Opinion: Floyd’s death is a watershed moment

PUBLISHED: 08:30 14 June 2020

Dr Lawrence Foley wants young people to know the truth about the death of George Floyd.

Dr Lawrence Foley wants young people to know the truth about the death of George Floyd.

Bobby Moore Academy

My son is three weeks old. I spend my days trying to work out what he needs, and doing everything I can to give that to him.

In the middle of the night, I wake up panicked that he is not there. I watch him breathe. I have no faith, but I pray to whatever means the good that he lives a long and happy life.

I hope that he is safe, that he is treated kindly and treats others with kindness.

I hope he never experiences discrimination, that he is never hurt by those who are supposed to keep him safe.

I hope he looks at me with incredulity when I explain what the world was like before he was born.

I hope he shakes his head and tells me I must be mad.

I wonder how different these thoughts are to those had by the parents of George Floyd or Belly Mujinga. Surely they too hoped to bring their children into a world that would treat them better than it did.

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Watching the events of the past two weeks unfold on our screens, I have been appalled by humanity’s capacity to discriminate and brutalise and infuriated by the moral bankruptcy of some of our leaders.

Our young people will too have viewed these events, heard these reports, read these stories.

They too will feel let down. They too will feel frightened.

We owe them an explanation.

It would be all too simple to talk of the killing of George Floyd as something inexplicable, something without sense or reason. But this would be a lie.

We owe them the truth, however uncomfortable that might be.

We owe it to them to recognise that the killing of George Floyd and of other black men and women by police officers can only be understood through the lens of structural oppression and racism.

There are certain moments in history that feel historic even as they happen, moments that feel like a watershed before they have passed.

Let this be one of them. Let us offer our young people the realistic hope that, even if George Floyd’s is not the first unlawful killing of a black person by police, his might be the last. We have work to do.

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