Black Lives Matter: any progress one year on?
It is now 12 months since over one thousand people marched through Rugby in the middle of a world-wide pandemic to protest against racism.
“This was the largest demonstration in Rugby anyone can recall”, Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) spokesperson Pete McLaren told us today. “The protest was in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement following the brutal, racist murder of George Floyd in the USA, amid an awakening of a new movement to eliminate racism once and for all.
“It is worth noting that BLM publicly states that all lives matter, but we need to stress that black lives matter at a time of racist attacks, and continued discrimination both here and elsewhere.
“At the time of last year’s protests, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had made “huge strides” in recent decades and that his government was “committed to eradicating prejudice” and “creating opportunity”. But he added: “There is so much more to do.”
“Was Boris right? What did last year’s protests achieve? Has anything changed?
“On the positive side:
§ Just as #MeToo empowered survivors of sexual violence to speak out, BLM kick-started uncomfortable conversations about diversity, discrimination and colonialism that many felt were overdue.
§ Over the past year several police forces have announced strategies to boost recruitment of black and ethnic minority officers, while the National Police Chiefs’ Council said in June that it was drawing up a “plan of action” to address concerns over stop and search, the use of force and the under-representation of black and ethnic minority officers.
§ Hundreds of schools have committed to reforming their teaching to better reflect the contributions to British society of black people and those from ethnic minorities, while addressing the legacy of colonialism.
§ Thousands of businesses, public bodies, schools and universities have changed their hiring practices, updated their teaching materials and rewritten the rules on the language they use — largely as a result of public pressure.
§ Statues and other memorials to The Slave Trade have been moved or removed
§ Footballers have continued to take the knee to show their opposition to racism. They voted as a profession to keep on taking the knee last December, and last week the England football team decided to continue the anti-racist gesture into Euro 2021
“On the negative side:
§ In hospitals, black and ethnic minority doctors and nurses had been dying from Covid-19 at a much faster rate than their white colleagues, and black men in the general population were found to be 2.7 times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts.
§ Black women remain more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women, and black babies have a 121% increased risk of a stillbirth.
§ Black people with degrees earn a quarter less than their white counterparts. They are far less likely to own their own home.
§ Black women are four times as likely as white women to die in pregnancy.
§ Black men are up to 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched than the general population.
§ Although only 3 % the population are black, about 8 % of deaths in custody are of black people.
§ At the start of this year there were no black executives in the role of chairman, chief executive or chief financial officer at Britain’s 100 biggest companies for the first time since 2014, according to a report on boardroom diversity by Green Park, a consultancy firm.
§ Black and mixed-race workers earn on average 5% - 15% less than their white colleagues.
§ A year of lockdown has seen an increase in racism. Over the summer, the Victim Support charity saw a 62% increase in referrals mostly regarding race and homophobic abuse.
“What should we conclude?” Pete McLaren asked. “A recent poll by YouGov found that 42% of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) adults think race relations in Britain today are no better than they were 12 months ago, while 33% believe they have got worse. On the other hand, Dr Halima Begum, CEO of the Runnymede Trust, was more positive, suggesting the issue of race equality was now a matter of debate in classrooms, boardrooms and living rooms.
“In our opinion, there is still a long way to go before we can claim any real progress in achieving racial equality. However, as a result of the issues raised by the Black Lives Matters movement, which we fully support, perhaps, for the first time in history, the tide seems to be definitively turning in the favour of race equality. Let’s hope that really is the case,” Pete McLaren concluded.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
§ Rugby TUSC was set up in March 2011. It is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition nationally - www.tusc.org.uk
§ Rugby TUSC can be contacted on 07881 520626 or RugbyTUSC@gmail.com; PO Box 4123 Rugby CV21 9BJ
§ Pete McLaren is a member of the TUSC National Steering Committee, and is its Local Group Development Officer.