Unless you have lived experience of racism you may not understand it

Unless you have lived experience of racism you may not understand it


The lived experiences of Black people can be different but it doesn’t mean that all experiences are equal (Picture: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)I have yet to watch the George Floyd murder video because I know how it ends. 
But for anyone who doubts racism and structural racism exists – you need to watch all nine minutes and 29 seconds of it.
The lived experiences of Black people can be different but it doesn’t mean that all experiences are equal, or relevant in all debates. If you have never experienced racism you may not understand the urgency to tackle it and eradicate it. 
The Government’s widely disputed race report and previous comments seem to suggest that Black people should think differently about their negative experiences and stop having a victim mentality and everything will change – this is government level gaslighting.
No amount of positive thinking by a Black man can stop a white police officer savagely murdering him.
Often when I speak about racism, I also have to reference sexism to bring people to the understanding of the issue. It feels as if people are more aware of sexism and so by using it as an example, those I am speaking to can start to see where I am coming from when I talk about racism. 
I hope that when people read this article they will not only understand but become an advocate for fairness and equality. And more importantly, become an antiracist. 
Here’s an example: None of my boyfriends have ever hit me. My lived experience is that I have not experienced domestic violence. Does that mean that domestic violence does not exist? It would be ludicrous to even suggest such a thing. 
On average, UK women experience 50 incidents of abuse before they report it to the police and a woman is sadly killed every three days by a man.
So just imagine if I used my platform and my privilege to project my lived experience on domestic violence and imagine still if I insisted my lived experience is equal to that of someone who has fled an abusive partner and is in fear of their life.
No amount of positive thinking by a Black man can stop a white police officer savagely murdering him
Just imagine if I insisted that I had a nuanced view of domestic violence and we should discuss it solely on the basis of what I have been through.
I hope this analogy will help people understand racism – and the battle to eradicate it – a little better; just because a Black person hasn’t experienced racism, it doesn’t make their view or lived experience equal to someone who has. 
In fact, their view is rather irrelevant if you want to tackle the issue of racism.
It is hard enough to challenge racism – systemic and institutional – without our Government insisting that institutional racism does not exist. In my opinion, this was the foregone conclusion before the race report was ever even written.
The Government claims their race report is independent, but it has been alleged by one of the report’s 11 members that it was amended by Downing Street. If true, by their very actions, it is no longer independent and the report falls apart with even the most basic scrutiny.
The Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch MP, who is herself a Black women, is pursuing a narrative around the report that she knows will frustrate those with lived experience of racism and those who watched the brutal murder of a Black man by a white police officer in the USA.
But what really struck me at the recent ministerial statement on the race report by the Equalities Minister this Tuesday were the uncomfortable facial expressions and body language of former prime minister Theresa May. As I watched her, I realised that the current Government (her own party!) are dismantling a part of her legacy. 
Theresa May as prime minister established the Race Disparity Audit, a database of all the inequalities that existed. Whether Theresa May tackled the burning injustices that existed in society is a discussion for another day but she knows they exist.
Let’s not forget that Mrs May as Home Secretary in 2012 presided over the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies – demanding the showing of documentation – that saw many from the Windrush generation lose their livelihood, homes and lives and there are many Black people affected who did not live to see compensation for this.
But even the former prime minister seemed shocked at what was coming from the front bench – at one stage her mouth sat open and in another she seemed to hold her head in her hands in dismay.

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When it was Mrs May’s time to speak, she stood up and gave the Government an easy win, saying, ‘Business groups have called for mandatory reporting of ethnicity pay gaps. The commission recommended investigating the causes of pay disparities, but then did not recommend mandating the reporting that would identify those disparities, so will the minister now commit to taking a different approach from the commission, and commit to mandatory reporting of ethnicity pay gaps?’
It should have been a simple ‘yes’ response but the Equalities Minister failed to give a substantive reply, instead parroting the old phrase, ‘we will…respond in due course’.
This Government’s attempt to lie to the nation is dangerous and dishonest. But as the former veterans minister Johnny Mercer, who resigned this week said, the Government is a ‘cesspit’ and ‘the most distrustful, awful environment’ he has ever worked in as ‘almost nobody tells the truth’.
We must continue to tackle the systemic, structural and institutional racism that exists in society. 
We must not allow this Government’s culture war to divide us, whether we are Black, white or brown we must stick together to fight the system.
If we want better policing in the UK, we have to tackle the institutional racism in the system. And for those who look at the brutal killing of George Floyd and say ‘he is American and what has it got to do with the UK?’ I say, there are plenty of names I could reel off, but I want to focus on just one today – Christopher Alder.
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His case has recently been given new momentum with the actor Richard Blackwood performing in an excellent one-man play depicting Christopher’s last day when he died in police custody after sustaining a head injury.
As he lay on the floor dying, officers were recorded on CCTV making monkey noises. And to add insult to injury, the family were given the body of a woman to bury instead of Christopher, which was only discovered 13 years later, when Christopher’s body was located in a morgue in 2011.
If that is not an example of systemic and institutional racism, I hope the prime minister can explain what it is.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.
Share your views in the comments below.

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