By Jake Garvey
Whilst the Black Lives Matter movement has been brought to the forefront of public knowledge since the murder of George Floyd, the systemic racism which permeates through every layer of life in the UK has seemingly gone ignored – or at least not offered a similar amount of media attention simply because, from the ground up, the UK is an institutionally racist society.
On 13th June, far right protestors clashed with police in cities including London and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. One of the reasons for these protests were that ‘All Lives Matter’: white protestors felt unjustly attended to, that their race was not being offered as much media attention as the black community. Yet in an overwhelmingly white society, why are white people worried about the safety of their lives? White people operate with a level of self-importance; the validity of their race is never challenged. They are led to believe, by a system which favours white people, that their experiences of life due to their skin colour are universal and are experienced by everyone. This is far removed from the reality of modern-day Britain.
‘All Lives Matter’ allows white groups to continually establish their dominance over the black community
As a statement, ‘All Lives Matter’ is racist. Of course, in principle, everyone’s life carries value. However, white people experience life in a society adapted for their needs, a system which operates with a level of white privilege. The BAME community in the UK is very aware of the distinct disadvantage which is brought to them by the colour of their skin. Over the course of the history of slavery in the British Empire, almost 11 million black people were transported, simply as commodities – a resource to be expendable at the mercy of the rich, white businessmen.
Black people in the UK have a history of being used to further the capital interest of white people. After the 1919 murder of Charles Wootton in Liverpool, the English government organised a repatriation drive, making clear their power over the black community. Again, when they were needed, they were called upon in their thousands. In 1948, 490 Black and Caribbean men and women travelled onboard the SS Windrush, to supplement the labour demands of the British economy. The blatant racism which perpetuates the system came back to haunt them much later; the 2018 Windrush scandal, in which the Home Office’s systematic discrimination of these people was disclosed, uncovered just how deep racism permeates British society.
Society needs to operate for everyone
The racist connotations of the term ‘All Lives Matter’ are frankly insulting. White people live in a protected society, where their interests are more likely to be upheld than those of black people. Archaic laws are brought back into circulation, simply to uphold the structural racism at the very heart of the UK parliamentary and governmental system. The 1824 Vagrancy Act was often wielded by police, and over zealously deployed towards black people during the 70s and 80s. The notion of who did and didn’t appear suspicious to the police was undoubtedly quickly becoming racialised. Even community policing initiatives during the 80s and 90s did not exist comfortably, despite their veiled attempt to hide blatant racially motivated police brutality. In a 1984 report by the Camden Committee for Community Relations, the systemic racism which existed in the police force was allegedly simply ‘covered up’ under the guise of friendly local policing initiatives.
Whilst, on paper, the UK is seemingly a much more equal and diverse society than it has been in the past, the reality is far from this. With hate crimes rising exponentially since the decision to leave the European Union in 2016, it is clear to see how racism simply doesn’t just come from people seeking attention. It is embedded at the very core of a society which seeks to discriminate and deny rights to a section of the population which have played an undeniably important role in the creation of British society.
White people live in a protected society, where their interests are more likely to be upheld than those of black people
The racism permeating British society is often covert. Whilst it occasionally manifests itself in nationalist protests, like those seen this week, it is frequently more systematic than this and operates within a framework designed to infringe and limit the social freedoms of certain groups. Research shows that black pupils are more likely to be marked down during SATs in Year 6, and that over 70% of professors in UK Higher Education are white males.
How do we expect Black people to prosper in a society which operates in favour of the dominant group? Society needs to operate for everyone: white normality needs to be shattered. A 2009 report from the Equalities and Human Rights commission revealed that over 30% of young BAME males had DNA on the national database, compared to less than 10% of white men.
‘All Lives Matter’ allows white groups to continually establish their dominance over the black community as they have done for too long. White people know their lives matter: they don’t have anything to worry about. The validity of their very being simply isn’t challenged. Black people live in fear everyday, who knows when they could be searched.
White people, we know our lives matter. Everything operates in favour of us. It is time to make black lives matter. Break through the embedded racism and make society representative of everyone.
Photograph: Noah Eleazar via Unsplash