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‘Reality of racism can’t be ignored - we face it in the UK’

PUBLISHED: 19:31 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:47 05 June 2020

Glen Chisholm says racism remains a problem all over the world. Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

Glen Chisholm says racism remains a problem all over the world. Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

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I, like most people, have been sickened and shocked by events in Minneapolis and the aftermath.

Demonstrators face off with police in riot gear as people across America protested the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Picture: Ethan Hyman/The News and Observer via APDemonstrators face off with police in riot gear as people across America protested the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Picture: Ethan Hyman/The News and Observer via AP

We have seen a video of George Floyd, a black male, being detained by white police officers - with one officer putting his knee on his neck until while he called out that he couldn’t breathe and then lost responsiveness and later died.

As I’ve said, this event was shocking but, for black men and women in America, this is something they have seen before many times.

Over the years, there have been far to many instances of black men and women having their lives extinguished by those who are supposed to serve and protect them and, so many times, the perpetrators have escaped justice.

What is happening in the States is horrendous and while many good police officers put their lives on the line for the right reasons, this happens far too often and the same repeated routine happens - the wall of blue defending the indefensible and the assassination of the character of the victim.

Glen Chisholm is a former mayor of Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNGlen Chisholm is a former mayor of Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

While this is happening an ocean away, we can’t be complacent. This reality of racism can’t be ignored and it’s not unique to America. We face it in the UK. We face it all over the world.

I’m mixed race, with an English mother and Jamaican father. Even though I was born and raised in Ipswich, I’ve faced racism and prejudice my whole life.

I carry the mental and physical scars of this, from racist graffiti outside my house growing up, to being spat on, physical and verbally assaulted. But my experience isn’t unique and many have faced this.

I know there are many out there tired of hearing about racism but imagine how exhausting it is having to face this your whole life.

Having to spend so much of your time and energy though your life explaining who your are, why we feel the way we do and why misconceptions and stereotypes are wrong it is exhausting.

There are times we find ourselves screaming with frustration and all to often our screams are ignored.

We are told it’s all in our heads, racism isn’t that bad anymore or doesn’t exist. We don’t know what we are talking about despite living with it our whole lives or examples of whataboutery.

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As a light skinned mixed race person, I even had the “your not that dark, so you can’t of experienced racism”. Well, as I’ve said, I’ve the mental and physical scars that say otherwise.

Is this what’s happening in the States different than before? While so much of the same things are, I’m truly hopeful that things will be different and we will see a change.

There has been universal revulsion at what has happened and most people are disgusted at racism and those that hold racist ideals.

I’ve seen a lot of American police officers step up and show their disgust and perhaps I’m naive but this feels like a change.

Another distressing image is that of the riots spreading across America as a result of this murder.

While I in no way condone the riots, it’s important to understand the frustration and context.

Protesting is important but the actions of those causing damage do not help the cause and there are questions about outside agitators taking advantage .

Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said: “And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.

“And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.

“And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

That quote is from 1966 - a different time, you would hope, but it doesn’t feel different at the moment.

There has been attempts at peaceful protests. Some Black American football players kneeled before games during the American National Anthem to try to raise awareness of the issues around social injustice, but they were shouted down and their voices gagged by the highest authority in the States.

While we may not be able to change what’s happening in America, we can change what’s happening in our own backyard. We can listen and try to understand each other and try to work together to stop the spread of hate and prejudice.


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