Derek Chauvin, a former white Minneapolis police officer, was convicted Tuesday of murdering African-American George Floyd after a racially charged trial in the United States. Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on the neck of Floyd for more than nine minutes as he lay face down and handcuffed on the ground saying repeatedly “I can’t breathe." The 46-year-old Floyd’s death during his May 25, 2020 arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality around the world. A year later, as America rejoiced over this historic verdict, Asian Voice reached out to members of the community in the UK to know what Britain can learn from George Flyod’s verdict.
Speaking to the newsweekly, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “In the UK, it has resonated with the systemic racism experienced by many on our shores as well at the structural factors that contributed to the alarmingly high rates of suffering and deaths from Covid-19 among black and ethnic minority communities and healthcare workers.
According to BMA research, ethnic minority doctors report bullying and harassment as a problem at their place of work at twice the rate of their white colleagues, and are twice as likely to be referred for fitness-to-practice processes by their employer. Doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds are also less likely to be offered top consultant posts in hospitals, with a consequent ethnicity pay gap. He also added that nearly nine in 10 of all doctors who died during the pandemic, came from an ethnic minority background. They felt under pressure to see patients without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and three times more likely to say they were afraid to speak out about PPE, medicine, or staff shortages for fear of recrimination, or it harming their career.
Dr Nagpaul added, “If we are to tackle racism, we first need to be open that it exists, and the Government needs to put in place a decisive action plan to ensure ours is a fair society with equal opportunity and reward for all who live within it.”
Sunder Katwala, Director of independent thinktank British Future, told Asian Voice, “Britain is not America when it comes to guns and policing, but two decades after the Macpherson inquiry into the failure of justice for Stephen Lawrence, we still need more change in policing here too. No major force across Britain’s cities comes close to reflecting the communities it serves.
“Despite the briefings and headlines saying the Sewell Commission could not find institutional racism, the report itself contains clear evidence that systemic discrimination and unconscious bias matter far too much when people apply for jobs, or try to rise all the way up the ladder to the boardroom.
Should there be an British Asian version of "Black Lives Matter? Katwala thinks that group-based campaigns are not enough. “We need to bring people together around a home-grown British agenda to promote fair chances for all, pursuing practical plans to push back discrimination on every front,” he said.
Sharing her perspective on what Britain can learn from this historic verdict, LibDem Cllr Rabina Khan said, “I still remember having to change my name to Ruby when I was making phone calls to try and find cheaper rented accommodation. Even now, I witness the struggles of Muslim girls and women trying to find employment by changing their names to more “English sounding” names and removing their veils to fit in and escape stereotyping and prejudice.”
“I know because my dad as a young man working in the East End often waited for hours for a cup of tea or at the shop for groceries. As a child growing up in the late Seventies and Eighties, I often found myself waiting in queues at ice-cream vans, shops, health centres, in the school dinner line for so long overlooked because I was a little brown girl. Just like my father was overlooked as a brown man struggling to work, live and bring up his family in a country he called home. I can’t wait any longer and neither can my children,” she added.
Last year, one day before Eid a lockdown was announced wherein it was out in the open that the government showed Islamophobic attitude and indirectly blamed the Muslim community for spreading the virus. Will history repeat itself this year?
“This was a prime example of the type of racism from authority that serves only to fuel discrimination and Islamophobia. You only need to look at TV footage throughout the pandemic to see the multitude of situations where people were gathering in large crowds on beaches and in parks to realise that people of all ethnicities were flouting the rules. To point the finger at just one sector of society is highly offensive and wrong. We must keep safe and make sure we get vaccinated. If we have learned anything during this past year and in celebration of Eid to mark the end of Ramadan – it should be to work towards a humbler, more tolerant and united world,” Rabina said.
Lord Navnit Dholakia PC,OBE,DL, Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats listed a few points for the readers of Asian Voice. He said, “We have a long way to go in building confidence in young persons in the way police deal with them.George Floyd’s case demonstrates this. The verdict of guilty on all counts has helped but we all have to ensure that police powers are never misused. Every major research that I have seen demonstrates three factors. a. Racism and racial discrimination is an everyday reality for our diverse community. b. Geographically and economically many members of our minority communities occupy the same place which was allocated to them when they arrived here; and c. Institutions put little emphasis on the cultural diversity of minorities in the country.
“The best way to resolve an issue is to accept that racism exists in some of our major institutions and we are ready to deal with it. Specific issues affect our different communities but one factor stands out. Racism and racial discrimination blights our lives and we must stand together to confront this.It is no good blaming the Muslim community about Covid. Islamophobia is rife in the country. We should not be looking for scapegoats. It is a CHALLENGE to all of us and we must not ignore it.”
Sir Clive Jones, Chairman, The Runnymede Trust wrote a letter in honour of Stephen Lawrence and his family, on the 28th anniversary of his murder, in the spirit of continuing the fight to end structural and institutional racism in Britain.
CEO, Runnymede Trust Halima Begum told the BBC, “We’re all feeling the ramifications of this. Those of us who are here in the UK, we can learn something from it as well. Lessons to learn are on the aspects of accountability.
“It was justice that was on trial. We have some work to do there. That’s why I think this is the start of the conversation, not the end. So back in the UK I hope that we also begin to look at institutional racism in a more thorough way. It provides a healing opportunity for the British public as well to do the right thing on racism.”
The UK government has apologised for the failure to properly commemorate Black and Asian troops who died in World War I fighting for the British Empire. Speaking to the BBC, Shrabani Basu said, “General Cox believed that the Hindus and Muslims could be recorded on tablets and rolls because they didn’t need individual graves. A Sikh soldier said, ‘I understand that you may not be able to cremate me, you may have to bury me, but that is ok as long as I have a head stone’. There was a Dogra soldier and they were Hindus. He said, ‘We understand that we are buried, but don’t put our shoes in our graves.’ So they were concerned about how they would be treated after they were dead. They were concerned that their names won’t be remembered. The harshest thing would be to forget them, so it is absolutely imperative that they are remembered. Even if it is 100 years later, I think that wrong needs to be righted.”