Black Lives Matter: To deny the phrase is to deny a backdrop of racism

Protesters arriving in Parliament Square on Sunday, June 7, having marched from the US Embassy. Pict

Protesters arriving in Parliament Square on Sunday, June 7, having marched from the US Embassy. Picture: André Langlois - Credit: Archant

As if 2020 hadn’t done enough to secure its place in the history books, the death of a man under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has propelled Black Lives Matter into the mainstream.

Tens of thousands of people took part in protests over the weekend, from online gatherings to confrontations with the police in Parliament Square. People are joining in solidarity, yes, but they are also voicing frustration at continued inequalities in the UK.

For example, whether or not stop-and-search works, it is disproportionately used against Black people. Furthermore, an analysis by Liberty Investigates and the Guardian found Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people were being fined more than White people during lockdown. That fact is compounded by the government’s weak-at-best response to the evidence that BAME people are disproportionately vulnerable to coronavirus.

A disappointingly common response to Black Lives Matter on social media has been: “Ah, but surely ‘All Lives Matter’?”

They do but saying black lives matter is not to preclude other lives mattering.

If I say it’s wrong to hit your spouse, I’m not saying it’s right to hit other people’s spouses. I’m probably saying it’s wrong to hit your spouse in the context of a discussion about the horror that is domestic violence.

By arguing against the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ you are denying the context for its use - racism and structural inequalities. If you deny that those exist, well, there are millions of voices out there to which you could listen.

Across the pond is a president who will be looked back on as a mind-boggling aberration.

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To respond by naming a disparate collection of people under the banner ‘Antifa’ as the enemy and tear gassing a crowd to get a photo opp holding a Bible outside a church is beyond comprehension.

For the avoidance of doubt, this newspaper is anti-fascist.

Black Lives Matter.