Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Like everyone else, I have been shocked by the murder of George Floyd, but I have also been surprised at the reaction, especially by white people in the USA - they seem to be totally taken aback that this gruesome and horrific event can happen in their country when there have been so many similar, unlawful deaths over many years. It makes me think that either they have been deaf, blind or chose not to see and hear the pleas from their black citizens. The only difference is that technology now makes it so much easier to record these modern-day lynchings! And now the world can see!
But what I've also noticed over the past 2 weeks of demonstrations is the strength of feeling across so many countries against the injustices heaped upon black people. I feel that at last, there is an overwhelming desire for change to happen - which is the difference between this protest and the others that have been occurred in the past.
One example to illustrate this relates to the statement made by the National Football League (NFL) Commissioner, Roger Goodhall who said:
"We the NFL admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We the NFL believe Black Lives Matter"
To understand the significance of this statement, you have to know the NFL's position in 2016 regarding protests by its players towards the unlawful killings of black people. When the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick decided to protest by kneeling on one knee to the National Anthem before games; he was effectively blackballed by the NFL who bowed down from pressure from Trump to punish players who took such action. Kaeperneck paid a heavy price for his actions. No team has employed him since. So now, the NFL has completely changed their position 4 years later, have acknowledged their mistake and have made a huge turnaround.
When I first started writing my thoughts on paper, many of my feelings and emotions were of anger, disgust, frustration and bewilderment. Although this was cathartic, it also made me realise that this was also quite negative; I think there is enough negativity going around already without me adding to it by ranting about injustices! There are enough newspaper articles and commentaries on the prevalence of racism in every walk of life - from work to sport. But if you need convincing - I'll give you a couple of facts as food for thought:
In the UK nearly 60 per cent of FTSE 350 listed companies don't have any ethnic minority directors. There is also zero non-white chairman of any FTSE 100 listed companies
Zero non-white board members of almost 87 per cent of Fortune 100 companies - high profile companies such as Nike and Apple who have made such strong statements in support of Black Lives Matter also have zero black people at board level
Almost one-third of the premier league players are black, yet there is no black manager. There are also no ethnic minority directors or Chairman at any of these clubs.
So instead I want to use this blog to suggest some positive actions that we and society can make to ensure a better and fairer place for us and our children.
Refuse to accept and tolerate any form of racism. Everyone has a duty to call out and have zero tolerance for any racist behaviour or racism. Too often, those unaffected by such actions stay silent. That is morally wrong and the silence is in effect giving consent to those unjust actions.
Re-educate yourself and your children about racism and its causes. The education system should inform and make children aware of major events such as the slave trade. How many cities and British institutions have benefitted from the slave trade and colonial rule? Liverpool, London and other English cities hugely profited from the slave trade. Many institutions arose from the slave trade such as the Bank of England. Another important aspect is to learn about the contribution of Indian and non-white soldiers to WW1 and WW2. For example, did you know there were 1.4million Indian soldiers in WW1? Why is there no commemorative plaque or statue to those soldiers? And why aren't school children educated about the huge and significant impact and sacrifice of Commonwealth soldiers during both world wars? These intentional cultural gaps and bias serve only to perpetuate myths about Britain and its heritage.
Question your employer about diversity. Find out what actions your company takes on ensuring diversity within its business. Are there any senior managers and directors from ethnic minority backgrounds? Is there a diversity policy and a diversity director or diversity champion at senior levels? Does the firm provide any diversity training or coaching? Change will occur if there is acceptance and challenge by employees that the status quo of under-representation is no longer ethically possible. Ask yourself, do I really want to work for a company that ignores the skills and talent of its ethnic minorities? What does it say about the values of such companies?
I am a firm believer that "without hope, there is no future". I have hope, even in such despairing and sad times. The tragic and horrendous death of George Floyd could be a real turning point for race relations not just in the US but also in the UK. But this depends on the white segments of the population taking some moral responsibility to make some changes in their thinking and behaviour. Such changes are not radical or difficult - for example having a zero tolerance to racial abuse is not radical, its just the moral thing to do. Questioning your employers about its diversity policy and effectiveness is not radical. I have only listed 4 possible courses of action - it's not meant to be an exhaustive list - I just wanted to show the type of actions that are required by institutions, individuals and companies if we are serious about removing the knee once and for all. PwC also fails to monitor levels of ethnic minorities in senior positions. Yet I note this firm has made a big pronouncement in support of Black Lives Matter. This is an example of empty rhetoric which needs to be called out.
I am a firm believer that "without hope there is no future". I have hope, even in such despairing and sad times. The tragic and horrendous death of George Floyd could be a real turning point for race relations not just in the US but also in the UK. But this depends on the white segments of the population taking some moral responsibility to make some changes in their thinking and behaviour. Such changes are not radical or difficult - for example having a zero tolerance to racial abuse is not radical, its just the moral thing to do. Questioning your employers about its diversity policy and effectiveness is not radical. I have only listed 4 possible courses of action - its not meant to be an exhaustive list - I just wanted to show the type of actions that are required by institutions, individuals and companies if we are serious about removing the knee once and for all.