
If I have any hope it’s that the reason why provocations happen how they keep us locked in that sense of hopelessness of our separateness, our otherness as a despised form of being though the eyes of white supremacy driven up against that wall: not only are we ruled but other people, as well.
It’s very interesting I’ve been reading Foucault who produced a genealogy of race over time.
Capitalism colonises everyone Foucault identified in the genealogy of (the progression of racialisation) in a race to fascism.
Capitalism rules us all: its rules are that we are objects and subjects superior and inferior .
We ourselves are the means by which the form of rule is kept in place. If that is so, surely it’s within our power to break the form. One thing about history is that when people know what they have to lose they decide to fight.
If you think about some of the legislation put through by this government police bill ban demos protest common interest. I don’t’ know what it’s going to take to make people realise that we need to end these forms of rule.
Nicole I think mum, there’s something about not, not sitting in that despair the blatant, visible pain we’ve had to go though in order to get people to pay attention.
I don’t know what to call it but that pain needs to be acknowledged. It makes me realise what is enough and what isn’t enough. Yes we want to think about change but what are the signs of hope? We have to acknowledge that there haven’t yet been great signs of hope. Yes there has been the guilty verdict yes it feels like an individual person has been made to take accountability but surely it’s the bare minimum.
So for me acknowledging that despair and moving to a place of hope, it is going to be a slow journey I don’t think it’s awful to be in this place tired, exhausted.
We need to be thinking about radical transformation as opposed to tick box exercises and reports that gas-light us into believing that institutional racism doesn’t exist and it’s all in our heads. I do think mum that hope comes from despair. Individually, we might all be exhausted by the process, by the past year on top of just consuming
all the information about injustice inequality -that’s what drains energy.
For me individually it doesn’t make me hopeless but cautious about success, it’s a small tiny step and what I see as just disrespectful when we’re thinking about efforts to improve equality.
Charmaine I won’t disagree
Cara I really like that point you’ve made about the emotions.
I agree with that strong sit with that when we’re ready.
Coming back to positive changes outcomes, one thing I’ve noticed the race topic can’t be ignored or glossed over. It’s almost becoming a framework in places, institutions than it previously was, with that risk things being of co-opted:
They can co-opt it spin it on you.
I’ve been stepping in to, have been invited into more spaces as a voice of authority but it can be dangerous:
Touching on what Ayesha has said, I’m getting better at dealing with it. After George Floyd’s murder I shut down couldn’t do anything
and felt such a debilitating sorrow…..
The way I’m dealing with it ….the way I’m interacting with social media, interacting with people/ I feel more people are aware and it’s not as debilitating as it has been in the past.
Interesting is that desensitisation…or?
Nicole The kind of thought that keeps popping into my head is I think we still have the desire and hope for this society to accept us.
To me that’s not necessarily the goal. We need to detach from that expectation or desire. That’s the system that’s been created. The superior are the majority even though they’re not the majority or superior. If that group of people, either consciously or sub consciously have that challenged (what does equal look like), it might be scary,
might be their version of despair.
The only way out is to let go of the system….is to let go of the white gaze.
I feel there is movement towards this when not consumed by media.
I sometimes see a post where the comments were so depressing. The opinions dehumanising, dismissing. Actually, why should I care …we are in circles, like the people who are here well read, educated. ,
We have the self esteem that we’re trying to ask for some sections of the black community who might not share that, might not necessarily have. My point is we can’t move from despair until we separate from the desire to be looked on differently from people who have no…nothing to be gained.
Charmaine That was what I was trying to say I was agonising about my identity, where I belonged. When Bio said I’ve always belonged….(Episode 1 Series 3 Bayo Akomolafe)
Yeah, actually we’re born onto the planet where else do we belong? We can’t be actually belong anywhere else other than where we are. The very fact that we question we belong is a form of internalised oppression is how we’ve internalised the racialisation. Actually we do belong
the world is my village
There might be some people who don’t agree with that. It doesn’t change the fact that I belong.
Martha Nicole I agree with you a million percent.
