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Since the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis in May, the Black Lives Matter movement has exploded worldwide. And while the systemic abuse by law enforcement personnel of black people in the UK is clearly not at the same murderous level as in America, it remains the case that a black person is between four and – amazingly – forty times more likely to be stopped than a white person (depending on location, source: The Observer) and proportionately more likely to die in police custody. Black people are more likely than their white counterparts to receive custodial sentences for the same crimes and less likely to be awarded early parole.

Black friends of mine are routinely stopped in their cars by traffic police for no other reason than they’re driving a decent car while being black. I drive all the time and was last stopped more than 20 years ago when the officer pointed out very politely that I had a missing brake light. As it happened, I had a spare bulb in the glove box and the officer and his colleague helped me put it in. Extending such courtesies to a black person is almost unheard of.

Equality before the law is a cornerstone of British democracy. This is nothing new, having been codified under Henry II in the 12th century and reaffirmed in the Magna Carta of 1215, which specified “No legal officer shall start proceedings against anyone on his own mere say-so, without reliable witnesses having been brought for the purpose.” Note the use of the word “anyone”. Fast forward 800 years and the penny is yet to drop. Other clauses, including the one in the graphic below, reinforce these fundamental rights.

Sadly, policing is not the only sphere in which the insidious cancer of racism permeates British society. It is well documented that those applying for jobs with African sounding names are less likely to be invited for interview and, despite black footballers having excelled in their sport since the 1970s, there remains a vanishingly small number of black managers and administrators in the professional game.

Shamefully, the LGBTQ+ scene is not exempt, even though minorities with a history of oppression and marginalisation should know better. 

It was heartening to see so many people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and beliefs across these islands come together to protest against inequality and racism. Let us set to one side the piggybacking by the far left, with their tiresome Palestinian flags and socialist worker banners, which serve only to alienate the vast majority of Brits who sit somewhere in the centre of the political spectrum, and instead focus on the fact that the smattering of idiotic “all lives matter” counter-demonstrations failed to gather any meaningful support outside their vicious cabal of moronic, racist meatheads.

Demonstrating and hashtag activism, however, can only go so far. Frankly, it’s not enough. To be a true ally to the British black community we all need to be more proactive. Here’s how:

If you run a business, take a look at your supply chain. How white is it? Are there any black owned businesses that you can support? If so, do it!

Speak up! Very few people these days are overtly racist in the workplace, yet black people are subjected to daily micro-aggressions and unconscious bias. If you see it, challenge it. Staying silent is complicit.

Do you have a blog? Representation is important, so do a quick audit of the images you use on your site and if you find that they’re exclusively or overwhelmingly white, you can change a photo in seconds. It is alienating to be deprived of seeing people who look like you in the media so, if you can do something about it, do it today.

Call out your friends and family. If people are allowed to get away with racism, even in the form of throwaway comments or jokes, then they will continue to do so. And if your friends fall out with you for standing up to racism, you really don’t want them to be your friend.

Are you a parent? Buy your children toys and books with black representation. I promise you that your toddler will love a black doll as much as a white doll, and the younger our children take equality for granted, the faster societal cohesion will improve.

Do you work for a large company with a sponsorship budget? If you have any influence, ask about diverting some funds to black-focused events like UK Black Pride. This sends a hugely positive message to employees, customers and wider society that your company is committed to equality and inclusion.

I could go on. There are countless practical ways we can all help to make our country free of prejudice. For goodness’ sake, this is Britain in the twenty-first century, the cradle of freedom and modern democracy. But the fact is that we cannot truly call ourselves a free society when a significant number of our fellow countrymen and women are subjected to racism, prejudice and hatred.

So, by all means go on a demo and take to Twitter, but the real power lies not under a banner or online, but in all of us to do what we can to change the world for the better.

Let’s do it, people.

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Rob Harkavy

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