The murder of George Floyd is not just an isolated tragedy but a symptom of the systemic racism which has plagued the Americas since Europeans first landed on its shores. It found its height in the United States during the period of slavery but despite the gains made since then, this legacy still persists. My solidarity is with the Black Lives Matter movement and with all those in the struggle for racial justice in America. That is why I wrote to the Trade Secretary calling for the suspension of sales of british made riot gear to the US.
The historic underinvestment in black communities, educational inequality, lack of opportunities and over reliance on state funding for law enforcement and the military needs to be rebalanced. Funding must be redistributed to communities to improve housing, education and jobs. The US police can afford tanks and water cannons, but youth projects have leaky roofs and schools in black neighbourhoods lack teachers and supplies. As someone who has campaigned in the US and been involved in Community Organising there, I have seen this inequality firsthand.
However, whilst there is a tendency to focus on the failings of the US when it comes to addressing anti-blackness within social and legal institutions, we must never forget the racism that also pervades British society. Police brutality and racial profiling are not just an American problem and neither is the systemic oppression of Black people in general.
Just two months ago, transport worker Belly Mujinga died after being spat on whilst at work, despite suffering with a respiratory condition that should have prevented her from interacting physically with customers at all. We know that people of colour are far more likely to die of COVID-19 as the recent government report confirms and Belly Mujinga’s case highlights the brutal reality of this fact. The report, which the government dragged its feet over releasing, also fails to offer any reasons why this inequality exists or how to remedy it: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jun/03/censorship-row-over-report-on-uk-bame-covid-19-deaths
We know the Tories are not serious about racial justice. The Prime Minister himself has made many casually racist remarks during his career, and in the ten years since they have been in power they have presided over a hostile environment which has victimised and deported British people of colour, many of whom disproportionately staff our crucial public services. At Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson didn’t mention George Floyd, Belly Mujinga or Black Lives Matter until Keir Starmer raised it and forced him into a position where he had to weakly respond that ‘of course Black Lives Matter’.
We need greater focus on racial justice in our schools and our national curriculum. I have written to the Education Secretary to ask him to ensure that racial justice and Britain’s part in the subjugation of people of colour be taught in schools. I have also written to the Home office to ask the Home Secretary what steps she is taking to address the racism in Britain’s policing system and the Foreign Secretary to ask him to at least make a statement on the crisis.
I am proud to have campaigned against racism since my teen years and well before I was a member of the Labour Party. I started out protesting outside Neo-Nazi gatherings and then worked on the family campaigns around racist murders and deaths in police custody. This culminated in being called as a witness in the McPherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. I assure you that you have an ally and an advocate in Parliament on this profoundly important issue and that I was stirred to action before a single email from a constituent was received.
I have included some useful links below for things you can do to support the movement for racial justice both here and in the US.
I will keep fighting and you should too.
Fundraiser for the family of Belly Mujinga:
Fundraiser for Black Lives Matter UK:
Donate to support The Black Curriculum:
Petition demanding the Government cease sales of riot gear to the US:
Article with more useful ways to support:
A survey for BAME people from the TUC: