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Black Lives Matter

 

The appalling killing of George Floyd and the demonstrations it sparked off all over the world have made many of us reflect on racism in our society and whether or not we are unwittingly playing a part in it?

A couple of years ago my Wife and I were in the USA attending my nephew’s wedding. Somewhere on a highway in Nevada we were stopped for speeding. The ‘Cop’ was charming and said he would be issuing an official warning.

My wife asked if he would mind posing with me for a photo, which he was happy to do, and with a broad grin he presented the ticket to me while shaking my other hand – it felt like I’d won a prize!

When I WhatsApp’d the picture to my nephew, he replied saying that, had I been black and his age I’d would have thought myself lucky not to be shot!

A great misconception is that racism is a black problem. This may be largely because white people don’t suffer from it, they don’t believe it exists, or they believe it exists because they hear it does, but they rarely, if ever, never witness it.

The so called ‘black on black’ knife crime which plagues our cities is seen by most as a problem which the black community needs to sort out.

But in fact, racism is a problem which can only be sorted out by the ruling classes who, in this country, are predominantly white.

In 2019 a blog published by Runymede, the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank, Laurie Mompelat said: “by structural racism, I mean the set of circumstances artificially created over generations, through European colonialism, and which holds ‘whiteness’ to be superior”

“Structural racism also means that, collectively, people of colour are held back from achieving their cultural, political and economic potential, and are kept distant from power, representation and resources”.

I don’t believe these days that any sensible person believes people are any less intelligent, less hardworking, more or less likely to commit crime or are more lawless or violent because of the level of melanin in their skin.

But there are statistical discrepancies in all kinds of areas of our society which demonstrate an underperformance and underrepresentation of BAME individuals.

The Equality & Human Rights Commission published a report which included an eye watering list of such statistics. Here are a few:

  • Employment: Black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less on average than White workers
  • Education: Just 6% of Black school leavers attended a Russell Group university, compared with 12 per cent of mixed and Asian school leavers and 11 per cent of White school leavers
  • Crime: The homicide rate for Black people was 30.5 per million population, 14.1 for Asian people and 8.9 for White people
  • Living Standards: 30.9% of Pakistani or Bangladeshi people live in overcrowded accommodation, while for Black people the figure is 26.8% and for White people it is 8.3%
  • Health: Black African women had a mortality rate four times higher than White women in the UK

And the list goes on….

BAME people are more likely to live in deprived neighbourhoods, in poor quality and overcrowded accommodation. It wasn’t then a coincidence that the majority of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire were from ethnic backgrounds.

Is it a coincidence that BAME communities have been hardest hit by the corona virus?

Professor Michael Marmot who wrote the government commissioned ‘Fair Society Health Lives’ review said:

“People with higher socioeconomic position in society have a greater array of life chances and more opportunities to lead a flourishing life. They also have better health. The two are linked: the more favoured people are, socially and economically, the better their health”.

“Health status, therefore, should be of concern to policy makers in every sector, not solely those involved in health policy”.

And when the media reported the Black Lives Matter protests what captured the headlines? Was it the fact that the demonstrations brought together tens of thousands of people of all races and colours and from all walks of life, united in their demand to stamp out racism?

No, the headlines focused on the hooliganism and violence of a few extremists, almost certainly unlinked to the movement, who took advantage of the situation to cause trouble. Unfortunately, this kind of reporting helps perpetuate the myth that BAME people are violent and out of control.

The cost of prejudice to society is enormous. Instead of a true meritocracy where we get the best doctors, teachers, politicians, building surveyors, architects and roofers, we end up getting the best white male ones.  Just contemplate for a second the disadvantage we give ourselves as a society by excluding over 50% of the talent on offer?

And it is not a zero sum game; if any person does well, creates wealth, pays more taxes, helps the economy expand, they help everyone else by creating more wealth and opportunities.

“We need to remember that our voices and contributions matter. If our institutions and policies structurally dehumanise and discriminate against entire groups of people, we need to end complacency. And if we can imagine and carry a better world in our hearts, let’s keep fighting for it. And let’s eliminate racism”.  Runymede Trust.

Racism is a complex and deeply ingrained problem in our society. It is not a feeling, it is a fact. Every individual has a responsibility to stand up and call it out; staying silent is to condone.

Black lives matter and let’s use this momentum to take advantage of the opportunity to make our world a much better place.