George Floyd and Allyship

Image credit: Tim Mossholder

George Floyd was murdered when a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground, knelt on his neck, cut off his airway and suffocated him. As with Eric Garner killed by a New York police officer in 2014, Floyd’s last words were “I can’t breathe”.

This was the news this week. Once again, I sat at home in London scrolling through social media, witnessing the shaky phone footage, the outrage, the protests, the fallout over another senseless murder of a black person in an American town. When 1,014 people have been shot and killed by police over the past year, with black Americans killed at twice the rate of white Americans, is this news? These figures do not account for victims killed by suffocation, as was the case with Floyd and Garner.

Watching this unfold through the lens of my social media, the coverage is mixed in with recipes for vegan lasagna and CEO’s touting the hiring of a new D&I chief or donation of laptops to disadvantaged communities. I see praise and positivity alongside mediated police brutality, in a context of structural racism. This juxtaposition mimics the ambivalence I’ve felt over the past few years, witnessing an apparent epidemic of police brutality while going about my day. As usual, the internet, more specifically writer @quintabrunson on a microblogging platform, has better articulated my feelings than I can:

How do I absorb these stories, and go on with my day around people who may or may not be as moved and outraged as I am? It’s similar to the work of diversity advocacy, trying to articulate the unique experiences of underrepresented groups, structural oppressions and disadvantages they face. And then working with those who hold power and influence to fix it, and act as true allies. It takes attention, patience and engagement. It takes optimism and showing up, even when that feels impossible. 

Our socially mediated world allows us to connect news stories in Minneapolis with global structural inequities. We can pay attention and act from afar, but also give patience and attention to each other in our own communities. In the workplace, our BAME employees need support and recognition for the emotional labor and anxiety caused by triggering news, like the murder of George Floyd. Whether we witness prejudice or racism in the news or firsthand, it hurts. That’s where allyship isn’t a “nice to have”, a talking point or a social media brag, it is required. We can show up for each other and we can show up from afar.

A few suggestions:

  • Follow George Floyd’s family attorney Benjamin Crump on social media

  • Make a donation to the George Floyd memorial fund, supporting costs for funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings.

Frank Starling is the Founder and MD of Variety Pack.

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