I’ve been deeply moved by the outpouring of concern, anguish and solidarity from constituents and beyond as regards the events that have taken place in the US concerning the horrific murder of George Floyd.
The issues that this has raised relating to race, power and wider society are as important in the UK as they are in the US, and we must finally confront the truth that structural racism is a reality for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people all over the world.
You can read my full response to my constituents in the letter below:
Clive Lewis MP
House of Commons
Reality SW1A 0AA
Thank you for your message. I’ve been deeply moved by the outpouring of concern, anguish and solidarity from constituents and beyond as regards the events that have taken place in the US concerning the horrific murder of George Floyd. There are few subjects that have elicited such an overwhelming response.
Please know that I have signed Early Day Motion (EDM) #520 and #525 supporting both the Black Lives Matter campaign and the call for all sales of tear gas, riot shields and rubber bullets to be prohibited from sale to the United States. I condemn Donald Trump’s use of force against his own citizens – behaviour like this is fascistic, cruel, anti-democratic, and sets a dangerous precedent.
I am also considering how I will safely take part in any local protests, which may well have to include some form of virtual participation given the current risks of Covid-19.
Longer term, I pledge to oppose racist immigration policies; continue to demand a public inquiry into the disproportionate number of Black and Minority Ethnic Covid-19 deaths; and oppose injustice and inequality in all its forms.
But let’s just take a moment to reflect here and now on why we find ourselves where we are in relation to George Floyd and the countless other victims of racism, both in the US and across the world.
George’s death was the latest manifestation of a structurally racist society. Such marrow-deep racism is endemic to any country where economic and political power has been shaped from vast wealth, forcibly extracted via slavery and colonialism. By necessity such accumulation required a deeply embedded ideology that justified hundreds of years of brutal exploitation, based as it was, along hierarchical notions of race. It is this historic social conditioning, kept alive by those who have most to gain from its continued application, that enabled the conditions for George Floyd’s death to take place.
Unfortunately, Britain has no less bloodied a record when it comes to race than the US. Our own colonial history was shaped by enslavement and indenture which, like the US, contributed to the wealth and infrastructure of this country. Whilst at the same time ensuring the huge impoverishment of Asian and African colonies. A situation that continues to plague them to this day.
Like the US, the deeply ingrained racist notions that went hand in hand with such exploitation also shaped the very foundations of our sense of national self-identity, patriotism, foreign policy, policing, sport, international development, immigration, jobs/economy and education. No sphere of our collective national life goes untouched by it.
It’s why Britain has its own shameful list of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people who have died in police custody: Mark Duggan, Rashan Charles, Sean Rigg, Sarah Reed, Faruk Ali and Anthony Grainger are but a few of the more recent names on a very long list.
It’s why Covid-19 has disproportionately affected those from backgrounds.
Its why black people are more likely to be stopped and searched; more likely to be tazered; to be unemployed, to be excluded from school; to be rejected from Oxbridge, or to not apply in the first place.
The list goes on.
The cynic in me fears George Floyd will very soon become just another name on an already long and incomplete list. Remembered briefly, then forgotten until the next black death, and the one after that.
But the role of the those of who aspire to see a better, more just world, is to make ‘hope possible rather than despair convincing’.
To that end let’s work together to ensure George Floyd’s death was not in vain. Because such a thought would, for me, be unbearable.
Clive Lewis MP