We have lost sight of the true objectives of the BLM movement, and turned it into a racist shout-off… – Labour Article
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, reignited by the inhumane death of George Floyd in May, caused nationwide panic over mass gatherings during the pandemic. In June, the nation turned its attention to the divisive debate over the removal of certain statues.
Now, in July, we are still flooded by reports of statues with coverage focusing on the new figure of activist Jen Reid. The statue has already been taken down, leaving the pedestal empty once again after the overthrow of Edward Colston.
Without a doubt, this is a vital debate to have for social progress. The point is not to erase British history, but to be representative of the social era we currently live in, and to learn from the tyrannical past.
Although, the amplified attention to these issues has hijacked the real initiative and demands of the racial equality movement. They have become a tactical distraction from the real issues: repressive institutions and systematic racism. These will take greater political and social effort to dismantle.
In the UK, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds scapegoated party politics, stating: “far-right extremists [are] seeking to exploit the situation and sow hate for their own divisive ends”.
Members of Britain First and Democratic Football Lads Alliance made their way to London to protect the statues. Police kept the nationalists and BLM protesters in separate areas to avoid violent clashes and arrests. In Hoddesdon, a group of anti-protesters shouted: “Why don’t you go back to Africa?”, and made the Nazi salute.
In one case, Andrew Banks, who partook in the right-wing protests in London, was jailed for urinating on PC Keith Palmer’s memorial. The ironic disrespect is a clear sign that these protests are no longer about protecting British nationalism, but about showing that the racist voice can be louder than the progressive one.
Additionally, Banks admitted that he did not even know which statues he had gone to protect. Clearly, this has become a racist populist movement that is little concerned with maintaining the oppressive status quo, and more about just kicking up a fuss.
However, I personally would not solely place the blame on right-wingers. The government and media have overlooked the importance of the BLM movements, the reality faced by people of colour, and what can be done to help. Only focusing on what is easiest to criticise: protesters and statues.
Amongst politicians, it has become a finger-pointing game. Donald Trump scapegoated Antifa for the violence and looting associated with the BLM protests in the US. Fuelling the fourth wave of “Antifa panic”, it has displaced national discussion from the racist reality in America, to the need for conservatives to oppress anti-fascists.
In the UK, Dominic Raab mocked demonstrators by comparing ‘taking a knee’ (a sign of solidarity) at BLM protests to something from Game of Thrones. As if systematic racism is only an HBO/Sky series for our entertainment.
Clearly, the UK government is not adequate to deal with the reality of this situation. Boris Johnson has announced a new commission on “wider inequalities”. But the way this commission was announced, hidden within an article about Churchill and lacking detail, shows how Johnson is just doing the minimum to please protesters; to calm the masses.
There have already been a number of reports and enquiries focusing on the experiences of people of colour. Most notably, David Lammy’s report on the criminal justice system in 2017, which contained 35 recommendations. Three years later, only six have been implemented.
With over 91 recommendations from past reports, of which only a few have been addressed, another commission is a poor attempt to resolve the issue threatening the lives and futures of ethnic minorities. It has come as an attempt to pretend that the government cares and is listening to the demands of the protesters.
This new government pledge to look into racial inequality starting from scratch will take time, money, and effort that will be minimally committed until it is all forgotten about. I am pessimistically sure that nothing will change.
What recommendations do I propose? Well, firstly the real issues which have already been reported on need addressing, not discarding. Secondly, a holistic approach needs to be taken: addressing all ethnicities, especially the white majority.
How can we expect anything to change when the dominant race are unaware of their country’s past and present?
I would like to acknowledge that most of the writers at POI, including myself, are white. Although we will never understand first-hand the experiences of people of colour, I want to use this platform to get the conversation back on track to making a permanent change. I would also like to encourage people to leave a reply about this article and about recommendations. We need to open the dialogue and listen – so let’s start it here.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Giulia Valentina
Point of Information
Education is Essential in the Fight Against Racism – a Liberal response
Giulia writes a compelling and very necessary article addressing the attempts to distract us from fixing institutionalised, systematic racism. I thoroughly agree that the government’s response has been lacklustre; they are aiming for the bare minimum. Western society has a deep problem with racism, a problem that cannot be easily fixed. We need strong, permanent solutions.
Giulia’s recommendations are crucial to getting back on track. However, I want to take them further. One essential solution in helping us to address systematic racism is constant education.
We need to drastically reform our school and university curriculums. Currently, British education has failed to properly represent the history of minorities. For example, there is a significant lack of discussion about the history of black people in Britain in our textbooks, despite their overwhelming contribution to British history. David Olusoga expands on this in ‘Black and British: a Forgotten History’ – a book as impressive as it is thorough. If we can change our curriculums, we can change our outlooks.
Education isn’t just limited to institutions, though. We should keep ourselves constantly informed. We should be willing to learn and unlearn. We should read about racism and its prevalence. The voices and experiences of people of colour should be listened to.
Constant education can create a society that is aware of its own racism and the systems that perpetuate it. Ignorance is no longer acceptable.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
“Education, education, education” – a Conservative response
I would like to thank Giulia for bringing such a poignant issue back for debate. She has made some very significant points that need to be addressed and commended.
I admit that the government’s response to BLM does seem a bit lax. However, changes will come over time like any other important issue. I will refer again to Tony Blair’s slogan “education, education, education” as a reference point that the government and institutions must look up to.
Boris Johnson has done the right thing in creating a new cross-government commission but he has failed to set out its differences to previous enquiries and groups such as the Race Disparity Audit, launched by Theresa May. Boris Johnson must ensure that this new commission focuses on identifying poignant issues related to race today and linking back to history to educate individuals between the rights and wrongs.
Yesterday, Priti Patel acknowledged the recommendations made by Wendy Williams who launched an inquiry into the Windrush Scandal. Recommendations include mandatory training for new and existing members of the Home Office which should be across the Civil Service and other institutions. It is not existent in just one place, it is evident across the board.
I agree with Frank that education should not just be limited to institutions but it should be accessible to everyone. Removing programmes such as “Little Britain” is an example of a counter-productive action in this movement. It should include warnings and be classified as any other film or programme of its nature to further education.
To reiterate my stance, the government have made a start, but a lot more could be done to educate the masses.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Max Jablonowski
Solely focused on my art career at A-level, I was completely disassociated with the existence of politics, at home and at school. As the political and humanitarian crisis in my home country, Venezuela, worsened, I became absorbed by the situation and understanding the politics of corruption that was causing the biggest refugee crisis in the continent.
Politics was a completely taboo subject for me as a young boy. Having lived almost all my life in Brunei and Qatar – two very strict, theocratic autocracies – I was cautious to keep my opinions well-guarded. The smallest negative remark about either country’s governance, for example, would’ve meant deportation for my family and I. Any non-approved political activity, no matter how naïve, had to be kept a secret. It was best not to question at all.
I am Max Jablonowski, a second year student studying French and Politics at the University of Exeter, and I am about to go on my year abroad to Paris to complete two internships. I was Academic Events Manager of the Politics Society in Exeter and I was privileged enough to organize events such as Question Time, co-host the 2019 General Election Hustings with MWEXE and host the Rt. Hon. James Brokenshire MP, the current Minister of State for Security.