Is this finally the beginning of a real change?
“Please, I can’t breathe…My neck hurts… Momma, I’m through…They’re going to kill me”.
The words of George Floyd, a Black man arrested by four police officers, one of whom knelt down on his neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds as another two Police Officers knelt on his back. Face down on the ground, George died on the scene.
The murder of George Floyd is a gross act of inhumanity and barbarism
And there can be only one explanation for this act. Racism and the dehumanisation of Black people that has been happening for centuries is still prevalent in society and rampant in some institutions now. Contrary to current thinking, institutional racism remains active in most institutions but especially in law enforcement agencies such as the Police.
History tells us that Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) people suffer and experience disproportionate amounts of violence and injustice from law enforcement institutions across the world. This is rife in the United States of America, where over a number of years, Black men in particular have died as a direct result of contact with the Police Forces.
In fact, George Floyd’s murder is only one of a series of murders of Black men and women and violent acts towards a host of BAME people by American Police Forces. Perpetrators of these crimes go unpunished in a majority of cases, demonstrating that these crimes are not just committed by individuals but are supported by the structures that regulate and manage these institutions.
Incidents in the UK are equally disturbing
Even though these murders take place more frequently in America, there are incidents that happen in the UK which are equally disturbing. There is a long history of Black people dying in their contact with Police and outstanding appeals for justice.
Black people are four times more likely to be stopped and searched than their White counterparts and Black people are more likely to be fined under coronavirus laws than Whites in London. Taser usage on Black Londoners is also four times as high as that on White Londoners.
Issues extend far beyond the justice system
But the issue extends far beyond the criminal justice system. Black Caribbean children are three and a half times more likely to be excluded from primary, secondary and special schools. BAME people are disproportionately dying from Covid-19. Grenfell and the Windrush generation scandal are a national disgrace.
And heart-rending images of Black footballers suffering vicious monkey chants at British and other European matches, shows that racism still insidiously seeps through society. Whether in the UK, America or another seemingly distant country, racism, inequality and dis-equity must stop. Yes, this has to stop in the institutions designed to keep us safe, educated, healthy and prosperous. But it’s more than this. Ignorance and apathy must stop too.
Black people have had enough. BAME people are tired. We have heard the same old excuses, over, and over again, every time someone is killed. And we are not prepared to take any more of them.
So how do we start or continue the fight against racism?
Undoubtedly, racism is structural, inherent in our everyday political, social and economic institutions. Individual acts of bias are not solely to blame. Having said that there are things we can do to start or continue to be anti-racist.
It starts with the conversations that matter – with friends, families, colleagues and partners, as well as those who think differently. It starts with words that matter – the books we read to educate ourselves, the information we share, what we listen to and watch. It starts with the actions that matter – writing to your MP about injustice, supporting Black artists, reporting hate crime to name a few.
It’s how we ensure Black Lives Matter
The Voluntary and Community Sector in the Kingston borough stands with our Black colleagues and residents from communities locally, across London and globally in condemning this violent act of murder. Although Kingston has a strong tradition of standing up to racism and we are proud of the fact that each year we are becoming a more diverse borough, the death of George Floyd highlights the need to keep fighting racism, discrimination and hate.
We know that this is still a long journey. However, to make a start in addressing this, KVA will be running two online sessions on Unconscious Bias, so that we can explore and talk about the prejudice that we have learned from the systems that have taught us. The sessions will take place in July 2020 and will be free to all VCSE organisations in Kingston.
KVA is also calling for Black members of our community to join our board and help us lead our organisation and sector to be agents of change.
If you have been a victim of hate crime or racist abuse or have witnessed it, please report it on the Kingston Race Equalities Council website.
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Sitting In Limbo, BBC iplayer. If you watch one thing today, make sure it is Sitting in Limbo.
The Windrush Scandal, in which hundreds of long-standing but undocumented British citizens of Caribbean origin were detained, losing their jobs alongside access to benefits and healthcare, some being deported, is brought powerfully to life by the brother of one victim, Anthony Bryan.