I wanted to let you know how shocked and angered I was by George Floyd's death at the hands of US police. His killing has yet again shone a light on the racism and hatred experienced by many across the world, including here in the UK.
As one of Hounslow borough’s MPs, I am proud to represent such a multi-cultural community where there is a strong sense of togetherness. However, there is still long way to go to eradicate the racism often faced by many with our community.
I joined the Labour Party and became a Labour MP because of my belief in social justice, equality and fairness. A cornerstone of that is opposition to racism and bigotry everywhere. It is my belief that anti-racism has always been at the heart of the Labour Party and the Labour movement.
Over the past week I’ve received hundreds of moving emails from constituents of all ages about the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. I could tell from the emotive and moving words just how strongly people feel about this injustice, feelings that I share.
Britain’s own record is not clean. The debate about statues commemorating dead men has shone a light on our nation’s past; vast wealth accumulated through profiteering from the transatlantic slave trade. The cases of racist murders and the police response still cause anger and bitterness (Stephen Lawrence and Akhtar Ali Baig are probably the two most notorious examples in London). And as I know from listening to many people locally, the hard truth is that black people are still three times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people.
One thing that many constituents have raised with me is the lack of black history taught in schools, the lack of black academics in further and higher education and the lack of education about the long and painful legacy of racism in both the British Empire and here in the UK. I believe it’s vital that the Government review what is taught in schools and broaden our national curriculum.
Last week we also saw the Government release Public Health England’s report into the impact that coronavirus has on BAME communities. The report confirmed what we already know, which is that you’re twice as likely to die from the coronavirus if you’re BAME. The Government were right to release this report but it’s clear that there needs to be an urgent set of actions to protect BAME people and those who are more likely to be vulnerable from the coronavirus.
I know that lots of people were also disappointed that our Government didn’t raise its voice about President Trumps reaction to these protests; when he threatened those protesting with military force and when the police attacked innocent protestors with tear gas so that Trump could walk across to St John’s Episcopal Church to get a photo op. This is certainly an image that will define his presidency.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab should have been clear in condemning President Trump and his threat to turn the Military on those protesting.
The UK should go a step further too and review the sales of riot equipment to the US. I signed a letter led by Dawn Butler MP calling on the Government to do just that and was pleased that over 150 MPs from all the political parties joined me in doing so.
Before the lockdown when I was able to regularly visit schools in Hounslow, students would tell me about racism that they, their family or their friends had experienced. While I know that Hounslow has a welcoming, diverse and united community, I also know that there is much that we need to do. So Seema Malhotra and I have written to secondary students in the borough for their views on racism.
One of the most common things I’ve heard from people is the need for public figures, including MPs, to use our voice and our platform. This is something I will do, so I want to hear from those affected by racism on how I, our community, and its institutions can work to eradicate racism. Please do contact me regarding this matter, my contact details are at the bottom of the email.
The moving words from Martin Luther King in his letter from Birmingham Jail was that ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere’; this should serve as a driving force to us all and I want to reassure you that I will keep standing up to the injustices we still sadly see across society.