No amount of Westminster window-dressing can dampen this global revolt against racism, writes Lucy Nichols
In an article written in the Telegraph, Boris Johnson has promised to launch an inquiry into racism in Britain. This decision to announce government policy behind a paywall (rather than in Parliament) has attracted completely justified criticism. According to Johnson, the ‘cross-governmental commission’ will investigate racism in various state institutions like the justice system, housing, and education.
But this is all the information he gives us before continuing with an attack on political correctness, and a bumbling explanation of why we need to keep up statues of slave traders, colonizers and racists. He is very obviously astounded at the idea of bringing down these statues: this really does perfectly demonstrate how unwilling the Conservatives are to even try to understand the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement in Britain. Johnson also concisely encapsulates the feeling of the ruling class towards Britain’s bloody colonial history:
‘Are we supposed to haul down Cromwell who killed so many thousands of people in Ireland? What about Nelson and all the other innumerable reminders of this country’s imperial past?’
But despite what Johnson says, these statues do not remind us of Britain’s imperial past, they celebrate it, and alleviate the many atrocities committed by Britain in every single continent on this planet. Why do we remember Churchill as a war hero rather than the vicious racist responsible for millions of deaths in the Global South? Why are Cromwell’s violent exploits in Ireland not taught in schools?
By focusing on statues, Johnson is trying to ignite a culture war between the ‘thuggery’ of the Black Lives Matter protests and the rest of the country. It also allows him to completely ignore the demands of the movement, reducing it to a violent project that wants to reimagine the past. This is no more than a weak attempt to divide and conquer the working class - who are generally very supportive of the BLM Movement - along racial lines. To some extent, we’ve already seen what the terrible consequences of this tactic can be. On Saturday, thousands of fascists stormed Parliament Square brandishing English flags and cans of lager with the objective of protecting Churchill - by flashing Nazi salutes at him.
As British racism is finally being acknowledged and confronted by the general public and by hundreds of thousands of protesters around the country, we must see through Johnson’s phoney attempts at appeasing ‘the mob’ (this is how he described the demonstrators in his article). This inquiry – of which we know almost nothing about – is far from a victory for black people in Britain. As Labour MP David Lammy correctly pointed out, there have been numerous inquiries into state racism, with recommendations that have been routinely been ignored.
The government have simply promised this inquiry so they can absolve themselves from the criticism that they aren’t doing enough to combat racism. Boris Johnson does not care about working class Brits, nor does he care about those who come from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Coming exactly three years after the tragic Grenfell fire, this article adds insult to injury for the many survivors of the fire. The survivors of Grenfell have received broken promises after broken promises from the governments of Theresa May and Boris Johnson. Many survivors are still homeless three years on, 23,000 households are at risk from the same cladding that surrounded the Grenfell Tower, and no-one has been held accountable for the fire that killed 72 people – most of whom were from minority backgrounds.
The government is not here to protect the interests of ethnic minorities. The British state is a racist one, and works hard to ensure that certain people remain at the bottom while the ruling class thrives. This manifests itself in many different ways that often have very tragic outcomes; such as the Grenfell fire, which came about as a result of the deregulation and privatisation that the Conservative government allowed to prosper.
We can also see this apathy to BAME Brits in the total refusal to teach Britain’s imperial history accurately, or to teach any history that doesn’t revolve around upper-class white people. It is evident in all the ways the government (and the media) have tried to undermine the Black Lives Matter protests: by labelling them as violent, or as riots, or dangerous. This is why we must continue to protest until demands are met, and reject the notion of a culture war that Johnson and the government are trying to push.
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