Image: ALI V LISTON. Mixed Media Collage. 11.5 x 16 cm. 2016
THE FIGHT FOR BLACK RIGHTS.
The story of the week has been the protests ,after the killing of George Floyd, taking place in cities throughout the US, the UK and all over the world. People have been protesting for justice and equal rights in societies which fail to recognise prejudice and racism as a problem. Coming at a time when the BAME community has been adversely affected by the pandemic has only served to highlight tensions between governments and society. In yesterday’s briefing, despite ‘tacit’ support for protesters Matt Hancock still insisted that groups of no more than 6 persons were permissible in public gatherings. This puts the police in England in an invidious position, on one hand expected to enforce the rule of law, or at least the rule of Covid 19, whilst on the other hand avoiding escalation of protests into those horrific scenes witnessed across cities in the US and beyond. There are no easy answers to the dilemma the world is facing and many consider that protesting about this outrage takes priority over the issue of public health.
The ‘pandemic’ of racism is deep rooted in the history of exploitation of peoples. The illness has become so enmeshed in the D.N.A. of western society that it is hardly recognised as a condition at all. The true responsibility for the outbreak falls squarely on the legacy of the United Kingdom, whose treatment of slaves as human property was central to the formation and continuance of its position of wealth, power, religion, education, institutions, laws and the judicial system which we have today. To unravel hundreds of years of social ‘whitewashing’ of the truth is not easily undone by nine minutes of mobile phone footage. Racism is of course worldwide and as a teacher I believe that the only way to really change society is slowly through education, but the tenants of education are built on foundations laid by the past and the buildings have doors which are well guarded at all times. Only the converted get a ticket. Violent protests will be labelled anarchy and suppressed to maintain the ability of the status quo to maintain their power and privilage.
To take South Africa as an example, apartheid was principally beaten by Nelson Mandela’s struggle for reconciliation, the measure that recognised the concept of equality of all men and women whatever race, creed or religion. To educate is literally to lead out, and though we are deep in the mire, we need to extend our hands to those who are sinking. We must show them we are willing to work to heal the wounds of the past and build a new society together for EVERY member of this human race.