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Opinion: We Should All Stand Up for Underdogs

Published on: 9 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 12 Jun, 2020

Black Lives Matter demonstration in Guildford

by Ben Paton

The killing of a man by a police officer kneeling on his neck, aided by his colleagues, is self-evidently terrible.

It is also self-evident that black people, proportionately, are at significantly greater risk of police brutality and mistreatment than white people.

But that does not make it entirely a black and white issue. And while protest may be a necessary response it is far from sufficient to change things for the better.

George Floyd died because: a. he was in a position of weakness versus the police; b. he was obviously identifiable as being part of a minority; c. he came up against bad people.

One does not have to be black or obviously identifiable as in a minority to be singled out and to suffer bad or horrendous injustices. It can happen to anyone. Here are some examples, there are plenty of others.

On our own doorstep, four Irish nationals, the Guildford Four, were wrongly convicted of planting a bomb in Guildford. They were sentenced to life in prison and spent fifteen years in gaol before they were released. They had no connection whatsoever with the bombing.

Their real “crimes”: they had the wrong accents, were in the wrong place and were very young. They were suitable scapegoats for the pressurised police to pick upon.

Hitler and Mussolini made the Jewish population of occupied Europe and Germany and Italy scapegoats for the Great Depression of the 1930s, and for every other ill that their warped minds could invent.

The Matabele in Zimbabwe are in a minority versus the majority Shona, the tribe of Robert Mugabe. They have been murdered and oppressed with impunity for decades.

In the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the Hutus murdered some 800,000 Tutsis. The Ottomans oppressed any minority that dared oppose them in the Eastern Mediterranean. In Paris, in the St Bartholemew’s Day Massacre in 1572, Catholics murdered Protestants indiscriminately. The Turks have oppressed the Armenians and the Kurds. The Russians have oppressed the Cossacks and the Chechens.

The causes of these terrible injustices are complicated and skin colour is not the major explanatory factor.

And some of the weakest groups on the planet are the other species that mankind has been brutally wiping from the surface of the Earth deliberately and directly and carelessly and indirectly.

So what can people do that is more practical than just being vociferous?

Bear witness. Witnesses need to have the courage to come forward and testify. That can be very risky indeed. Many people prefer silence and a “quiet” life. The person who filmed George Floyd’s death on a phone is, in this sense, a hero or heroine. Given the unequal power held by the police that person and other bystanders may not have been able to do more to help George in life.
Complain and refuse to be fobbed off. This may require enormous perseverance and resilience. It is very easy to give up in the face of official obduracy, lies, and cheating.

Be loyal to truth above any particular organisation, party, group, state, creed, or prejudice.

Seek and preserve evidence that proves your case. The phone video of the killing of George Floyd shows how important this is.

Too often the majority and the strong presume they are “good” and the weak and the minority are labelled “bad”. But in the course of a life, everyone has periods of weakness, especially in childhood and in old age. Think of the abduction of children like Madeleine McCann or the abuse of the old and infirm.

At some point, everyone is likely to find him or herself in a minority and/or powerless.

The world is complicated, not simple. No one has a monopoly of goodness or badness. Good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. Sometimes it can be difficult to know which is which.

The British have many faults. But one of their endearing conceits is that they think they stick up for the underdog and believe in fair play. And the evidence of two World Wars shows it is not entirely conceit.

If everyone stood up for underdogs the world would be a better place.

See also : Young People March Through Guildford To Show ‘Black Lives Matter’

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Responses to Opinion: We Should All Stand Up for Underdogs

  1. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    June 9, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you Mr Paton for putting things into some kind of perspective without resorting to political rhetoric. What happened to George Floyd was horrific. What has happened to millions of people internationally is horrific. I lived in the USA and saw first hand the inequalities. I worked for the UN and again saw first hand the misery and oppression of refugees. I worked in the UK and again saw the unfairness.

    Until we all stand up and bear witness nothing will change.

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