Content note: This article contains detailed discussion of racism and racial violence, and description of verbal abuse, including curse words. 

On a run, the heart rate increases, pumping more blood through the body - the skin flushes to a radiant, warm hue. At the moment of death, the heart stops beating, and blood begins to pool - within hours, the skin of the deceased turns ashen—grey. And just like that, swiftly, Ahmaud Arbery had his colour-full body wrenched to colourless. The headlines of Arbery’s murder simultaneously bear a unique story and bind together peoples and generations through the shared sense of despair. Headline after headline broadcasts the never-ending ubiquity of anti-Black violence, reaffirming that Black lives still don’t matter. As for our suffering: this is not the end.

Ta Nehisi Coates refers to racism as a ‘cosmic injustice,’ but there’s nothing metaphysical about anti-Black violence. Racism is anchored entirely in political reality. Isolated acts of violence contribute to a broader, intricate project of pillaging and dehumanising the Black body, established via centuries of anti-Black propaganda. ‘Covert’ iterations of brutality enacted by justice systems, police forces and the Academy are interconnected and bolster ‘overt’ expressions of white supremacist violence, like lynching. Retracing a week of headlines confirmed that institutions meant to ensure justice, protection and education sustain white domination in their implicit and explicit, deliberate and reckless practices. 

"Black students face the burden of policing their bodies, thoughts and feelings within the historically wealthy, white, male, imperialist institution"

Headlines at the start of the week inaugurated Ahmaud Arbery to the long history of assault against Black bodies. On February 23 two men stalked Arbery in a pickup truck during his run, claiming to believe he was a thief. His killers, Gregory and Travis McMichael, almost evaded accountability for hunting and mercilessly lynching Arbery. The McMichaels acted on their right to assault with impunity, conferred through their whiteness. Public outcry on social media, after the incident went viral, resulted in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation charging the McMichael’s with murder and aggravated assault on May 7. That three months passed before any action demonstrates how the justice system upholds prejudice. 


Mountain View

Reporting racism in Cambridge

Headlines in the middle of that week begged the question: whose bodies are worth protecting? Like Arbery, footage of Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarar tased by Manchester police, in front of his young child, went viral. His child, watching him writhe on the floor of the petrol station, was inconsolable and screamed “daddy.” In 2018, The Guardian reported that Black people in the UK disproportionately face more force by police officers. Public objection to the use of force in the video prompted an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into how appropriate the use of the taser was. The shrill screeching of “daddy” revealed that Black children continue to foot the bill for a system that cruelly cashes in on the destruction of Black bodies.

Headlines at the end of the week re-emphasised that Black people can’t ‘achieve’ their way out of violence. The cushioned walls of the Ivory towers don’t place Black students outside the reach of cruelty. Cambridge has lauded its record-breaking, though paltry, admission of 91 Black undergraduates in 2019. Despite the university’s efforts towards diversity, it has neglected pastoral care for Black students. Besides expending energy on the academic demands of Tripos, Black students face the burden of policing their bodies, thoughts and feelings within the historically wealthy, white, male, imperialist institution. 

"More remarkable, liberated and colour-full realities await; Black lives will matter"

In 2019, The Guardian reported on the plague of structural racism in higher education. A University spokesperson’s response to Black Ballad’s report on Black students not feeling safe at Cambridge reveals how universities continue to fail Black students:

“We are aware that micro-aggressions happen within the University community and are taking action to bring about cultural change, to ensure that staff and students who experience micro-aggressions are supported…”

Purporting that the only onslaughts Black students face are micro-aggressions is insulting. The label minimises the scale of abuse, considering there’s nothing ‘micro’ about much of it. Nia-Cerise Conteh, a Black Cantab at Hughes Hall and faith-based YouTuber, has faced a string of abuse during her time at Cambridge. Nia-Cerise voices her frustration at the university’s exclusive focus on ‘micro-aggressions’ to me: “I was punched in the stomach by a stranger [on] the road who wasn’t a student. However, I didn’t feel supported by my college, with no BME officer.” She shares, “I know other students who have been physically hurt, but they’re uncomfortable about unpacking their trauma again by speaking out.” 

To Nia-Cerise, the insults hurled at her suggest she’s an outsider, never to be taken seriously in the university community. “I was called a “dirty fucking bitch” by a Trinity College staff member. He laughed at me when I told him I would complain.” He said, “go on then; I have loads of friends inside the university.” Nia-Cerise denounces the university’s handling of racist incidents. “Despite numerous internal complaints, long emails and constant fights for justice, I realised that I was neither going to be taken seriously nor protected by this institution.” In refusing to be silent, Nia-Cerise extends solidarity to other students in similar circumstances. “I thought of those who came and went before me, who refused to be [kept] quiet. I realised that sometimes you have to fight to be heard.”

Original Image: Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, adapted by Ellen Tuzzolo

Though this is not the end expresses distress at ongoing oppression, stumbling across MOOVMAINTY’s work (the cover photo) aided my negotiation between despair and hope. In looking through the eyes of the children reading the words broadcast on the screen, this phrase also signals faith. I find renewed conciliation in the maxim, as it simultaneously clings to a firm belief that this can’t be the end. Audre Lorde said, “for anger between peers births change, not destruction, and the discomfort and sense of loss it often causes is not fatal, but a sign of growth.” The fury flooding my body and stories of the resistance and resilience of victims and allies operating within the system of white supremacy beget hope. More remarkable, liberated and colour-full realities await; Black lives will matter. Posterity, rest assured, this is not the end.