There has been no shortage of coverage in the media when it comes to black lives, heartbreak and anger meet each other; time and time again. Just over 4,000 miles away from home (England), in a small town of St. Louis, Missouri another black teenager stolen from his family and left on the asphalt for four hours, millions of people courageously came together for the first national Black Lives Matter movement. Michael Brown, a young African American who was shot by a white police officer, made it on to the lips of the British people, who equally felt the ripple effect of the gunshot despite being an ocean away.
While England may not suffer from the same gun problems as the United States, why then is there a Black Lives Matter movement for the UK? Police brutality is a terminal crisis in America not in England; however, Natalie Jeffers, co-founder of Black Lives Matter UK said, the gun-driven brutality in the US is not equal to the one on the streets of Britain, but racism and discrimination exist at worrying levels”.
Natalie Jeffers statements are supported by statistics showing an alarming gap between the life experiences of black and white people in Britain – whether it is portrayed in institutional racism, in the justice and prison systems, or employment.
Figures from the Home Office show a “disproportionate number” of black and ethnic minorities who have died in police custody. “The deaths reinforce the experiences of structural racism, over-policing and criminalisation of people of African descent and other minorities in the UK,” said Human Rights experts. It’s no secret that Black men share a fallacious stigma when it comes to prison.
The Home Office show in 2018 Black people were over three times more likely to be arrested than White people in the UK.
Black people have the highest arrest rate per thousand people, a significant disparity between a thirty-eight in comparison to only twelve arrests for every thousand White people. The West Midlands is holding the third highest number of arrests in the country. In December 2018 a West Midlands police officer Paul Adey was dismissed after falsifying information over Kingsley Burrell’s death.
Three White officers struck Mr Burrells, a Black mental health patient, multiple times resulting in Mr Burrell’s unfortunate death. Desmond Jaddo, a spokesman for the Burrell family and an activist, says “When we talk about institutional racism let’s talk about systemic it’s as though (racism) is built into the system. Every single form of disproportionality the BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities suffer from; stop and searched, to the use of CS sprays, the use of tasers and the use of section 136 are proof that the facts and figures speak for themselves
“A year later when the verdict came out, and it was an acquittal it felt like a
betrayal, yet another set of betrayals I had experienced.” Said Patrisse Khan-Cullors. “So Alicia Garza (Co-Founder of BLM movement) that year wrote a love note to black people, she ended the note with black lives matter, and I put a hashtag in front of the black lives matter, and she said what’s that?” Patrisse replied, “I am about to make this bad boy go viral”.
Both Patrisse, Alicia along with Opal Tometi wanted to reconstruct a black liberation movement, replacing it with a party led by the most ostracised, offering a voice to women, gays and for the those who been silenced by society. Natalie Jeffers, from Birmingham, shares the same philosophies for the UK movement.
Black women’s lives are the core of this movement especially when recent studies show that black female graduates suffer a more significant pay loss. Education is a fundamental necessity of pioneering the youth towards success, yet Thinktanks studies from December 2018 show Black employees losing out on £3.2bn a year in wages paralleled to white colleagues doing the same job. The Resolution Foundation expressed the ethnicity pay gap symbolised “a huge blow to the living standards of those affected”. It found black female graduates faced the biggest pay penalty, of £1.62 an hour (9% less). Jeffers said it implies a drastically different image, to the one British society likes to portray.
That said, despite the West Midlands named as the most diverse city in the country, racism remains an issue. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Geddes attended a football game in Birmingham with her daughter when a fan shouted: “F*** off back home to Africa”.
“It’s about how we can educate and inform our youth, the traumas that they are experiencing and the outlets for these traumas — the war on black people, these statistics and the lack of investment in educating and empowering black communities, working-class communities.
“ We suffer silent racism in the UK, and that is just as awful and serious, our people have lost their voice, they feel defeated. We want to give them their voice back,” said Jeffers.