Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
The murder of George Floyd has seen people across the world mobilise in acts of solidarity on an unprecedented scale. It has managed to create greater awareness about the ways in which systemic racism functions, and the mechanisms that facilitate it; but it should not have taken this long. Why did it take this video of a murder of yet another black person, for widespread acknowledgement that systemic racism exists and negatively impacts every black person?
To ignore the realities of the systemic racism that black people must face every day, means becoming an accomplice to it. Similarly, white people ignoring how racial biases affect black people, out of fear of exposing how they may have benefited from that very system, means they remain an accomplice to it.
Although the mainstream media may be portraying racism as a specifically American issue, the UK is also guilty. Comparative pride is entirely misguided. Suggesting that we have come a long way, is a shameful attempt at taking away from the current situation. If the murder of George Floyd has emphasized anything for the UK, it is that racism is alive here too. It’s the reason there are so few BME students on our university campuses, with BME people half as likely to attend Russell Group universities, it’s the reason black lives (along with other ethnic minorities) are substantially more affected by pandemic and why the Metropolitan Police are twice as likely to fine black people over lockdown breaches.
Everyone should be questioning why these realities exist. We saw racism in action during the Windrush scandal, we saw it in the circumstances surrounding and the response to Grenfell Tower. This degree of interracial solidarity should have occurred long before now.
I am not claiming to be able to come close to understanding the realities of being a black person and the systemic racism that faces people in this country. Racism should be deplorable to anyone with a shred of compassion and humanity. It can be difficult and uncomfortable to face, precisely because it is so unjust. However this is an issue that everyone should be rallying behind no matter your race, religion or political belief. We have seen the mass mobilisation of young people around the climate justice movement and the real impact that this is having. We are witnessing the ability of collective action in making real change. We know that we are capable of this, so we must also be unrelentingly and unconditionally behind racial justice.
Multiple resources are being circulated now, containing numerous methods through which you can easily use to give your support and start taking action. They are all over our Facebook timelines and our Instagram feeds and there is no excuse for ignoring them. Silence is no longer an option. Ignorance is no longer an option. Complacency is no longer an option. If you are privileged enough to have a voice that will be listened to, then now is the time to speak up and continue speaking. There is not a checklist; systemic change takes more than a box-ticking exercise.