Racism, Resistance and Roots; How George Floyd Helped Us Reconsider Our Reality

At the murder of George Floyd, a fire ignited, and its embers have scattered across the globe. Conversations surrounding racial inequality have emerged in new and unexpected places, causing greater comprehension of a vastly important, yet often ignored topic.

I’ve always been passionate about equality thus has never considered that I could be complicit with abusive behaviours and attitudes. However, the colour of my skin has shielded me from ever having to approach dialogue surrounding race, allowing me to effectively overlook racism.

The Black Lives Matter movement has encouraged me to refocus my attention, rejecting Eurocentrism as the ‘default’ narrative. The white privilege I possess is more obvious to me now, I’ve tailored my social media feeds to include the voices of more people of colour and I’m currently reading an excellent book: Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy.

Given these fresh perspectives, I have come to many new conclusions. Perhaps the largest is that, in hindsight, I was fed a very whitewashed version of history.

I haven’t been alone in this realisation: a plethora of petitions have been set up to insist schools across the UK are more inclusive of Black history whilst protesters and petitioners alike demand that we become more conscious of the narratives we project and consume. Perhaps it’s time we accepted accountability of our ancestors, especially as their actions feed the racial biases that exists today.  

The removal of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol has sparked debate nationwide. Protestors have dug up our roots, exposing them to stark daylight. But these uncomfortable actualisations beg questions. Is this statue necessary in a city that is so rich in alternative stories, symbols and subjects? Should we be publicly parading figures that actively participated in the slave trade?

A similar occurrence is currently dividing my hometown of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. The town I have grown up in is shadowed by a racially derogatory caricature which sits in the town centre. A petition that asks for its removal has experienced enormous success and has amassed over 60,000 signatures thus far. However, this has been met with huge opposition from some locals, claiming the figure of a “Turks Head” is crucial to our local history.

“An ember has landed in Ashbourne. Despite the division, it’s important that these conversations are being had, particularly in smaller and much less diverse towns.”

Evie Cantello

Now, our town is not shy of debating ‘Up’ vs. ‘Down’, yet it’s more commonly shouted during the annual ‘Shrovetide football’ match. This rivalry is key to Ashbourne and gameplay is in our nature. However, the decision by the locals to steal the head themselves to ‘protect’ it and restore it with ‘a lick of black paint’, despite Derbyshire Dales County Council insisting they were going to remove it, is considered foul play.

It’s evident the two sides have different perceptions of what racial biases and racism mean. But at least an ember has landed in Ashbourne. Despite the division, it’s important that these conversations are being had, particularly in smaller and much less diverse towns. We’re thinking about our history and heritage. And now we’re acknowledging our past, we must decide how we utilise it to inform our futures.

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