“We’re hurting. We’re hurting. Every time I’m waking up and I’m reading social media, it’s heavy. It lays heavy on your heart.”
Some of the most significant voices we should be listening to right now are those of Black creators: the individuals who are using their platforms to express the incomprehensible difficulties of being subject to life-long discrimination in our racist societies. Among them is Akira Kay, who draws light on her experiences as a Black woman in the UK and the lack of recognition for our own systematic injustices as a nation, as we witness the exposure of institutionalised racism in the US.
“This is important to me,” Akira begins the video. “Because of who I am, my identity, my culture, my beliefs and understanding of the world.” It is unimaginable to understand the extent to which racism has affected the lives of Black people in our modern world, as well as throughout history, but in this sentence alone it‘s clear that its impact manifests fear at a basic level of existence for Black people and communities.
Akira goes on to explain how “as horrible as it sounds”, police brutality in the US is more common than most people are aware of. She draws attention to murder of George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer on 25 May who was ‘restraining’ him, and whose death has sparked huge outrage and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the age of 24, Akira says that she can’t convey how many times she has witnessed the murder of a Black person by the police over social media or the news; a reality many of us can most likely relate to at this moment.
Akira then goes on to explain that, despite what we are seeing across the Internet regarding racism in the US, it is “definitely still an issue” in the UK. Mark Duggan, who she then makes reference to, was shot and killed by police in 2011, and is just one example of a case in the UK which failed to reach justice, in spite of nationwide outrage and rioting at the time.
It’s a horrible reality that Akira’s points are affirmed by so many examples of racism and injustice in the UK. The case of Stephen Lawrence is yet a further example of a racially-motivated murder and attempted cover-up by the police – his killers were only convicted in 2012.
Despite being perhaps a more ‘subtle’ form of racism, the UK is undeniably guilty of the same systemic injustice as that seen in the US. Both need to be addressed to reach a place of true equality. Actor Daniel Kaluuya eloquently lays down some distinction between our two nations in this short video.
Akira explains the forms of racism she herself has experienced as a Black woman: during her time in school, at job interviews, even walking along the street. “I‘ve experienced times where I’ve thought, ‘Wow. Is it because of the colour of my skin?’” She explains.
Despite being a ‘progressive’ generation, she reminds us of the lack of actual political and social progress being made in the fight to end discrimination and ensure racial equality. “There are many levels of discrimination,” she says, making reference to stop-and-search police laws in the UK, which are known to disproportionately target Black people. Not only this, but even in our education system, discrimination against the behaviours of Black students is rife and one level of ‘casual’ racism many of us are likely familiar with.
Education is important, Akira believes, for us as a society to “move past” the history of racial injustice we are perpetuating through ignorance and failure to address racism. She rejects the “controversial” nature of the Black Lives Matter movement, explaining that “it doesn’t mean white people have less rights”, and that “it shouldn’t be white versus black” but “everyone versus racism”.
Akira appears passionate about correcting the problems of racial injustice for her “peers”, as well as “for future generations”. “It’s counterproductive to not get involved and speak up for the justice of Black people,” she says, and explains that in doing so, “you are condoning their crimes”.
The video ends with a strong statement on what, at a basic level, the Black Lives Matter movement aims to achieve: ”Justice for all those that have been affected by police brutality, or have been killed or murdered by discrimination. It happens in the UK and it’s happening in America. The UK is racist – I have experienced it myself.”
For herself, and other members of Black communities, “It’s a day at a time thing right now.”