Sandra Bland, a brown civil rights activist from Chicago, was found dead in a police cell almost two weeks ago. Although the facts around her death remain unclear, what is painfully obvious is she is another innocent victim of police brutality. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that US police killings are headed towards 1,100 this year, with black Americans two times as likely to die. It doesn’t seem like institutional racism and the oppression of black people that has been raging across The Land of the Free for hundreds of years is coming to an end any time too soon. As her family and friends mourn the senseless barbarity that so swiftly and needlessly eradicated her existence, many of us are left wondering what to do when the world feels like it’s gone mad.
Around the same time of Sandra’s killing, a group of teenagers opened fire with a machine gun on a busy street in Wood Green, North London. Erdogan Guzel, father of two, was shot dead whilst drinking coffee with his friends on a Friday evening. Reports suggest that he was an unintended victim caught up in a turf war between rival gangs. Again, another life obliterated within seconds. His wife is in pieces, and his children will grow up with only memories of their father and for what? What was going through the kids’ heads as they picked up the machine gun? What leads people to have such disregard for life?
These deaths have forced me again to question how have we got here and what, if anything, can I do about it. For the last two years I have been purposefully disengaging from activism and politics. Instead, I’ve worked tirelessly on healing myself. I’ve been processing my own tragedies and sometimes-questionable life choices whilst trying to develop a philosophical understanding, which enables me to understand my relationship with myself and others. I’ve stopped watching the news, stopped reading the papers, and hardly ever go to any political protests. Years of immersing myself in battling against the needless immiseration of vast swathes of the world’s population had made me angry, and I came to the realisation that this wasn’t going to help anybody.
Why am I telling you this? Because when we are faced with needless killing, racism, war, occupation, climate change, poverty, abuse, violence, corruption and the list goes on, ultimately we all have a choice with how we can process these ills. Often people give up; they embed themselves in a state of denial or self-imposed ignorance as they can’t cope and feel like that there is nothing that can be done. Although this is a totally understandable reaction, there is a great deal that we as individuals and communities can do, with minimal effort and often no cost.
What we can control is ourselves. We have the power to choose to be good people, to be compassionate, patient and understanding. We can be tolerant; we can listen and extend ourselves to others. We might not be able to afford to donate to charity, or even to volunteer our time to projects or organisations. However, we can smile at people on the street, we can check if our neighbours are alright, we can be kind to strangers. We can buy a homeless person a sandwich, or sit and have a chat. We can stop and ask the person crying silently on the train if there is any way we can help. We can boycott corporations that we know are involved in human rights violations and we can sign petitions. These are all things that are within our control. These are things we can do to stop ourselves from feeling paralysed and the ripple effect of acting in this way, is immeasurable.
#SayHerName #SandraBland #WhatHappenedtoSandraBland #SandySpeaks