Since I last wrote to you, so much has happened. I have had a birthday. It was on Wednesday, and it was a lovely day. A picnic at the Oxford University Parks with your mum under a willow tree. Dinner with your brother and his girlfriend back in London. Yes, I am a year older, but the good news is that I feel younger and more prepared than ever for your entrance into the world.
The lockdown is easing and takes on different forms. I immediately recognized the difference between Oxford and London. Everyone seemed much more respectful in Oxford, the majority moving out of the way when they saw your pregnant mother heading towards them. But London is different, most people so engrossed in themselves that they don’t notice her and make no effort to pass by on the other side of the street. It is infuriating and downright bloody rude!
I think people feel they have served their sentence of isolation, and it’s time to get on with their lives. I tend to understand it, but none of us must forget why we isolated in the first place. I still believe this virus has a long way to go, and I dread that the inevitable second wave will more virulent than its introduction.
Over the last week, the pandemic has been thrown off the front pages. On May 25th, George Floyd, a forty-six-year-old black man, was killed by a white police officer. Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street. ‘ I can’t breathe,’ he cried in mercy. The horror was caught on video. One day you will watch the film, and you will be as shocked as we all are. This year is stumbling into an age that has been threatening to overcome us for some time. The majority are protesting peacefully in more than seven hundred cities and towns throughout the United States. But at night, part of the cities have been overwhelmed with looters taking advantage of the increasing unease. The scene of rioting looters damaging and stealing from businesses give the impression of the streets overtaken by escalating anarchy.
The lack of unifying leadership is evident. Peaceful protesters unable to retreat to a safe distance were cleared from Lafayette Park with rounds of tear-gas. It drove the protesters away with ruthless efficiency only to allow the President to pose for a photo-op outside St. John’s Church holding a bible. They seemed a certain amount of pride from The White House that not a single shot was fired, not a single US Park Police was wounded while several protesters were dragged down the street by their brothers screaming, some clutching their stomachs, others wiping gas from their eyes. It was undoubtedly an act of callous stupidity. There is nothing more foreign to the modern American to threaten military force within their land as an instrument of change or the use of oppression as a means of regeneration. Still, perhaps some in government view it differently.
The following days, peaceful marches continued. The looting due to imposed curfews subsided. Those marching showed the courage of their oppressors; cut off the tongue of the opposition and spit it back into their face. The old, young and middle-aged have had enough of police brutality. African Americans have known since they were young that they are deprived of being treated as equals. When arrested, they are isolated from justice. They stand little chance with the methods used by the police; there is nothing easier to deprive a man or woman of his or her dignity when locked behind bars.
It isn’t easy to write about this world of prejudice before you even arrive. However hard I describe the goings-on of the last week, it remains impossible for me to understand how persecution affects African Americans. The uneasiness of driving at night, or simply walking down a street. I have promised myself to become much more aware. I also promise you here and now that you will be educated in a home which is respectful of humanity despite the colour of the skin, religion or fundamental belief.