It was a powerful moment to join brothers and sisters of all shades, protesting in the streets of Brooklyn ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏻✊🏼 in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. I was moved to see a middle-aged lady who was sitting in her car overwhelmed with tears. She was witnessing the sea of protesters before her, and the unity amongst everyone was clear.
Nonetheless, it is sad that it took the death of one more black life, #GeorgeFloyd, for governments around the world and here in the USA to finally reopen the conversations around systemic racism as a racial injustice.
We reflect on the fact that it has been over 400 years since slave ships landed in the Americas as a result of the brutal transatlantic slave trade, which has shaped history in so many ways. And it’s been 56 years since the end of Jim Crow in the US and about 30 years since apartheid ended in South Africa. One thing we know is, these may seem to have ended on paper, but we still suffer the indelible and devastating effects of these policies globally.
Black lives indeed matter!
In countries around the world, racism and the ills of slavery continues. It shows it’s ugly face yearly in the blackface traditions of the Netherlands. However, the lynching of George Floyd, which made it’s way around the globe via social media and has sparked protests globally, was the catalyst for the outcry and changes that have slowly begun to be enacted. In fact, as a result of the recent events, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands who held a very strong view prior to today that Black Pete—where the dutch dress in blackface and depict a traditional character, Zwarte Piet—should stay as is, said his views on Black Pete has changed, “I expect that in the coming years almost no Petes will be black.” In the UK and Belgium, these changes are marked by the toppling of statues, by the people, that were erected to memorialize slave traders.
Interestingly, though many countries where blacks are the minority may have similar experiences as blacks in the US, it appears that the US has VERY deep issues with race. Issues they have been pushed under the rug. However, COVID emerged and quickly reopened many of those wounds that had never been healed. Ironically, America—the land of the “free”…—had never really reconciled with its slavery past, which then created racism. And then segregation. And then left us where we are today. For too long, they have remained silent on the calls to deal with police brutality, but most importantly, the systemic oppressions that persisted after the era of Jim Crow and slavery.
However, though many have fallen at the hands of racists in the past, Floyd’s death has somehow resonated with the world. Might it be because of his apparent lynching, which showed the hate in the officer’s eyes? Visible for all to see, thanks to social media. None the less, we hope that George’s death will be the catalyst that will cause blacks globally to begin to breathe, professionally, physically, and emotionally. We hope that his death—as it has evoked emotions in so many, and has shined the lights on the systems of oppression in the US—will continue to spark heaping reforms in the chambers of state and local governments, Congress and in other global halls of power.
We hope that a day will come when Young Black Travelers globally, will no longer experience systematic racism. However, let’s hope that that day comes sometime soon so our world will become tolerable, and we will be able to breathe without restraints.