The British print media showed its true colours this week, when it opted on June 4th to relegate the Black Lives Matter protests from the front pages – while so many in Black communities and beyond had identified the protests as the most important story of this extraordinary year.
This lack of reporting was particularly galling given the very lively discussions across social media where many organisations, businesses and individuals began issuing elaborate mea culpa, pledging to do better by Black people.
Twitter set the tone; others followed en masse –
in an amazing volte face ushering in a new age of racial harmony seeking to hide in the crowd, cover themselves against accusation of insensitivity, or perhaps win a platitude composition contest that the rest of us had missed out on. Much to the delight of satirists and exasperation of the people who had been victims of racist practices at work, or in services provided by the institutions.
Within a few hours, there were many, unexpected declarations from surprising sources.
Nearly as quickly, demands for others to join them, or risk appearing to be racist began to circulate. A series of well known figures, were joined by the less well-known, making public commitments to anti-racism.
Whatever the intention, many people in the UK became engaged in heightened debates with their friends and families, neighbours and colleagues, about the nature of racism. Meanwhile in the US, the visible failure of the state to address its racism problem continued to kill. Justice denied to Ahmad Arbery, Breanna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd were the focus of massive demonstrations, with curfews imposed in many cities after a series of riots.. Closer to home, calls for an inquiry into the role of racism in the disproportionate number of deaths among Black and minority ethnic people were further fuelled by the Conservative government’s mishandling of the Public Health England report – choosing to suppress the recommendations compiled after consultation with community organisations. This last minute tinkering rendered the report little more than a rehash of existing evidence, and represented further evidence of our government’s persistent unwillingness to grapple with the vicissitudes of British structural racism, even when it kills Black people.
As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Brixton uprising, a new generation express their collective anger at racism
The CoVID-19 virus, and the need to observe physical distancing, was not enough to keep everyone away from the demonstrations. For London Black Lives Matter, BlackOut was able to contribute to the virtual protest which had over 12 000 attend online.
While the protesters sought to innovate, the government and the police seemed to re-run a much older playbook – in London, police claimed that there were a ‘few bad apples‘ involved, in order to justify the practice of more heavy handed tactics; including the controversial use of ‘kettling’ and ever greater video surveillance. The PM in his response, resorted to the classic avoidance tactic of speaking only about ‘thuggery’, and not about the racism, that he reduced to a matter of opinion – with the right wing press following suit, making clear that to them statues are more important than Black lives. Home Secretary, ‘useful idiot’, and person of colour for whom there will be least sympathy when she experiences the racism she has herself stoked, Priti Patel, described the scenes of elation at the removal and drowning of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol as ‘disgraceful’.
BlackOut gave up falling for government and mainstream media gaslighting years ago. It is one of the reasons that we have sought to establish our own media platform and to gather our community so that we are not dependent on the dis-empowering nature of our stories existing solely in the margins of those controlled by the over-privileged, powerful.
Resist. Relate. Unite – Black Lives Matter June 2020 Gallery
images of protest