Label volunteer Vanessa Okonji, reflects on the recent events involving the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality in the US and the UK. 


That’s the emotion I have felt since the end of March. With the spreading beast COVID-19 and now the beast that just seems to never disappear, racism. These are two things that have gravely affected the first five months of 2020. Who would have thought they would combine.

In the UK, BAME citizens are disproportionately dying from coronavirus due to the disparities faced in this country. Some may say “the virus isn’t racist”, but the nation is. Jobs deemed unskilled by the Home Secretary’s points-based immigration system has proven to be desperately essential during the nations time of need. These essential jobs that Johnson so proudly chanted about are occupied by the most neglected in society, contributing to them to be the most affected.

Not even a month after the lockdown was implemented, nearly a thousand deaths swept the Black community, taking up 5.8% of COVID-19 deaths despite only making up 3.5% of the English population. Belly Mujina’s inhumane death has been portrayed in the media as “sacrificial” after being forced to go to work during the crisis. The disregard from the British Transport Police to fully investigate is sadly the tale of being black in Britain. I am tired of reading that Black people are “more likely to…” and not seeing anything positive follow after.

The prevalent threat of US police brutality struck again as George Floyd fell victim to the imbedded discrimination of the police force in the United States. Protests for equality have spurred across the nation known for being the leader of the “free world”. The leader of the free world that enslaved Africans for 400 years. The leader of the free world that oppressed the descendants of slaves for another hundred. This same oppression that despite many alleging of its eradication, still seeps through the system. The very same system that is supposed to protect and serve the people of America, do not even see African-Americans worthy of such.

In solidarity for the movement, Black Lives Matter has spread globally, particularly in the UK. Many tend to neglect Britain’s past of exploration, colonisation and discrimination. Throughout social media, some British people have contested that racism in the UK is “not as bad” as in the US as if it is a competition of the most racist. But this is simply false. Britain is not innocent. To a young black boy, being stopped and searched is the norm. The UK is ridden with institutionalised racism but this had led many to believe that racism does not exist here as it is not as overt. When in fact the only difference in the treatment of Black Britons and African Americans is the armament of the police force. As many Americans are protesting for the victims of police brutality to be known, we too in the UK must know the names of those affected by the police here.

Rashan Charles. Mark Duggan. Edson da Costa. Adrian McDonald. Nunu Cardoso. Olaseni Lewis. Julian Cole. Sarah Reed and many more.

It is draining seeing, reading, and hearing countless of different tales with the same ending. The same theme of mistreatment and neglect that Black people have to face across the world because of the colour of our skin. It is draining.

I am drained.


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