Black Europe Summer School
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BESS Statement on the Murder of George Floyd

The brutal and unconscionable daylight murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, by a police officer in Minneapolis has severely disrupted the daily routine of millions of people in the United States and around the world. This is no exception for the many BESS alumni, faculty and allies. We express our profound revulsion and disgust for the flagrant abuse of human rights; we express our condolences to Mr. Floyd’s immediate and extended family; and we express our solidarity support for the African American community and their supporters who have put their lives and limbs on the line in daily and nightly protests to demand justice for Mr. Floyd and his family. We express our recognition that this was not an extreme and uncommon occurrence, but rather the result of the routine, systemic and entrenched practices of the police department in Minneapolis, and in so many cities and towns around the United States. We wish every strength and endurance to those mobilizing right now in the United States to achieve fundamental systemic and institutional change. We are motivated by the tremendous changes that protesters, led by the women and men of the African American and other black communities in the United States have already achieved. And we are inspired by the unhesitating support of so many communities around the world – communities that are diverse in their national, racial, ethnic, religious and gender backgrounds and composition.

We also recognize – like so many people across Black Europe – that despite the many differences between the United States and the nations of Europe, there are fundamental similarities in the ways that racism operates here, and in the violent and unrestrained policing that occurs here. Too many black men and women have died, been brutalized at the hands of the police. Too many children left without parents. Too many police officers have gotten away with murder. And too many government officials have remained silent, failed to take actions or tried to palm us off with trite excuses and insincere apologies.

During the days and weeks since the tragic incident, many people in the BESS network have exchanged information and communications; others have participated in the protests worldwide. We would have continued these conversations in Amsterdam in a couple of weeks of time, this month, June, if the 13th Annual Black Europe Summer School 2020 had not been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent BESS update on the COVID-19 impact we acknowledged the problems caused by these difficult circumstances, but we also know that they are temporary. And we know that the issues, circumstances and problems we discuss in BESS – around the African Diaspora in Europe and beyond – will not be gone when the coronavirus is gone. Indeed, George Floyd’s murder has once again reminded us that the issues, circumstances and problems we discuss in BESS are not gone.

In Europe at present, across countries and cities, people of different backgrounds are part of the protest movement. Some are protesting in direct response to the images of the rawness and cruelty of George Floyd’s murder by the police, so painfully captured in a broad daylight caught on camera. Some are expressing their outrage in solidarity with protesters in the US. And many Black Europeans are also protesting to raise awareness about racism in Europe, something they have known about for a very long time and something that is imprinted in their memories. This dramatically increased awareness of the impact of racism across Europe is particularly relevant because of the ways in which so many Europeans – encouraged by their political leaders, and by so many academics – continue to promote a master narrative that racism does not exist. And to promote the ideas, totally untrue – that Black people are recent immigrants to Europe. We fight steadfastly against that false narrative.

In order to achieve justice and bring about the fundamental changes needed in the United States we recognize that many things need to be done on many levels. We need to see immediate institutional change in policing and politics; and we need systematic efforts to transform the economic, political and cultural institutions that maintain such profound and despicable racial and gender inequality. Until the underlying inequalities are also addressed – as so many protestors in the United States are saying every day – any changes in policing are likely to have limited overall effect. This is something that must be recognized and repeated.

BESS was established in 2008 to maintain the focus on race, racism and citizenship, and to highlight how these processes fundamentally shape the lives of Black people, past and present; and to prioritize Black people’s agency, activism and organizations, including those working inside the academy and those working in the community.

Overall, we recognize that the protests for justice for George Floyd are not just about police accountability; but are part of a protest for full emancipation for Black people in the United States. BESS will continue this tradition in Europe.


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