How Systemic Racism is like the Hillsborough Disaster

CW: People crushed to death at Hillsborough Stadium.

The Hillsborough Stadium disaster has always struck me as a metaphor for systemic racism. The cries and pleas of the people being crushed and asphyxiated at the bottom of the crush of the crowd cannot be heard by the people at the top. So, the people at the top are oblivious to the danger that their pressure adds to the system.

The ones who are making decisions about the system also do not have a good view of what’s happening at all places. Thus, they make decisions that have life and death consequences to the people who had an unfortunate position in the system.

Even the authorities blame the very victims for what is clearly a failure of systems. People want someone to blame— the victims’ families blame the authorities and the authorities blame the crowds themselves.

The problem is the system and that the authorities made decisions without all of the information about the system in a timely manner. This is where lack of communication, lack of foresight, and lack of understanding of the system turns to be deadly. I fear that I’m seeing this same pattern play out in real-time with systemic racism and this administration’s response to it.

The people at the bottom are screaming, “I can’t breathe” but it’s still business at usual at the top, where people are unable to hear the screams of people at the bottom. The people at the top are still applying pressure, not knowing that they are each contributing to someone’s death far away from where they see that everything is fine and normal.

This is a metaphor for the mechanism of systemic racism that has cost George Floyd his life. Privilege, ignorance, obliviousness, the inevitable consequences of systems, the randomness of position in the crowd, consequences and the casting of blame from all points of view are all represented here as similar to the pressures of systemic racism.

But more importantly, the crush of systemic racism is still happening. The oppressive crush and pressure is still ongoing, with some people advocating for it, causing its pressure to build up. I hope people can see this because it’s not too late to recognize the crushing weight of the system and pull back from adding our own weight to the system onto the people below us.

It’s not too late for authorities to recognize the system and turn back and relieve pressure before a disaster worse than Hillsborough occurs.

I hope people can see this metaphor clearly and take action to help shout so that people at the top of the crush and people in a position of authority are able to hear the voices who are being crushed at the bottom.

Even the allies who were dismantling the fences and carrying the injured on advertising boards were chastised by authorities as hooligans. The other side saw the victims’ desperation as pitch invasion because they didn’t have a complete understanding of what was happening. These same misunderstandings are occurring in the struggle for the voices at the bottom to be heard that “I can’t breathe!” Let’s be allies and help everyone hear their voices! I hope that this metaphor can help people see the system that is culprit so that the right information can get to the right people an that more people will become allies to the cause against systemic racism.

Eu-Ming Lee
6/3/2020

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