When Will You Admit Black Lives Don’t Matter?
Written by Huffpost on November 14, 2020
Article Published on Saturday November 14, 2020 7:00 AM by Huffpost
When Will You Admit Black Lives Don’t Matter?
Black British people are being hung out to try, according to a damning new report by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Titled Black People, Racism and Human Rights, the 45-page document lays bare the racial inequalities that blight the lives of Black people across health, criminal justice, immigration and democracy.
It focuses specifically on a number of areas that haven’t been recently covered across the myriad of previous race equality probes we’ve seen.
So you would be forgiven for thinking the report offers vindication for Black people in this country, for whom these findings are a long-lived reality. But even when the systemic inequality we face is etched in black and white, we’re still being ignored.
What has been absolutely dumbfounding about this report – over and above its shocking findings – is how little attention it has received from those in the corridors of power.
The report is underpinned by a startling statistic: over 75% of Black people do not believe their human rights are equally protected compared to white people. Yet, there’s been no public word from the government about this.
It highlighted Black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, citing that the NHS acknowledges and regrets the disparity but does not have a target to end it. Yet, nothing from the NHS about this, not even an acknowledgement. When I contacted its press office asking about its target, my query was ignored and a dry statement issued.
85% of Black people aren’t confident that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police, the review found. There have been no lines from police forces in response.
The report established that our national, government-funded equality watchdog, the EHRC, has failed to protect Black people. Prior to my approaching the EHRC, no public comment was made about this.
Yet, some 24 hours later on Thursday, the very same body welcomed David Goodhart as a new commissioner. He has previously slammed complaints of racism in the UK as “statistically naive” and supported the hostile environment policies which led to the Windrush Scandal.
Thereport’s findings have been spectacularly ignored by those in power, which speaks volumes about how Black people fare within society. It begs the question of how much our lives really matter.
Just a few months ago – as Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country following George Floyd’s murder in the US – you couldn’t move for pledges of solidarity with the anti-racism movement, finally acknowledging that institutional racism plagues UK society too.
I remember the attention that Black Lives Matter garnered over the summer like it was yesterday. Do you? But for all the pretty promises, it appears we’re back to – black – square one, eh? Well that was quick; we were all singing kumbaya around the fire over the summer. It appears those who are supposed to care about all people don’t give a toss about Black people.
When BLM was at its peak, I confess the whole thing left me feeling somewhat gaslighted; the sense that, all of a sudden, our pain was valid and we had permission to be truly seen was insulting on so many levels, and yet the hope of a better tomorrow was deeply enticing.
For the first time in my lifetime, certainly, it seemed that being unapologetically Black was en vogue, and within the global discourse about race, many of us had carte blanche to speak our truths, with a mild expectation that the establishment was genuinely listening to us.
But quickly Covid showed us that the government wasn’t listening to the specific dangers faced by Black people in this country – from disproportionate death rates to over-policing of our communities. And now, the reaction to this report has compounded what many of us have long known to be true – the reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement was just lip service.
“We are right to say Black lives matter,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in June, despite his past racist comments such as referring to Black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” and suggesting colonialism in Africa should never have ended.
The following month, Labour leader Keir Starmer spoke of the need to tackle racial injustices. The politician tweeted a photograph in which he took the knee in solidarity with BLM alongside deputy leader Angela Rayner.
Yet, there’s been no word from these men, cabinet ministers or big organisations about the matter. No black squares on social media or speeches championing racial equality. No “vim” as the youngsters say.
I contacted the Labour Party press office asking what its position was, and didn’t receive a response.
I reached out to the government’s equalities office, asking specifically about Black human rights in the context of the report’s conclusions. In response, I received a bland statement pointing to the newly formed race commission which – due to controversial members and confusion around its aims – does not have the confidence of many of those which it purports to help. Its own chair, equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, a Black woman, has suggested that racism isn’t an issue in the UK, so where do we go from there?
A spokesperson said: “The government continues to take action to address the disparities that exist in our society, including implementing the recommendations from reviews that we have agreed to take forward. Throughout the pandemic, the measures introduced by this government have been designed to protect and support everyone across the UK, including our most vulnerable.
“The PM launched the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities to set out a positive agenda for change and to expand on the work the government has already been doing to maximise opportunities for all.”
It’s like the words “Black” and “racism” stick in their throat, or is it just me?
You know what they say: silence is violence. Enquiring minds would like to know exactly where the allyship energy has gone in respect to those who sit within the upper echelons of society. The quiet is deafening.
I can’t speak for every Black person but I am happy to call this out knowing that I’ll sleep better tonight for having done so. My conscience will be clear knowing that I spoke out in favour of what is right, beyond the moment when a hashtag was trending. I’ll sleep; God knows I’m tired, anyway.
Nadine White is a reporter at HuffPost UK.