The death of George Floyd at the hands of police has sparked a wave of protests across the world and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, seeking an end to racial inequality.
In the UK we are not immune to deaths in police custody. According to INQUEST, there have been 1741 deaths following contact with the police in England & Wales since 1990 – within BAME communities. The Runnymede Trust found that, between 1995 and 2015, no police officer was prosecuted over a Black person’s death in custody. Black people disproportionately suffer from excessive police use of force, are over-represented in the prison population, and receive harsher sentences than white offenders.
These communities are overpoliced as citizens and underpoliced as victims. As we see from the cases of Belly Mujinga, Shukri Abdi and many others – Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) families are fighting simply for the deaths of their loved ones to be properly investigated. But more often than not, they are closed with little regard.
We know that racial injustice does not end with contact with the police. In countries where BAME people find themselves minorities centuries of social depravation and economic extraction have seen them discriminated against in every facet of life. From housing to education and employment, and everything in between. In the UK these issues have only intensified with a decade of austerity, and the rise of racist nationalist movements.
Attempts to appease toxic narratives about race and immigration saw the creation of the “hostile environment” in the UK. An institutionally racist Home Office destroyed lives and families. It presided over the Windrush Scandal, where even British citizens were detained, deported and dehumanised, simply because of the colour of their skin.
As the coronavirus pandemic rages on we see BAME people are twice as likely to die from the disease and a government that will take no action to protect them. In the face of obvious systemic racism, the routine of blaming BAME people continues. In this case citing lifestyles and genetics for the disproportionate number of deaths, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. There is always an excuse when black people suffer, even when the world can see a knee pushed into a man’s neck.
The sustained injustice is a weight BAME communities can no longer bear. For all these reasons and many others the movement is called ‘Black Lives Matter’ – because although we know all lives should matter, it is clear from policy and practice, that black lives do not.
It falls on all of us black and white, to show solidarity, and stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who feel anger, hurt and fear, from the continuous barrage of discrimination and disparity.
At this moment in history when direct action has forced our governments and institutions to take stock, we must use every resource at our disposal to campaign for real structural change. This mass movement is our opportunity to end the severe class and racial inequalities which exist in our society.
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To coincide with the release of our latest art pack and the We Demand Better march on June 18th, cartoonist Jamie-Max Caldwell has created this excellent guide on how to make your very own placard.Download