For over three weeks the world has been engulfed in protest about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, America.
While this isn’t the first time an incident like this has happened in the public glare and been caught on camera, it is the manner and care-free attitude of the police officers involved that was particularly troubling to a lot of people the world over regardless of race; with the knee on George’s neck, nostrils bleeding, ignoring his plea for breath with hands fashionably placed in his trouser pocket.
People were rightfully enraged by the death of an unarmed fellow human being by police officers who swore to protect them. The resultant protest has led to skirmishes with the police and destruction of property by a very few who seek to exploit the situation. Such destruction always seeks to divert attention from the underlying issues of the protest which in most cases are legitimate.
The UK has made good advances with racism and it would be unfair not to acknowledge that. However, much more still needs to be done to tackle the ills and as the prime minister said, we will and should do all we can to get to the root causes of this.
In Croydon, we had two Black Lives Matter events on Saturday and Sunday. Both protests were very well attended by all age groups and people from different communities while maintaining social distancing and using face masks as we are in the middle of a pandemic. It went without any scuffle, arrest or commotion. People walked to and from the venues calmly and peacefully.
There were different speakers at the events talking about the pains of inequality, institutional racism, the issues of the wind rush generation not being dealt with properly till date, disproportionate death of BAME groups from COVID-19, poverty, increasing social inequality gaps, school exclusions for black kids, non-admission of the contribution of black people UK society, discrimination in work places, social injustice and mental health issues as a result of all these.
It had church leaders, community leaders, organisers and councillors from both sides of the political divide. Everyone agreed with the need to get a grip of this social menace by talking about all its different forms but more importantly, to start acting now. As one of the speakers said, action changes things and it starts from every member of the community.
Our community in Croydon like many others in the country, is a complex mix of different people from various backgrounds, families, educational achievements and learning. As was the aftermath of the 2011 riots, it is only by working as a community that we can put this issue to rest. A community that sees everyone as human beings of God’s creation and not through the pigmentation of their skin.
Central to this community approach, is standing up against racism wherever and whenever we see it in as peaceful a way as possible. In our homes, offices, during coffee breaks, in the work place kitchen, during small talk, at the board room before everyone else turns up, in phone calls, in the pubs, at the golf course, etc.
It will not be easy. It will take a long time and some people will be offended. However, when we challenge these actions in their darkest of places, then we can truly say we are on the right path. A path to creating a society of fairness and impartiality that can save the life of the people we love and the community we seek to protect. As one of the banners read:” We said black lives matter; Never said only black lives matter. We know all lives matter but we need your help with #blacklivesmatter for Black lives are in danger”.
Our country has always been at the forefront of integration and needs the input of everyone to face current global challenges. If we are to maximise the global Britain brand, we do need to use every aspect of our national lives to do this.
Donald Ekekhomen, Pharmacist and Former Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Croydon North