In times of great tragedy, social media is a contaminated place that makes even hell seem like a wonderfully curated IKEA showroom. It’s best to avoid it at all costs, and even more so, avoid the comment section under the posts that offer a semblance of sense. Though, it doesn’t stop me from putting on my protective gear and lowering myself down the crapshoot of baseless, self-serving opinions. I know what awaits me down there; potential threats to my sanity. Yet, there is this nagging curiosity that sits in my mind wantonly seeking how deep the roots of humanity’s ignorance run.
Look upon your landscape and take in the world that blazes with such ferocity. No, not the heatwave during this Springtime that is currently tormenting us while we work from home, but the punishing heat of rage, anger, and frustration. A sickness that has been angling to plague our lungs for the past four months has now taken a backseat to a more visceral sickness that has been plaguing our hearts for years and years.
On May 25th, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the police were called after an employee at a deli accused George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. The first squad car arrived at the scene, and the 17-minutes later Floyd was unconscious, pinned beneath three police officers, with one officer pressing his knee against the back of Floyd’s neck where he showed no signs of life. The officers fell tone-deaf to the cries of bystanders pleading for them to yield and let Floyd breathe. No, they continued to enforce their law, while the life of a black man perished beneath them. George Floyd did not just die, but he was murdered, and with that, the precariously imbalanced tower of tension that sways against the whipping winds of racial injustice had finally come crashing down.
In turn, a group of marginalised people have taken to the streets in solidarity to fight a familiar fight. They storm the streets carrying hurt and frustration in their hearts to protest, riot, and clash with the institute that continues to slain members of their community. They are angry, and the heinous murder that occured in the streets of Minneapolis is felt across the world, where people have been emotionally wounded, in turn protesting in their own way.
Borussia Dortmund winger, Jadon Sancho—along with teammate Achraf Hakimi and elsewhere, with Marcus Thuram of Borussia Monchengladbach —chose to use their platform to show their support in seeking justice for George Floyd’s murder. Sancho celebrated one of his three goals by lifting up his shirt, revealing a Justice for George Floyd message. Naturally, news outlets pivoted to cover the story, and it was on social media that I, again, armed myself with protective gear to lower myself down the crapshoot of the comment section. It didn’t take long for the venom of pure ignorance and entitlement to singe through my protection and gnaw at my sanity. Keep it out of sports was a tweet that I saw and I instantly felt the uncontrollable urge to do my own form of rioting. I wanted to douse their precious sport with kerosine and take a match to it, watching it burn to an unrecognisable crisp.
After the anger subsides I start to play out the conversation in my head, as if the author of the aforementioned comment was sitting right in front of me. I sit across him. Leaning forward, hands clasped together in what looks like an interrogation room, like the ones you see on TV — poorly lit, grainy walls, uncomfortable chairs, and a two-way mirror. What do you mean Keep it out of sports?, I ask sternly. As if sports were this pure, untainted virgin that is draped in hand-woven pristine white garments. So athletes like Sancho cannot protest against the vile and continuous mistreatment of black people because there isn’t a place for that type of stand in a sport like football? This is the same precious sport that has afforded racism the opportunity to make a home for itself and permeate its vile substance throughout the terraces of football grounds. Yet these victimised athletes are being told to cover their ears to the monkey chants bellowed down to them from the stands.
The scorched protective clothing clings to my skin and the poignant smell of burnt flesh numbs my senses, though I lower myself deeper down the hole. How deep does stupidity run? A question that is immediately answered after a short swipe of my phone: Hasn’t justice been served now? We’re back in the interrogation room… Alas, the murderer has been unmasked, caught, and arrested, I say facetiously. Pack up everyone, let’s go home, our job here is done. Justice has been served. The body of George Floyd yet to be lowered into the Earth, the tears of families and friends still flow with the same consistency of a waterfall. Though, we must now compartmentalise our emotions because the murderer has finally —after much deliberation — been apprehended. Surely you cannot really think that justice has been served in some roundabout-bullshit-fairytale type of way?
Why should I be surprised? In movies, the villain gets arrested, after threatening to rule with an iron fist, and the protagonist overcomes adversity and saves the day with pantomimic timing, and with that, everyone can go back to their vacuums of blissful ignorance. Though, in the reality of black lives, the narrative becomes one of custom where their voices become muted once the villain aka the police officer is either arrested or fired.
Movements that pertain to the mistreatment of black people such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement are placated and pandered to by the people that it is aimed at. They play with the idea as a toy would momentarily capture the attention of a child before he soon loses interest. They do just enough until the storm passes over, and then they leave via the backdoor as if clocking out on the job. In the Premier League, they release the No Room For Racism campaign, unfurling its banner once a year to meet the yearly quota. The same tired message each year, with the only change appearing in the colour palette, just to keep things fresh.
I currently reside in a pit of frustration where my blood courses through me with anger. The eyes that I usually rely on to see things with compassion stings with tears. They roll down the sides of my cheeks, fall off the cliff of my chin to splatter onto the backs of my hands as I write this post. I’m not sure what I really want from writing this. Perhaps I am just looking for a place of refuge— a place where I can unload my infantile thoughts at a nursery where they can hopefully mature into sense. These series of sentences and paragraphs strung together by a ravaged mind is akin to taboo fusions of cookery I used to do as a child —where I used to pair cereal with Coke or when I would slather ketchup atop my rice as defiance towards my mother’s Nigerian cuisine.
Before I veer off the cliff of sense, I will punctuate this post with a parting message: to you all, listen to the black people talk. Listen to their cries with your ears, emphasise their suffering with your hearts, and move your body in tune with their march against injustice. It’s no longer enough to not just be racist. You must graduate towards becoming anti-racist and then go back for a Master’s degree in applying accountability. That means, holding yourself, your friends, and your family accountable. Silence and yawning indifference can longer be something that we exercise in the face of racism.
Also, don’t be like me, who sadistically volunteers himself down the crapshoot of bone-weary comments. Brace yourself against the ignorant or better yet, avoid social media at all costs.