The shockingly brutal and starkly inhumane killing of George Floyd symbolises the racism and oppression that blights human society. Tragically, George Floyd’s death is not an isolated incident, but one in a catalogue of injustices that have curtailed the positive social life chances of non-white people.
In the US, people from African-American and minority communities are disproportionately stop and frisked (Centre for Constitutional Rights 2012; Metropolitan Police Dept, Washington, 2020), incarcerated in state prisons (The Sentencing Project 2016) and are more likely to die whilst apprehended or in police custody (Ordway et al 2020). African-American, Hispanic and minority people more likely than their white counterparts to live in poverty (Poverty USA 2018), to have lower educational attainment levels (American Council on Education 2017) and are less likely to access or receive proper health care (Hostetter and Klein 2018).
Systemic racism is not only an American problem. In England and Wales, black, mixed-race, and Asian people are disproportionately stop and searched (Lammy 2017; Gov.co.uk 2020), more likely than white people to be arrested and to have force used against them (BBC News 2020). One quarter of people incarcerated in British prisons are from a minority ethnic group (House of Commons 2019; Prison Reform Trust 2020). Rates of unemployment are higher for minorities than white people and black and Asian people are more likely to live in overcrowded and sub-par accommodation (The Equalities Commission 2018). Black people are also disproportionately affected by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis: in the UK they are four times more likely to die from the virus than white people (Booth & Barr, 2020).
In the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Research we want you to know that we recognise the structural disadvantages faced by black, Asian and minority groups. We stand in solidarity with all those experiencing and fighting against systemic injustice and racism, but we also know that words are not enough. We want to build on the statements provided by the University, the Students’ Union and the University’s BAME Staff Network released last week to explore more deeply what work we all need to now do to ensure this issue continues to remain in the spotlight and continues to get the attention it so very much deserves. It is vital to recognise that institutions such as ours must take responsibility for driving the fight against racism. Going forward, we suggest some small steps to redress these inequalities. Within SSPSSR
- we need to do more to fight injustice, oppression, prejudice, brutality, racism, inequality and discrimination, especially where they have become systemic. These are issues that are absolutely central to the work that we do in this School, whether it be in the field of sociology, criminology, cultural studies, social policy or social work.
- we need to do more to ensure that the research done by us as individuals and as a school highlights these issues in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. We need to do more to ensure that our teaching is inclusive of everybody, that the voices of all our students are heard, and that our whole community understands that racism of any form will not be tolerated.
- we need to work harder to ensure that members of the BAME community are encouraged to take up university places, to make sure they are not alienated when they arrive, and that they are supported to reach their full potential.
- we need to do more to increase the diversity of our staff body, especially at the senior level.
We are incredibly proud of our multiracial student community many of whom have already spoken out on these vitally important issues via networks such as Social Work Students Action for Diversity (STAND), the BAME student network, Decolonise UKC, and the Kaleidoscope network, a space for allyship. We now all need to become actively anti-racist, a task that is particularly important for those with white privilege: to educate ourselves on the issues, to acknowledge instances of racism and speak out against it whenever we can.
We encourage all members of our community to get involved in the movement for justice by following the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on social media, @blklivesmatter on instagram and the British arm #BlackLivesMatterUK which can be found at @ukblm on social media. For those of you wondering what you can do to support the movement from your own homes because of the public health crisis, this instagram page offers a guide to ‘virtual protest.’
Some useful resources for white people wondering how to best support the movement include this article and this document. We also recommend Rachel Cargle’s work and Layla Saad’s excellent resource Me and White Supremacy. Some British authors to look up include Akala, Afua Hirsch and Reni Eddo-Lodge.
We are working towards reducing the BME/White attainment gap through running various events and projects as part of the University-wide Student Success project. For further details or to suggest a BAME Inspirational Speaker, please contact Dr Triona Fitton (email@example.com).
The Diversity Mark project within our university is a fantastic initiative that explores the links between racial injustice and knowledge production through decolonising our reading lists. If you would like to discuss how the project is going in SSPSSR, please contact Dr Barbara Adewumi (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As a gesture of solidarity, funds from the local UCU Hardship fund – roughly £1000, collected during the recent strikes – will be donated to a charity that works on racial injustices relating to education. We would like our students to actively participate in choosing where the money goes. Please indicate your preferred charity here.
BBC News (2020) George Floyd death: How many black people die in police custody in England and Wales? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/52890363
Booth, R. and Barr, C. (2020) ‘Black people four times more likely to die from Covid-19, ONS finds’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/07/black-people-four-times-more-likely-to-die-from-covid-19-ons-finds
Equalities and Human Rights Commission (2018) Race Report Statistics – https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/race-report-statistics
Hostetter, M. and Klein (2018) In Focus: Reducing Racial Disparities in Health Care by Confronting Racism – https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/newsletter-article/2018/sep/focus-reducing-racial-disparities-health-care-confronting
House of Commons (2019) UK Prison Population Statistics – https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn04334/
Lammy, D (2017) An independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643001/lammy-review-final-report.pdf.
Metropolitan Police Department Washington (2020) Stop Data Report https://mpdc.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/mpdc/publication/attachments/Stop%20Data%20Report.pdf
Ordway, DM., Wihbey, J., and Kille, L.J. (2020) Deaths in Police Custody in the United States: Research Review https://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/deaths-police-custody-united-states/
Poverty USA (2018) Poverty Facts: The Population of Poverty, USA https://www.povertyusa.org/facts
Prisons Reform Trust (2020) http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/WhatWeDo/ProjectsResearch/Race
The Sentencing Project (2016) The Colour of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons – https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/