It’s 2020 and I really feel I shouldn’t need to write this, but I do.
Black lives matter. I support the protesters in the US and, possibly controversially, I support what they are doing. Why? Because they tried protesting peacefully and it didn’t work. Remember Colin Kaepernick? He peacefully kneeled during the national anthem at the start of NFL games to protest violence against black people. As a result, he no longer plays for any team and the NFL threatened to fine any players who did the same.
Four years down the line and we still have black people, just going about their business, being murdered at the hands of ordinary white citizens and the police. And there is often no justice. So no, I’m not surprised people are angry, they have every right to be.
For anyone who thinks racism ended with the abolition of slavery, or the end of segregation, think again. Racism is practically written into the American constitution.
When slavery was abolished in the US, white slave owners still had a large amount of power and a vested interest in ensuring they still had free or low cost workers for their land. The wording of the amendment was such that enslavement was illegal except as punishment for a crime. Here started the culture of a disproportionate amount of black people being arrested, convicted and incarcerated on false charges – because it enabled white folks to use prisoners as slave labour totally legally. This practise continued until the Second World War.
It also set a precedent for white people to feel empowered to police and judge black people, hence we now have completely innocent people of colour being challenged and sometimes murdered for doing nothing wrong. White people feel entitled to confront black people in a way they most likely would not to another white person.
And segregation didn’t end with Rosa Parks infamous stand (or refusal to stand!). Augusta Golf Club in Georgia did not accept black golfers as members until 1990. (It didn’t accept women as members until 2012, but that’s another story.) Founded in 1932, co-founder and chair, Clifford Roberts, said, “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black.” Nice chap then.
And before you get comfortable and think this is just an American problem, whilst we don’t have such free access to guns so incidents tend to be less violent, we are not immune.
Research consistently shows that people from Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME) backgrounds are more likely to be rejected for a job than a similarly qualified white person and more likely to be stopped and searched by police.
It’s been well documented that BAME people are more likely to become ill from COVID-19 and have worse outcomes. They are also more likely to live in over-crowded conditions, making it harder to be socially distant, and more likely to be in lower-paid front line roles, which make it more likely they would come into contact with the virus.
And today the government yet again delayed the publication of the report into the reasons for BAME people are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, because they fear it would be inflammatory under the current circumstances. Read into that what you will.
Make no mistake, the ability to safely work from home is a privilege afforded by money, status and colour.
So as we can see, in 2020 racism is alive and kicking and it’s everybody’s job to understand it, acknowledge it and confront it. All lives cannot matter until black lives matter.