politics

'George Floyd’s legacy is the change the world has needed to see'



Amid all the carnage and the chaos, 2020 has felt like a moment.

As we look back and gander, small things from the last 12 months leave cause for optimism that our society is still up for the challenge of change.

Symbolic change in the pulling down of statues across the country and abroad. Millions learned more about Bristol slave trader Edward Colston in June than they’d ever done at school.

Ideological change in the ­re-examination of our school curricula.

And meaningful change with big ­companies making appointments to address the absence of black people on their boards.

Those who tried to claim black lives matter with a lack of representation on their leadership teams (Nike, Sainsbury’s) were called out during a very honest conversation played out in the public domain.

May’s death of George Floyd under the knee of then-police officer Derek Chauvin sparked a movement that shook the established order to its foundations.

It felt at the time like the hero moment in a movie as revulsion – and the ­revolution – swept the world. Sport had no idea what to do as athletes defied convention and staged their own ­anti-racism protests.

Celebrities such as Star Wars superstar John Boyega electrified – and risked – their space to tell it like it is.

White allies emerged everywhere, accepting silence to be complicity.

Heading into 2021, that fire is still burning, despite the predictable attempts to snuff it out. The Government has put a stop to statues of slave traders being removed with Culture Minister Matt Warman ordering a “retain and explain” approach.

Professor Corinne Fowler, the academic exploring the links between the National Trust’s properties and colonialism, has herself come under sustained attack from opponents unwilling to have the country’s dirty secrets unmasked.

The term “woke”, which dates back as far as Sixties and Seventies America in which black people talked about waking up to racial oppression, is now being parodied to suggest the established order is being bent out of shape.

The Stephen Lawrence Trust, named after the black teenager murdered in 1993, with his family failed by police, has been renamed Blueprint For All in an anodyne move away from the truth about the inequalities in the justice system.

MPs are openly rejecting diversity courses designed to help them to better understand their constituents.

A freelance Coronation Street director saw his job go up in smoke last week after his social media posts revealed he had no interest in supporting the move towards making the industry more representative.

Critics of the non-offensive move to take a knee in football still ­deliberately conflate it with Marxism and disorder instead of the long-established, non-confrontational way of protesting stretching back over a century.

And the Government showed its contempt for the push for equality by placing Liz Truss in charge.

Her unsuitability for the job was underscored last week when, reflecting on her childhood schooling, she claimed: “While we were taught about racism and sexism there was too little time spent making sure everyone could read and  write”.

Thankfully Truss remains irrelevant in the fight for equality. Floyd’s legacy is the change the world has needed to see.

A new generation is writing their own rules with true champions emerging in 2020.

The institutions attempting that well-worn tactic of saying the right things but doing very little will be held to account in 2021.





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