Black Lives Matter - Ian Lawrence writes

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Black lives matter just as they always should

The protests that have taken place across the World this week, and those that are to follow in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, are a stark reminder that the lessons of history are all too easily forgotten.

Those of us who are members of the BAME community and who have, at various stages in our lives experienced direct and indirect racism, will obviously identify with the emotions that have surfaced after what, by any standards, counts as one of the most brutal and disgusting public displays of Police brutality that I have ever seen.

Not that this is exclusive to the USA with its shameful litany of so many Black men being killed over recent years by the police or racist citizens; or for that matter in many other countries who manage to hide their human rights violations from any form of scrutiny. Here in Britain there are all too many grieving families who still seek answers to their questions about why their loved ones died in custody.

We live in perpetual hope that politicians and lawmakers will emerge to challenge and prevent future incidents. What happened on the other side of the Atlantic ought now to be the catalyst for widespread change in the way that BAME people are listened and responded to, but how can we have confidence in that happening when what has gone before suggests otherwise?
What’s going to change?

The American Civil war was supposed to have brought freedom to future generations of Black people. Some freedom, where Black soldiers who fought bravely for America and Europe in two subsequent World Wars, still witnessed their sons and daughters living in fear of being lynched and prohibited to share buses, toilets and restaurants for decades afterwards. Some freedom, when Black men form the majority of the American prison population incarcerated for crimes that do not attract the same tariff in comparison for white people. All this in a society that hundreds of years on, still harbours geographical and economic apartheid and institutional racism and where one of its citizens endures eight and a half minutes of torture prior to their ultimate death before a watching world.

How can anyone have faith that the change predicted by Rosa Parkes, Marshall Ganz, Martin Luther King and other famous campaigners is really coming, when an electoral system in the USA still maintains a bias towards representatives from the former ‘Slave States’ to create numerical hegemony for them in the Senate and Congress?

It’s a system that has been a considerable hurdle to the liberal forces that have supported civil rights, equality and democracy over the last two centuries and more. It’s also given their citizens (and us) Donald Trump; a living icon for the Alternative Right movement in the States and sadly many European governments as well. A President whose clear disdain for Women who have a different opinion to his, and let’s face it - anyone who is different to him - has by his utterances, provided confidence to his misogynist and racist supporters in and outside of the civil institutions to come out of the woodwork and kill a few people.
Here in the UK we still carry the shameful history of oppression across the former so called British Empire and, the disastrous territorial meddling and military engagement that has caused millions of deaths in Asia and the Middle East over many decades. Real change means doing more than the cowardly inertia we have witnessed following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the Grenfell Tower disaster and latterly the disgusting treatment of the ‘Windrush generation’.

Our members and all of the Napo Staff and Officers pay tribute to the family of George Floyd and stand in solidarity with all those who actively oppose racism, just as Napo as an organisation has done throughout its history. It’s also vital that we must all do our best to urge those who will follow us to never forget the bitter lessons of the past.

It’s also about listening

One of the central and equally important messages to have emerged in the last week is one which urges all decent minded people who are genuinely opposed to racism but who have not experienced it, to listen to the voices of their BAME sisters and brothers.

This following narrative has been published by RISE and I commend it to you CLICK HERE