On a basic human level the death George Floyd’s at the hands of serving police officers who chose to abuse their position of a duty of care to the public, and commit murder is unacceptable. The vision of a police officers knee on George Floyd’s neck have sparked Worldwide protests. People are marching to express their disgust, because this is not new; countless other have died needlessly at the hands of US police because of their race. But this is not, just a US based problem.
Racism exists in the UK. The deaths of Sarah Reed, Mark Duggan, Sheku Bayah, Christopher Alder, Leon Patterson, Cynthia Jarrett, Sean Rigg, are a handful of Black people who died at hands of police in the UK, and there are many more.
Saying nothing and doing nothing moving forward for us is equally unacceptable. This moment is magnified by the Coronavirus world wide pandemic, with thousands of people from BAME communities disproportionately killed by COVID-19.
This moment has served to crystallize the experience of living while Black and is a representation of the social injustice and structural inequality that faces those from BAME communities on a daily basis. In recent times, the deaths of BAME people in the Grenfell Fire, the UK government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy that created the inhumanity of the Windrush Scandal, what amounts to a racist immigration system that tears families apart and violently deports and detains people are all clear examples where systematically UK society is found wanting, and drags its feet to address policy and give recompense to meet the needs and issues of injured BAME communities whose lives don’t appear to matter.
Just like previous so-called watershed moments for race relations after the riots in the 1980’s, the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and subsequent race relations amendment act of 1990, where a new dawn for a post-racial society was predicted, only for us to see today all the statistics relating to existent disparities for BAME communities have grown worse.
Our biggest fear is that the new normal coming out of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic where George Floyd protests have been galvanized for the voiceless for a more just society will become the old normal, where promises made to address issues of diversity and inclusion, disproportionality and disadvantage to support BAME communities will be paid by lip service with the odd policy change, taskforce or special report.
The social housing sector, civil society and government, need to demonstrably show they will not pay lip service, maintain the necessary commitment to implement the change that has been demanded for years. After countless public inquiries, government reports, changes in legislation, token attempts at a tame equality impact assessment frameworks, after demands for change in the media’s intrinsic racial bias and stereotyping of BME communities, what really will become of this George Floyd moment.
How will these protests and the Black Lives Matters movement negotiate the immediate future, and the predictable media backlash that is just around the corner, as well resourced media outlets start to give a critique, to a spontanious protest movement or slogan that really should can not be defined as organised activity but more a sentiment that we all felt, when seeing that horrific video of George Floyd literally being murdered.
BAME communities need allies, not just for a moment, but until we live in a system that allows injustices to be transformed. This means our institutions prioritising creating operational cultures within a society that genuinely values inclusion and diversity, and seeks set and achieve ambitious Diversity Equality and Inclusion measures with quantitative targets that facilitate accountability within society’s systems ongoing.
We must call on each other to challenge our own attitudes, finding the courage to change in the discourse to give voice to the voiceless. Have the robust conversations around racial injustice, and truly explore what diversity, equality and inclusion really means and make a real commitment to shape our society for the better, hold ourselves to account with the utmost integrity and do better.