The murder of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis has sparked protests across the US, and across the world.
We should not be surprised. Black people the world over face discrimination, harassment and racism, sometimes on a daily basis. No wonder people are angry. And while there’s been some progress over the years to tackle such racism, there’s still gaping racial inequality in our society, which shames us all. And should anger us all.
So I hope we will all show our personal solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaigns – and not dismiss it as something only relevant for the US. Here in the UK, in recent times, remember Windrush. Stephen Lawrence. Grenfell. Mark Duggan. There’s still so much to do to tackle the scourge of racism in the UK.
From pay gaps to racism on some football terraces. From the experience of police stop and search powers amongst Britain black and ethnic minority communities, to the higher conviction and incarceration rates for black people, the evidence of racial injustice is overwhelming.
So while part of our response to the police brutality in the US and the death of George Floyd must be to show our solidarity – and criticisms of the appalling response of President Trump – we must also redouble our efforts to fight racism in the UK.
In my own community, my lodestar is my friend John Azah. John is Chief Executive Officer for Kingston Race and Equalities Council (KREC), and he’s campaigned tireless over 3 decades to make Kingston a more racially equal community. I asked him this week what he’d like Government to do – and he was clear: invest in organisations that can work with communities and authorities to deliver continual improvement on racial equality. He has a vision of a National Race Equality Alliance, to bring together many race equality councils and organisations and provide a single point of contact.
In my own party, we still fall far short. Despite a number of initiatives, the recent Alderdice Review showed the yawning gap between rhetoric and practice in my own party on race equality. And our recent General Election Review rightly called for more urgent implementation of this crucial diversity and equality agenda.
In our country, right now, there’s an urgency for a much stronger Government response over the disproportionate impact on BAME people of Covid-19 – and why this disease seems to have killed so many people from BAME communities. The Government’s handling of its own report into this has been shambolic, when we needed a serious, more transparent approach.
Liberal Democrat values of justice, equality and liberty should compel us to back the Black Lives Matter movement – but to do much more besides. My first political action nearly 34 years ago was to persuade my college to disinvest from Barclays Bank, who were then prolific in Apartheid South Africa. For me, action speaks louder than words.
So the challenge to all of us is this. What are you going to do, to make sure Black Lives Matter?