Many of us will have seen the video footage of George Floyd being killed in a brutal police incident at the hands of white police offers on Monday 25 May in Minneapolis. It’s difficult to sit back and ignore the injustice. The father of two daughters had recently lost his job due to Covid-19 restrictions, and his death has since sparked outrage not only across the USA, but around the world.
That same day in New York's Central Park, Amy Cooper called 911 and falsely accused African-American bird-watcher Christian Cooper (unrelated) of threatening her life after he asked her to put a leash on her dog.
On Wednesday morning, Tony McDade, a black transgender man, was shot and killed by police in Florida.
Prior to lockdown on March 13, 26-year old Breonna Taylor, an African-American woman, was shot and killed by white police officers in Louisville serving a no-knock warrant.
On February 23, another African-American citizen was killed by two white men – 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging in his neighbourhood in Georgia at the time. The father and son pair who shot him wrongfully suspected Ahmuad of being connected to a series of burglaries in the area.
Racial profiling in the US has a long and complex history, and combined with pent up tensions of lockdown and a volatile election year, race relations in the US have reached a critical point.
The racial profiling experience is one that hits home for many people of colour around the world; close to home, many, especially our Maori and Polynesian communities, have been vocal, standing in solidarity across social media with the Black Lives Matter movement.
While social media has proven to be a powerful tool for raising awareness, it comes with the murky territory of passive or performative activism too, with many people of influence unsure of how to use their platforms to appropriately show support beyond re-posting content.
A more active showcase of solidarity has called on people to protest at Auckland's Aotea Square on Monday June 1 from 3.30pm.
Another important way to actively engage in complex issues is to educate yourself. While the Internet is full of helpful articles, sometimes a little deeper reading can help clarify many of the questions being asked right now around racism, and help people to better support the cause.
White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue ... and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation by Lauren Michele Jackson (2019) published by Beacon Press.
Cultural appropriation is something many people of colour and particularly African-Americans have had to deal with over the decades. From music and fashion to activism and language, black culture has a global influence, yet is rarely recognised or attributed to the source.
When it comes to who is allowed to thrive from black hipness, the pioneers are usually left behind as black aesthetics are converted into mainstream success and white profit. Weaving together narrative, scholarship, and critique, Lauren Michele Jackson reveals why cultural appropriation - something that's become embedded in our daily lives - deserves serious attention. Laurjackson.com
Sisters Of the Yam: Black Women & Self Recovery by bell hooks (1993) published by Taylor & Francis.
The conversation around mental health and the black community is a sub-topic that will only continue to worsen if action isn't taken to quell police brutality on people of colour. This seminal book reflects on the ways in which the emotional health of black women has been and continues to be impacted by sexism and racism. Writer bell hooks articulates the link between self-recovery and political resistance in this book which speaks specifically to the experience of black womanhood. Get to know more about the acclaimed intellectual, feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist, and writer here.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Ibram X. Kenxi (2020) published by Penguin
Founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Centre at American University in Washington DC, where he is also the professor of History and International relations, Ibram X. Kendi’s book is a gripping, study on the causes and extent of anti-black racism. Winner of the National Book Award, the book chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America through the lives of five major intellectuals – Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and anti-prison activist Angela Davis – showing how these ideas were developed. Buy here
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong (2020) published by One World
Written by award-winning poet and essayist Cathy Hong, her experience as an Asian-American is also unique to the conversations around race. Neither white enough nor black enough, Asians are unmentioned in most conversations about racial identity. Cathy’s honest and emotional story breaks down those stereotypes of Asian-Americans as high-achieving professionals. But in reality, this is the most economically divided group in the country, a tenuous alliance of people with roots from South Asia to East Asia to the Pacific Islands, from tech millionaires to service industry laborers. Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. Cathyparkhong.com
Justice & Race by Oliver Sutherland (2020) published by Aotearoa Books
Nelson-based author Oliver Sutherland’s book released in February looks at more than 15 years of research detailing the plight of children incarcerated by the justice system. This is the story of ACORD – the Auckland Committee on Racism And Discrimination. For 15 years ACORD exposed and campaigned against the institutional racism of police, justice, and social welfare systems. It laid the groundwork for a national duty solicitor scheme and gained protections for children incarcerated by the state.
“We called it a racist system because it was all based on a European value system and a European approach to justice and punishment. It owed nothing to a Maori world view and there were biases where Maori boys, all other things being equal, were prosecuted more than Pakeha boys.” Buy here
Island Time: New Zealand’s Pacific Future’s by Damon Salesa (2017) published by Bridget Williams Books
Damon Salesa is a scholar of Pacific politics, history, technology, culture, and society; the associate professor of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland, and was the first Pasifika Rhodes scholar to Oxford. This is an important book for anyone wanting to understand the experience of Pacific Islanders in Aotearoa. What would it mean, this far-sighted book asks, for New Zealand to recognise its Pacific talent and finally act like a Pacific nation? Buy here