Without a doubt, Covid-19 has had a devastating sweep over the globe. As a society, we have had to collectively comprise a lot of aspects in our lives and put them on halt. Well, that is not entirely true. Unfortunately, racism and discrimination live on, as it always has. Increasing reports and statistics suggest that numerous factors that come into play that black and minority ethnics (BAME) have had to face a different experience during this pandemic.
In particular, BAME accounts for 14 per cent of the UK population according to the 2011 census. However, these groups are 54 per cent more likely to be issued fines under Covid-19 laws. In response to this, the Crown Prosecution Service found that many people have been unfairly targeted and convicted under emergency Covid-19 laws. This is not a particularly new problem and even the coordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring, Kevin Blowe commented,
“For years there has been extensive evidence that police powers are used to disproportionately and unfairly to target black and Asian communities, so it comes as little surprise that these figures indicate racial profiling has continued and even accelerated under the lockdown.”
While there is not enough evidence to prove that the virus biologically affects ethnic minorities differently, according to the Office of National Statistics, black people are almost four times more likely to die of Covid-19. At the same time, Asians are up to twice as likely to die from Covid-19. Further to this, 95 per cent of Covid-19 health professional deaths are from BAME backgrounds. One explanation for the disproportionate numbers from the British Medical Association is that BAME health professionals felt more pressured to work due to the inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) than their white colleagues. Outside of the medical profession, the situation was brought to light in the devastating case of Belly Mujinga.
On 5 April, Belly Mujinga, who was working as a railway ticket office worker, shortly died from Covid-19 not long after she and her colleague were coughed and spat at by a man who vocally claimed to have the virus. It is noteworthy that before the incident, Belly had voiced her concerns against working outside the protection of the ticket office without PPE as she had underlying respiratory problems. Belly and her colleague reported this incident, but her employer, Govia Thameslink Railway, insisted that Belly and her colleague should continue their shift despite the traumatic experience. Moreover, the British Transport Police announced that no further action would be taken in Belly Mujinga’s case based on insufficient evidence.
With an ever-increasing outcry for justice as just short of a million people have signed the petition Justice for Belly Mujinga, it is more than obvious that the individual who assaulted Belly Mujinga and her colleague must be identified to face the legal repercussions. While there is nothing that can be done to rectify the pain of losing a loved one, Belly Munjinga’s family deserve not only justice but closure.
On 23 February, Ahmaud Arbery was going for a run in Georgia, in the United States when his life was senselessly ripped away from him by his murderers, Travis and Gregory McMichael, a former law enforcement officer. The horrific scene, coupled with the resonance of three gunshots, was captured by William Bryan, who also chased Ahmaud Arbery in his pick-up truck in an attempt to imprison Ahmaud falsely. This is one of the countless strings of racially charged murders, Bryan admitted that after the killing he heard Travis McMichael utter a racial derogatory slur. The very same historical term used as a device for centuries to demean people of African origins and enforce white superiority.
The three perpetrators were not charged until more than two months after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, by this time the video had circulated and caused an uproar over social media as Glynn County police took no action. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation then filed charges. However this is not nearly enough to prevent other black people from suffering the same fate as Ahmaud Arbery as Georgia is one of the four states without hate crime law. Nearly a million people have signed the petition Justice for Ahmaud Arbery- Pass Georgia Hate Crime Bill.
The Black Lives Matter movement is an international plea against the unjust racial violence of black people. Most importantly, it calls for Freedom, Liberation and Justice from years of systematic racism and suffering. The death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer George Zimmerman triggered the Black Lives Matter political movement in 2013. The movement has reemerged into international headlines on 25 May when a video of a law enforcement officer, Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, despite the multiple pleas that he could not breathe, for eight minutes and 46 seconds until he died. Two other officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, were also kneeling on a handcuffed George Floyd against the pavement.
A fourth officer, Tou Thao, refused to listen to the pleas of the bystanders to release Floyd and mentioned that if he could not breathe then he would not be talking. In the same manner as Ahmaud Arbery, there was minimal discipline for the officers who murdered George on camera as they were fired. In which triggered the protests in Minneapolis for justice, Derek Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. In US laws third-degree murder means “without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.” Both the charges carried a maximum of 35 years in prison. At the time of writing, Chauvin has an additional second-degree murder charge and the remaining officers have been charged in aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
There is still a long way to cure the virus of racism, and truthfully speaking, it may never be truly eradicated. Racism is a complex matter, and there is a common perception that racism is very obvious. However, the reality is BAME face some discrimination almost every single day. It is evident that something needs to be done, and it is never too late to learn about the inequalities that certain groups have faced. The heart-wrenching news of George Floyd has spread throughout all of the 50 US states, and more people can be educated about Black Lives Matter. However, it is not only US affairs, but protests have spread throughout the globe in honour of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Belly Mujinga, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and so many more lives that mattered.
Our generation also needs to leave a legacy. To quote Angela Davis, “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” I think the first important step to support anti-racism is education about the matter, there are many sources available, and if you are interested in reading more about Black Lives Matter, then the link to their website is: https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/
Here are a couple of petitions below, but feel free to do more research:
Justice for Belly Mujinga- https://www.change.org/p/govia-thameslink-justice-for-belly-mujinga-justiceforbellymujinga
Justice for Ahmaud Arbery- Pass Georgia Hate Crime Bill- https://www.change.org/p/governor-brian-kemp-justice-for-ahmaud-arbery
Justice for George Floyd- https://www.change.org/p/minneapolis-police-department-justice-for-george-floyd
Justice for Breonna Taylor- https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor
I want Sandra Bland’s case reopened.- https://www.change.org/p/texas-governor-i-want-sandra-bland-s-case-reopened
THE TRAYVON MARTIN LAW – STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN- https://www.change.org/p/the-trayvon-martin-law-stop-this-from-happening-again
Reopen Kendrick Johnson’s Case #J4Kendrick- https://www.change.org/p/united-states-supreme-court-justice-for-kendrick-johnson