Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab decided to change the job description of one of the Great Offices of State, in order to appease a racist.
When pressed on the appalling events unfolding in the US, the Foreign Secretary said it was ‘not his job’ to comment on racist, fascistic police brutality and murder incited by the leader of our closest historic ally. On the same day, Raab rightly said he would not ‘turn a blind eye’ to residents in Hong Kong facing oppression. This is a welcome intervention, but how can the Foreign Secretary choose to condemn some human rights abuses, only to disregard others in the name of political mollycoddling? Such brazen ignorance is shocking, even from Raab.
On Monday Donald Trump endorsed Senator Tom Cotton’s calls for a ‘no quarter’ approach to protestors. This phrase implies combatants will not be taken prisoner, but killed, and is established as a war crime under the 1907 Hague Convention. An incitement of war crimes from a leader in, say, an African or Asian country, might have led to a cutting of diplomatic ties and sanctions (see here for a list of financial sanctions imposed by the UK government). Boris Johnson’s white supremacist friend is met with silence.
This silence amounts to nothing but complicity. Some voices on social media, responding to Keir Starmer’s statement on George Floyd’s death and images of protests across the UK, questioned why it was our place to comment on domestic events in the US, echoing Raab’s rhetoric. This is reductive and malignant. To dismiss the outrage of such abuses on the basis that it is happening elsewhere, is wilful neglect and both a symptom and cause of systemic failures that have led to where we are now. For the government to do this, all the while ignoring thousands marching through their own streets, is criminal.
Moreover, many of the signs carried at the protests rang true: THE UK IS NOT INNOCENT.
As well as standing in solidarity and support of those in the US, we must demand lessons are learnt here regarding the institutional racism across law enforcement and government. Last week we learnt that BAME people in England were 54% more likely to be fined than white people under COVID-19 rules, and the use of stop and search powers that disproportionately target minorities is on the rise. Police have taken no action whatsoever over the tragic death of Belly Mujinga despite being swift to prosecute other COVID-19 spitting cases.
But the UK’s silent complicity with Trump’s racist authoritarianism is not as surprising as we might like. In the wake of the Windrush scandal and the revelations of the long-delayed review in March, the actions of successive governments have only amounted to offerings of empty apologies. The once-promised investigation into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party is yet to exist.
The Equalities Minister, Liz Truss (who is white), has yet to say a single thing about black lives, or indeed Pride month. To repeat, the minister responsible for further investigations into the increased likelihood of Covid-19 deaths for BAME people, has not uttered a word about black lives.
Unfortunately, as Secretary of State for International Trade, ‘Equalities Minister’ Liz Truss is also responsible for post-Brexit trade talks with the US. It is becoming increasingly apparent, if it was not already, that Johnson and his government value a trade deal more than the lives of minorities in the UK and across the world.
We must not forget it.
Donate. Petition. Write to your local MP and ask them what they are doing. Give your vote to someone who values both human rights and politics. Participate in allied protests and demonstrations (when safe from COVID-19). Use your voice.