I know I’m radical. I keep saying we can’t expect to thrive in a system built by oppressors in order to hold us back and the prob is we are trying to change by conforming in a system. Change only happens outside our comfort zone. To be honest, the system can’t be accepted. I say it for other communities who won’t accept change in any form. You talking about their community won’t conform, won’t change their rituals. We are trying to integrate into something that isn’t ours in the first instance. That outside feeling we are trying to be inside a group that’s not ours.
If we were all to go into workplace as authentic they
would have no choice but to accept us how we are.
We are trying constantly to conform. That’s the difference.
We can’t go through this process and expect to get through this process. We can’t sit on the fence asking:
“Please sir, don’t hurt me any more, please don’t do this any more, don’t do this”
I’m not saying it requires violence but it does require defiance. No. I’m saying we’re not going to accept this any more. As small as we are in the west we make a significant impact. The west wouldn’t be what it is without us either here physically or in our resources they have used elsewhere.
In relation to the despair element the biggest thing for me this year is the blessing and the curse of being a strong black woman.
The notion as black people as a whole we are formidable what we have gone through historically to still be standing and still be sane. And no, That generational trauma exists and to still be here shows, lets us know how powerful we are, it kind of keeps us going but in the same instance we’re not allowed to feel.
What is it like not to be allowed to cry, not allowed to feel despair?
You’re not allowed to do anything, not allowed to sit in the moment and actually, genuinely, say:
“Just think about the damage or what it is you’re carrying based on where we’ve all come from. Sit in that for a moment and rather than try and say deal with it,
Try to get it out of your systems, then move on …
and know you are powerful
and know you’re powerful because you went through it.
I say it from the impact these things have. I can’t even go on holiday and not expect something negative.
I went on holiday to Bali.
I was in Nigeria so once you’re out of the system you don’t expect racism. You’re protected. Then there was me leaving Nigeria to go directly to Bali. You no longer have your protection: you’re not ready for that.
There was I forgetting that I was black but there I was also, expecting the taxi driver (because I’m black) or stores (because I’m black) or restaurant to deal with me in a different manner because I’m black.
None of that was there but it’s ingrained in you. The damage is there never goes away you never get the oppression from Balinese people
but the tourists would remind you
(have a look at Representations of Colonial Bali in the 1930’s As Seen By Male and Female Travellers by Jojo Riya Sitampul Warwick Thesis June 2008)
that you were black even in a place like that I didn’t get opportunity to have peace because my life experience is carried with me even though I hadn’t been directly been impacted for a good couple of years because I was out of it that thing stays with you forever this stays forever that carries with us for over all these periods that’s why it resonates when you see another black person somewhere else none of us can hear someone else’s story because none of us can hear someone’s story and it not resonate, go somewhere and not have that experience.
It’s your life all the time, even when you pretend it’s not happening you still have to
lose a piece of yourself to pretend
there’s no getting away with it once you’re alone and you’re silent and you face this thing you have to deal with it.
I think we have to hone into that and accept that
not in a defeated way but let’s accept the reality and face the emotions: anger, hate, upset and accept that not in a defeated way, let’s deal with the emotions ….
and when we have finally
pulled them out of our system
so they’re not inside of us and toxic
We can use our strength in a powerful way and feel confident
In saying do you know what?
If I go into
this place and pretend to be something other than black
you’re still going to treat me bad
At least let me go here being my full self and at least let us go through this whole experience where I at least don’t have that burden of everything else
That’s the reality I genuinely believe us getting rid of the systemic racism may not happen but do we need to get rid of it if we can go into that system, be ourself, push through those barriers because we’re refusing to allow you to hold us back?
I’d rather it is that it’s a fight for me to get through and rather getting to level ten I get to level 9.
I can deal with that that’s a battle worth fighting for in being myself rather than not being myself and getting to level 3
Ayesha For me there’s power in pain either because I’ve witnessed someone else’s or our own, where something’s going on that’s not right for me whether suppressing myself at work or seeing something disadvantage people from a certain racial group, that pain is something I need to feel.
