• Thursday, Jul 07, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

OP-ED: Does slavery still exist?

  • Published at 08:29 pm July 17th, 2020
George Floyd

When people are backed into a corner and forced to turn to a life of crime, they aren’t truly free

George Floyd’s death has massive and tragic consequences, but in the US, there have been many other black men who have died at the hands of the police. Ahmaud Arbery in 2020, Freddie Gray in 2015, and Eric Garner in 2014, to name a few. 

Let’s not sit back and say this is an American problem -- it isn’t. In Britain, in 2019, Simeon Francis died in police custody, Sheku Bayoh in 2015, and Mikey Powell in 2003. This is the tip of the iceberg. There are many more incidents such as these.

Capturing footage of injustice is a good thing. It helps people become aware of those injustices. It allows people to ask: Are the police fit to do their jobs? From what we see and read, there’s a handful that obviously aren’t, and this leads to death. It also asks many other questions. 

Are the forces themselves flawed? How are they trained, what motivates them, and are those in charge of policing the police truly independent?

Growing up in Southeast London during the 70s and 80s, I experienced racism and violence. I grew up three miles away from where Stephen Lawrence was murdered. 

I’ve asked myself where racism comes from. It’s a tough question, and there are many people better qualified to answer that. So I will tell you what I believe. 

I believe racism stems from ignorance and fear. As Gandhi once said: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is really fear.” 

All people fear things they don’t understand or trust. It can be fear of deep water or flying, or it can be the fear of another race or religion, but with education, all fears can be overcome. I’ve travelled extensively, and found good people everywhere. 

However, I’ve met a handful of people who asked me questions about British society. Their ignorance made them believe that all Brits were immoral. I pointed out -- how does a society survive if it’s as immoral as you say it is?

I believe ignorance and fear equal hatred. History has proven this, six million dead Jewish people proved this with their lives, and millions more who have died due to ethnic cleansing.

Does slavery still exist? Of course it does. Have a look at the stories about illegal immigrants who enter the US or Britain. They are often enslaved by those who bring them into the country. They are not free. Many live in dire conditions, while others turn to crime, or are forced into prostitution. Their minds and spirits are enslaved. 

Bob Marley’s lyrics in “Redemption Song” say: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.” I would ask the question, how do you emancipate yourself from mental slavery, if those put in power to protect you feel like the enemy?

With every death such as that of George Floyd, we open old wounds. We nurture fear, we create mistrust.

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.” 

I wonder if more than half a century after that speech, we are still asking the same questions. Perhaps we are, and that’s why it keeps making news headlines. 

This poem looks at slavery of yesterday and today:

African, Asian and Global Slaves
Never have the chance to be brave
Their lives are torn apart
Families destroyed, broken hearts
Fathers, sons, mothers gone
Taken from the love they came from
Brought to foreign lands in crowded ships
Food in tiny ration, stagnant water they sip 
Abuse, floggings, murder and rape
Hidden, silenced, only death gives an escape
History tried to hide the truth
Hidden under the grand slave traders roof
The modern slave trader drives a Bentley
And they talk ever so gently
They are the epitome of a businessman
The government praise their business plans
They may be knighted or become a dame
The government takes absolutely no blame |
Does slavery still exist?
Yes, the way the police persist
Profiling and brutal enforcement of laws
Police attitudes have too many flaws
The government talks a good fight
Are they really sympathetic of the plight?
Equality is the only way
You can shake off mental slavery and say|
I’m free to be who I want to be
I’m not offending anyone, can’t you see? 
Freedom to choose has always been mine
It is the one rule we should enshrine
Governments be brave and do the right thing
Erase statues and memorials that sting 
You are in power to represent all
Don’t leave behind those who fall 
Rewrite history with truth and bravery
Try to remove the pain caused by slavery 

Azik Chowdhury is a British-Bangladeshi fiction writer, who dabbles with poetry, and a business analyst, and for the last 25 years he has worked with many companies around the world.

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