On Whose Neck Am I Kneeling? The George Floyd Legacy

by Ayo Tunde

I read a compelling article this morning and it moved me to write this. A lot has been said about the George Floyd case and we should really allow this guy to rest peacefully and for his family to grieve.

But this article that I talked about, brought out the reality of what George Floyd’s death symbolises.

Many make it about police brutality. They talk about the brutality of the white people on the black race. These things are there. But this man says, and rightly so, that it is more about ‘kneeling on people’s necks’, ‘suffocating people’ not just in the literal sense, but in all ways.

The author of that piece asks a poignant question that I want to throw to us all. He says we should ask ourselves, ‘ON WHOSE NECK AM I KNEELING?’ ‘Is there someone I am disrespecting, demeaning, denying his/her rights due to ethnicity, race, religion or social class?’ And he said ‘if you can inwardly answer yes to any of those questions, then you are no better than the policeman who knelt on the neck and suffocated life out of George Floyd’.

Author gives examples like ‘when you don’t create employment for the youth and you are in government, you are kneeling on their necks’; when people trust you and vote you into power and you turn your back on them, you’re kneeling on their necks; when you abuse the authority vested in you to the detriment of people who work under you, you’re kneeling on their necks; when you refuse to employ, or promote a subordinate because you don’t like his face, his colour or his race, you’re kneeling on his/her neck; when you go on the media and damage the character of a fellow human being who did you no wrong and cast unfounded doubt on his work out of hate, you’re kneeling on his neck’.

And that is what the killing of George Floyd should symbolise. The self-reflection that it draws out of us to check whose necks we are kneeling on.

And we need to do our part – one by one in our respective rights, in our respective sectors, in our respective domains – to start lifting our knees from the necks of people we are suppressing – physically or mentally.

We need to start lifting our knees from the necks of people.

I repeat it because we really do. This is what will make this period better for us all, collectively. We start individually; at home (lift your knee off the neck of your wife, your husband, your children), at work, as a manager in your small team at work or in your capacity as the head of a big corporate organisation, in government, as a police officer, as an influencer whose words count for a lot and you can use it to the detriment of others, as a journalist who can use your pen as a knee on others’ necks. When we all individually lift our individual knees off the necks of fellow individuals in our individual rights, collectively the world will be better.

I have been knelt on many times in my life. My neck is heavy with people who have been systematically and mentally kneeling on my neck. Please stop. Lift your knees because I am doing you no harm.

And please, if I am kneeling on anyone’s neck, feel free to tell me. I doubt that I am, but if I actually find that I am, inadvertently, I will lift mine.

Make a similar resolve, and the world will be a better place, and all lives will indeed matter.

Thank you Mr Chukwuma, for your input. #TundeTalks

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Adewumi 10th June 2020 - 3:41 pm

Thank you Tunde. This is really insightful

David meshioye 10th June 2020 - 9:05 pm

Wonderful Piece!

Anozie Nnaemeka(MFR) 11th June 2020 - 5:31 pm

This is a very important question we must all answer sincerely if we really want to make the world a better place.

On whose neck are you kneeling?? When you rape you are kneeling on somebody’s neck, sex for marks,nepotism and many as mentioned in this wonderful write up.

But I want to take another look at that statement from another point of view.

The neck is the connection between the head and the body. I want to address those who use their closeness to authority to frustrate the effort of other people.

People who maladvice people in power to get their personal gain.

Those believe becos they are close to a particular minister in the country they can now dictate how things should be done in order to put their own people against already established functioning process that is already working ;
you are kneeling on people’s neck.

May God help us to remove our knees from the necks we are kneeling on


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