It’s my radar. I think that when I feel that I need to say, do something/do something definitely recognising something. In recognising what we’ve internalised and doing our own whatever that takes to be authentic to step into ourselves in environments where it’s not accepted but still be ourselves.
One side of it for me it’s also about we might have the power to do that ourselves but not everybody does have the power to do that. For me, the sense of discomfort, even when I’m being, when I feel like I’m authentic myself comes with knowing the practice around me and the people around me it’s oppressing the people who don’t have the power to step into their own.
I guess again I’m thinking about the context of massive mental health care inequality and what’s accepted is the western version (of diagnosis and treatment). People accepting a mental health problem: depression, anxiety, psychosis that if they have religious beliefs about the cause of their distress that they’re seen as lacking insight. This is something I find very difficult. Regardless of the work I do individually, if the system doesn’t change, if the system is oppressing the people, there’s a huge battle I’m fighting. I’m aware of a sense of it being a long hard battle.
Cara Just having conversation about black liberation so important.
It’s a long battle more and more and more I’m learning how to articulate the fatigue through linking to the Nap Ministry.
The work they do is amazing. It’s a black led for black people an organisation that believes that rest is revolutionary.
It has changed my life. Rest for us is not just rest but an acknowledgment of the effort (the impact) of trying to squeeze into these systems is depleting, exhausting. Having that space is recuperative, restorative.
Racism’s relentlessness that doesn’t let us stop. Toni Morrison notes the never ending battle to defend yourself, to remind people of your humanity. Once we have these collective open conversations admitting I’m tired, I need to rest.
That is a kink in racism: that we don’t have the energy to fight.
My activism is centred on this wellbeing aspect that’s been so restorative as a young woman in the early stages of what will be a lifelong battle to deal with racism.
Charmaine It’s sobering to listen to you. I’ve chosen to remain in the activist field when I could retire although I’ve had moments of exhaustion, the luxury that I could step back. I don’t have to fit in.
I’ve had to call out whiteness. It did put me out of action for a week. For me, this isn’t about suppressing pain or not facing how depleting activism is for me, it’s a world outlook I’ve had since my twenties based on a sense that we are part of an organism and it’s quite complex.
It’s true our lived experience as racialised beings is so dominated by that, but that’s not the only system.
Our ancestry system, the history of struggles, there’s an interconnected complex system of resistance that allows us to rest.
We know might be on the frontline, fighting at one point . When we need to rest at the time, we need to rest . Other people move forward and are fighting until the system and the ways people oppress others is ended. There’ll always be some people on the frontline, somebody, not us people who look like us or not.
Every act of resistance matters (is matter). I’m not saying that to make you feel better! It isn’t easy, it’s not easy.
Cara As you were talking something came to mind . The battle’s not just ours. The battle is not just for black people to be doing this work to end racism is as much of a white problem, an anyone problem, as it is a black problem. That is a problem, something that can’t be ended by singular effort because it benefits everyone. We talk about activism, kind of being us. It’s this neccessity for allyship to bring it to an end….
Ayesha Collective action. I’ve noticed, understandably, when you’re in this way of thinking, trying to create change and influence the narrative, when I’ve looked around for support whether thinking about other people in the field are doing thinking about what amazing research developments there are to draw on. There is massive strength in our collective power. You can end up feeling alone.
Charmaine That’s how they win….they…. atomise us…
Cara You can feel alone the only one fighting a battle
Ayesha You’re not alone.
There are places to resource yourself: I’ve found amazing networks so important raise voice when I need to.
Martha: Each individual’s actions matter.
That’s when we feel hopeless. We can fix the small picture but we give up power when we try to change others.
We’re not powerless. In our everyday actions your power is in being you.
Noone can do you: noone can do it the way you do. Be your authentic self with whatever cause is important to you. If we all did that, slowly we’d take small steps that lead to bigger steps.
Nicole Spaces like this are important. I feel energised. It’s about owning the space and saying yes I’m supposed to be here.
This is what I have to say in this space. The important thing to do is very powerful. Finding and claiming space is our right within an institution (I’ve joined Black Girls Hike on Facebook)