It has always fascinated me that a moment of seismic change is not the moment when the difference is felt or known. When George Floyd’s heart stopped beating when he was murdered by a white policeman in Minneapolis, the world was consumed by a global pandemic. Many of us stayed indoors, trying not to see or touch other people and get sick. There was nothing else to do but watch newspapers, TV, and social media in our free time.
So when the horrific video footage started flooding social media, then TV and newspapers, we had nowhere to look. We couldn’t watch the news and then go out to dinner with friends – we all had to face it. We have been caught in a moment that has escalated the pain and anger of many injustices of no consequence to the author. This time it was different. But can there be change and will it last?
In the protests, online conversations and media commentary, it was clear the time for change had come. Finally, it seemed like everyone was talking in a deep and meaningful way about police brutality, white privilege, awakening, culture, and disparity in outcomes due to ethnicity, alliance, gender anti-darkness and racism.
We have seen people posting black squares on social media in solidarity, the government setting up journals, debates in parliament, and organizations of all sizes pledging to be anti-racist. But, of course, not everyone was involved. We also saw the visceral pullback from those who didn’t see the need for change because the world was working so well for them.
It is undeniable that we are witnessing a large-scale global engagement. But, as when time seems to go quickly and stop simultaneously, this moment has changed everything and nothing.
As a black British woman, my observation is that socioeconomic status has played a big role in whether or not people experience themselves. For many black professionals in the public and private sectors, there have been more career opportunities. Whether there is additional equity in these organizations is debatable and varies across different sectors.
One could argue that this change was already coming, albeit slowly. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK has accelerated the pace of change. For some blacks, they are now more valuable to employers and more in demand. However, this does not guarantee immunity from bad experiences in the workplace, and attitudes and prejudices do not change overnight.
Many black professionals like me understand that this “progress” could stagnate if there is not a commitment to creating collaborative environments where culture is co-created rather than where assimilation is expected, alongside the new. passion for change and anti-racism.
But, at the other end of the scale, we see the recent expansion of the powers of stop and search. This brutal instrument allows inequality to flourish as it disproportionately disadvantages overpolicited young black men, in particular. It allows the tension to remain constantly on the surface, without ever having the chance to dissipate.
Black women are always four times more likely to die during childbirth and twice as likely to have a stillborn child as white women. Recently, in the field of education, a report indicated that the results of white working-class boys were retained by terms such as “white privilege”. When the conversation turns to who deserves more help, we don’t see specific issues addressed, especially in education, where the leadership positions at Ofsted are all held by whites.
Just talking about racial injustice can be called “awake”. We hear government ministers talk about culture wars and not about the “photoshop story” when people demand a fuller account of the story that speaks in its entirety. In fact, because Britannia ruled, there were people they ruled over, and if we still can’t talk about that, aren’t we photoshoping the troublesome parts? If we don’t honestly reflect on our shared past, how can we all move forward together?
So what has changed for black people in Britain? The answer to this question depends on which black people in a complex, nuanced, sprawling group you are referring to. There is no singular black experience. Location, gender, class, physical ability, level of education, and sexuality add intersectional differences. We are certainly not a monolith.
Generally speaking, however, more black people at the top of organizations and government means more economic wealth and intergenerational wealth. We know that comes with more power, more listeners, and more influence over how society works. But for those who are overly supervised, who have uneven health outcomes and a lack of equality in education and the systems around it, a change that impacts the lived experience cannot happen enough. quickly.
Yes, things have changed for some, and we need to keep pushing until the change comes for blacks who have yet to feel the effects. We cannot be satisfied.
Genelle Aldred is the author of ‘Communicating for Change: Creating Justice in a World of Prejudice‘