But showing real solidarity requires reflection on the UK’s own record of racism and injustice, while charting the steps needed to tackle it.
Start with policing. In the two decades since the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, there have been many attempts to address the institutional racism in policing that allowed his killers to go free. Yet new findings that black and Asian people and other ethnic minorities are more likely to be stopped and fined for violating Covid-19 lockdown rules than white people demonstrate that more work is needed to ensure fair policing for all.
What about safe housing? The deadly fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 laid bare inequalities in a racially diverse neighborhood in the country’s richest borough, raising profound questions about whether lives are valued equally. While the public inquiry into the causes is ongoing, no-one has been charged with a crime, regulations for safe housing are still under deliberation, and those who lost loved ones are still waiting for justice.
Immigration policy demands scrutiny too. The “hostile environment” policy, designed to make life unbearable for undocumented migrants, has caused widespread harm. It destroyed the lives of many black British citizens from the Windrush generation. Unable to prove their citizenship, they lost homes, jobs, and contact with loved ones after being wrongly deported. The scandal led to a compensation scheme and damning independent review. Yet the policy remains in force and most of those affected have yet to receive compensation.
Then there is health. An official study has found that black, Asian and other ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19, with some groups experiencing death rates twice that of white people. In the UK, governments tend to announce reviews or inquiries when confronted with a major policy failure. While figuring out what went wrong is important, it’s more important to take prompt action to secure the rights of people who were wronged.
If the UK government is serious about tackling racial injustice and creating an equal society, we need concrete steps to improve policing, secure safe housing, and protect the health of black and Asian people. And we need justice for Windrush and for Grenfell.