Black Lives Matter: A reflection a year on
Categories: Latest News
Tuesday May 25 2021
On the 25th of March 2020 – exactly a year ago today – George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by the then police officer, Derek Chauvin.
To some, Floyd was just the latest victim to the structural racism that has pervaded every socio-political structure to the detriment of all minority communities.
To others, Floyd was the final straw.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protests across the US, Europe and the rest of the world, with protestors demanding that Governments start to finally take tangible action in dismantling structural racism. Yet after a year of protests and campaigning, some argue that little has been done to address the concerns raised by the movement. Focusing on the UK, critics argue there has been little to no change regarding the racial inequality faced by Black people in the UK, with recent Governmental reports dismissing the issue entirely. Evidently, the importance of tackling structural racism remains as important today as it was a year ago.
Perhaps the issue of structural racism is most significantly illustrated by the disproportionate securitisation of minority communities by the police, including through stop and search procedures. Between April 2019 and March 2020, Black people were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people. During lockdown alone, the Met police stopped young Black men nearly 22,000 times, approximately 25% of Black 15-24-year-olds in London. Further evidence also shows that the Metropolitan police officers were ‘more than twice as likely to issue fines to black people as to white people’. The statistics also show that Black people, who make up 12% of London’s population, were over-represented in arrests made for breach of lockdown rules (31%). Comparatively, White people, who make up 58% of London’s population, were under-represented, accounting for only 38% of arrests for lockdown breaches. Experts have cited that there can be no justification for this noticeably clear bias in enforcing Covid rules and that this evidence is part of an ever-expanding web of institutional racism within the Metropolitan police force. When questioned about the racial bias, the Met police attempted to dismiss the pattern and claimed there were underlying “complex” non-racial factors. However, in the words of a former Met police superintendent, it may be that ‘practically everything the Met does has a racial bias’. It is more important than ever that issues of structural racism are not ignored but rather challenged head-on.
It is unfortunate then that a recent report by the Commission for Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) Report claimed that there is “no evidence of systemic or institutional racism” in the UK. The CRED report was the Government’s response to calls from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement for an investigation into institutional racism in Britain and reform. It claimed that any sort of disadvantages or disproportionality that Black or ethnic minorities may face is due to a host of factors, including geography, class, family structure, ambition and not due to systematic racism. Simply put, the report argued that if disparities demonstrated racial discrimination but did not “have their origins in racism”, then the issue is not of structural racism. In propagating this narrative, the report sought to significantly limit what could be even considered as ‘structural racism’. The report’s findings were widely criticised as being ‘whitewashed’ and a betrayal to the lived experiences of racism and bias of Black individuals. Certainly, the aforementioned issue of securitisation of minority communities is but one example of the wider calamity of institutional racism and bias that the CRED report denies. Instead of seeking to undermine the concerns of minority communities, the Government should rather seek to introduce tangible measures to protect the interest of minority communities.
The Government, however, seems to be instead seeking to limit the rights of minority communities and the wider community. The now delayed yet highly controversial Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has the potential to stifle voices as it would threaten the right to protest and ‘silence the voices of the most marginalised in society who call for justice’. The Black Lives Matter movement, which spearheaded the hundreds of protests that occurred across the world last year in response to Floyd’s death, is a movement based on exercising a fundamental civil right – to peacefully protest. Undermining this right, risks free expression and the space to call for reforms. Ultimately, the curtailment of the right to protest would reinforce the ‘over-policing of … Black communities’, which highlights the cyclical nature of structural racism if it is not challenged at every possible opportunity.
For any change to come about, we must first begin with formal recognition of the problem and then seek to introduce tangible positive steps in conjunction with minority communities seeking to dismantle institutional racism. Therefore, we urge policymakers to begin appreciating and recognising the existence of institutional racism everywhere it arises and to adopt a culture of learning from and listening to the lived experiences of Black people and the struggles they have faced, whether it be in the workplace or on the streets as a subject of yet another racially-biased stop and search.