Are you really my friend?

By Andrew Hunt.

The past fortnight has been a turbulent one for many of us, following the brutal murder of George Floyd and the global outpouring of emotion and protest that has followed. These events have had a particular resonance for me, as a result of my business Aduna’s deep connection to Africa and our strong network of partners and friends in the African and wider black communities. 

On a personal level, I am father to a 4-year old boy called Hugo, who is a regular in Chalcot Square, and whose mother is African American. Hugo is a perfect little human being, known by all for his energy, kindness, generosity and playful sense of mischief. As the white father of a half African-American child, I want to share the emotional journey I have been on in the past week, in the hope that it will make a difference.

This is not about conservative versus liberal, republican versus democrat or the blue team versus the reds. This is about just one simple word: humanity.

I realise now that when the George Floyd story first broke ‒ as with many other similar stories over the years ‒ I was nothing more than a passive observer. At the level of my values it was something I ‘obviously’ objected to, but it was not a high enough priority to seriously distract me from all the other ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ things going on in my life, including all the noise around the pandemic.

As the days went on, however, something very personally upsetting started to happen to me, and it is still happening now. Every time I see that image of the policeman’s knee pressing down on George’s neck, it is Hugo’s little face I see underneath. He is crying for me and his mummy. “Daddy, help me. Mummy, help me. I can’t breathe.” But we are not there. I am not there. And I cannot do anything but watch as his beautiful little life is murderously and casually squeezed out of him. And every time I let these thoughts enter my mind, including right now, I find myself bursting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably with grief for my son and for humanity.

What if he is visiting his grandparents in Florida as a teenager one summer, and gets stopped by the police for nothing? He might be cheeky, because that is in his nature, and they might use that as justification to pin him to the floor and steal his life away. It could even happen right here on the streets of London. These are the kind of intrusive thoughts that have been stalking me all week, causing me huge waves of anxiety, sorrow and anger. On more than one occasion I have found myself trembling and feeling ready to physically fight. Anyone who knows me will know that this is not something usual in my nature, and it has been disturbing for me to feel this flowing through me.

While I will never truly understand what it must be like to be a black person when one of these blatant crimes against their humanity takes place, I think I now understand what it is like to be the parent of a black child. Whose life will they take next? Could it be one of ours? When will it ever end? And I have also started to get to know what it’s like to feel betrayed by certain friends, whom I consider to be good humans, and who consider themselves to be good humans, but who, for whatever reason, are consciously willing to turn a blind eye. And this is the heart of my message: It is not the extremist racist groups who are the real problem here. It is you and I. It is our complicit silence that lends legitimacy to a racist society and to police brutality. And it is the legitimacy that we lend that adds the weight behind that knee, along with the despicable sense of impunity with which it is delivered, to draining an innocent black person’s life in public over a period of nine long minutes. And right now is the moment we all need to wake up.

This is not about conservative versus liberal, republican versus democrat or the blue team versus the reds. This is about just one simple word: humanity.

I’m sorry (not sorry) to say it, but you cannot support Hitler on the basis of his excellent industrial policy, ignoring that little detail that he would like to exterminate the entire Jewish race, and still get to consider yourself a good human. There is no integrity in that. There is no humanity in that. White supremacy is a true evil ‒ and it will not stand.

And if you are someone who considers themselves a friend of mine, but at the same time would consciously add your weight to the knee on my little boy’s neck in order to achieve some personal or professional economic or ideological gains, then I have to ask: are you really my friend?

See more on #BlackLivesMatter on Facebook

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