• Thursday , 2 July 2020

BLM: ‘We cannot go back to business as usual’

Writing for MyLondon Cllr Alisa Fleming speaks out on the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Twenty years on from the death of Stephen Lawrence, what lessons have been learned?”

I woke early to the handsome face of a young black man singing the saddest words I’ve ever heard.

Not new words, but with a fresh sense of pain and truth: “I just want to live.” As the song continued, I thought of my ancestors whose songs called for freedom. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realised where my anger comes from. I’m scared.

My impatience when my sons are messing around is about more than tiredness.

They’re growing up in a world where no matter how hard they try, they’ll be told that their best isn’t good enough. If they say the wrong thing, go to the wrong bus stop or make the smallest mistake they could pay for it with their lives.

I think of my son’s words: “How comes you’re so hard on us?” and I cry more, realising my fear has affected my parenting in the most profound of ways.

Black Lives Matter protests, like this one in Thornton Heath, have been taking place across Croydon.

In their eyes I’m preparing soldiers for the battlefield, where they’ll be sent to the frontline without protective gear. They are considered dispensable in this world.

Coronavirus has highlighted the inequality between races more than anyone could have imagined.

The disproportionate rates of death, ‘migrants not welcome here’ attacks on black people in China and enslavement of black people in Libya – the fear is real for too many black people across the world.

As the Windrush scandal showed, much has changed but much is the same and the pain of the past has become the pain of the present.

Twenty years on from Stephen Lawrence what lessons have been learnt? When will we reach a place where the colour of a man’s skin doesn’t determine whether he lives or dies; whether he gets the job or grade he deserves or can jog safely in his neighbourhood?

The latest victims add their names to a long list of those who went before them. Rashan Charles, Julian Cole, Mark Duggan, Smiley Culture, Olaseni Lewis, Sean Riggs, Azelle Rodney, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Keith Childress, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and George Floyd. The list goes on and on and I can’t breath.

Murals to Minnesota resident George Floyd, recently killed by Minneapolis Police Officers, have sprung up across the world. But he is just one of a long line of black lives taken before their time.

Too many have echoed the words: “Please, I can’t breath. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. They’re going to kill me.”

But we have reached a juncture in time where the last words by black people can no longer be these. Racism is a disease and once and for all we must eradicate it by dealing with the structural inequalities and pain it has created.

Black Lives Matter has given voice to the fight. We cannot and must not go back to business as usual.

The placards carried by young white youths “white silence is violence” are heartening; they acknowledge the importance of standing in unity with black people to fight the injustice we face in every echelon of society.

Many protestors have sought to highlight the role of white people in tackling systemic racism.

I’m more hopeful than ever that the sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela were not in vain. The teachings of Marcus Garvey and the rally cry of Bob Marley’s “One Love” will finally be heard and acted upon through direct action.

This should include removing statues that don’t reflect a society based on true equality.

We must reduce disparity in sentencing between black boys and their white counterparts and increase black economic wealth through representation in senior positions in public, judicial, political and commercial sectors and engage in discussion about the impacts of slavery and offer reparations to heal the wrongs of history.

In the words of Rev Al Sharpton: “We can no longer delay accountability…the price of a black life is the same as it is for a white life; either the law will work for us all or it won’t work.”

George Floyd’s death must not be in vain. Now is the time for racial justice and true equality because Black Lives Matter.

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