Want to make the UK less racist? 20 positive ways to bring about lasting change

There are no quick fixes for the racism that is so ingrained in British society. But, from education and work to voting and organising, there are steps we can all take for a more equal world

The killing of George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back, with protests around the world capturing the anger at the death of yet another black person at the hands of the police, as well as the racial inequalities it exposed. After seeing the traumatic footage of Floyd’s final moments, many people are asking what they can do to bring about change. With racism so deeply rooted in our social order, there can be no quick fixes – but here are 20 steps you can take.

Organise 

When the civil rights leader Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) visited Birmingham in 1983, his message was clear: “If you are not in an organisation, then you are against your people.” In other words, racism can only be addressed collectively; we can’t afford to stand on the sidelines making excuses.

1 Join one of the many organisations campaigning to change the system or to improve the conditions faced by minorities. There are always reasons to be sceptical: the people in them; the funding; the time commitment. But rather than criticise, if you agree with the organisation’s goals, get involved and make it work. United Families & Friends4FrontUbele and Organisation of Black Unity are some suggestions; there are many more

2 If you are not able to join an organisation, create one. Start small, with a reading group, a community library or a campaign about a local issue.

3 Organise globally. This is not an American or British problem. The police killing of 14-year-old João Pedro Matos Pinto in Brazil is a reminder of the global stakes. If we want real change, we have to make international connections. 

4 Design campaigns that disrupt. History teaches us that it is only when those in power have something to lose that change occurs. Strikes work because they cost your employer; boycotts because they deprive companies of revenue; and civil disobedience because it shuts down institutions. Urban rebellions were key in securing civil rights in the US in the 60s and the limited police reforms in the UK in the 80s. Clear demands coupled with disruptive campaigns converge the interests of those in power with the interests of the oppressed. 

5 Support an organisation financially. Organising is not for everyone and certain struggles are black-led by design. But all groups need financial support. Remember that freedom is not free – if we want change, we have to put our money where our mouths are.

Make your vote count 

Malcolm X warned that the “fox” who poses as your friend as he oppresses you is just as deadly as the “wolf” who is more open about his violent racism. Trump is wolf-in-chief in the White House, but watch out for those foxes.

6 Think about who you vote for. Maya Angelou said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Look at the records of the party you want to vote for: how have they treated immigrants; what laws have they passed around equal rights and race relations?

7 Write to your MP. You can write to your elected representative even if you did not vote for them. You could start by supporting an independent inquiry into minority deaths from Covid-19 or an all-party inquiry into reparations. But feel free to write about any issue, whether action on police brutality, education equality or any other area of racial injustice. 

Make work fairer

We have all seen businesses and institutions issue statements of horror at recent events. But expressing outrage is one thing; dealing with a lack of diversity or a bias in the workplace is quite another. Employment is key to a fairer world, because lack of access to jobs and career progression compounds economic inequalities. 

8 Call out unjust hiring practices. If you work in, or use the services of, an organisation that seems only to hire white people, say something. Next time you are in a team meeting and it is entirely white, remember that this is a problem you can be part of solving. Promotions are also important. The NHS, for example, has a diverse workforce, but, as a report on its “snowy white peaks” noted, representation declines the higher up the organisation you go. Universities are so white that there are no black vice-chancellors in the UK and only 140 black professors out of 21,000.

9 Find out your workplace’s policies for dealing with racial harassment. If you have no idea how to report racism in your workplace, you are not alone. People often feel intimidated about raising complaints and unsupported in doing so. You can challenge this by writing to companies and institutions to provide clarity or explain the lack of any such policies.

10 Drop the term BAME. There are a multitude of experiences of racism, making the catch-all term black, Asian and minority ethnic unhelpful when dealing with racism. Instead try to understand how racism towards different minority groups is expressed and the distinctive features of anti-black racism that are so central to understanding what is happening today. It is also true that anti-black racism is not perpetrated only by white people.

Improve education

A society can only be as equal as the knowledge on which it is built, so rethinking education is essential. 

11 Read. There is a wealth of knowledge produced by those who experience and understand racism. It may not be on the curriculum, but the books are out there. An abundance of voices from black Britain can help us to understand this moment, including Afua Hirsch, Akala, Nels Abbey, Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi. White Rage by Carol Anderson and Race for Profit by Keeanga-Yahmatta Taylor are hugely important to understanding the US. This is just the tip of the iceberg; dive into an alternative radical vision of history

12 Think intersectionally. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term as a way to truly understand how different parts of our identities can overlap and compound discrimination. For instance, the killing of George Floyd has sparked protests in a way that the death of Breonna Taylor in March did not. We have gendered how we understand police killings, which is why the campaign to highlight police brutality and anti-black violence against women, #SayHerName, was so important. One of the reasons we focus on violence against men is that it is so public. Taylor was killed in her home; the oppression of women often happens in private.

13 Write to your local school about its curriculum. If you are a parent, you have the responsibility and power to challenge your school on what it is teaching the children. Make sure black history goes beyond the token display in October. Support campaigns to transform the school curriculum, such as the Black Curriculum.

14 If you are a student, demand reforms at your university. Universities produce the knowledge dispensed in schools. It is student movements that have pushed the sector into trying to “decolonise” the curriculum. As a consumer, you can demand a different curriculum and new hiring practices. Also, consider a course that challenges the Eurocentric curriculum: for example, black studies at Birmingham City and black British history and black British writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. 

15 Build alternatives. We do not have to accept the confines of the school system. In the UK, there is a 60-year history of black supplementary schools, where people volunteered to teach what the schools would not. This point goes hand in hand with organisation and ensuring that, if we believe something is important, we do it regardless. 

Personal

No individual can solve the deeply embedded issue of racism. But personal change must be part of beginning to address it, particularly because the daily paper cuts of casual racism are so painful for those who experience them. 

16 Listen. If you know black people, they will likely have told you lot of times about their experiences – but did you really listen? We are not playing the race card, nor do we have chips on our shoulders. It should not take a video of a man being killed and thousands of people in the street for you to pay attention.

17 Take responsibility for tackling racism where you see it. This could be in personal interactions, the workplace or on the bus. People tend to act in ways they can get away with. Calling out racist behaviour can make life more bearable for others. 

18 It is better to stay out of it than to dip your toe in. Shallow, tokenistic commitment is worse than silence. If you are interested in racism only when it is trending, keep your solidarity to yourself.

19 Check your privilege. Recognising white privilege has become a major focus in building a fairer society, but we also need to recognise the privilege of living in the west. We can watch the killing of George Floyd only because of smartphones, which are so cheap only because they are made using resources stolen from Africa. Racism can be deadly in the west, but it is a daily matter of life and death in developing world, where a child dies every 10 seconds because of poverty. We cannot limit our imagination to solving the problems of inclusion into a system that oppresses worldwide.

20 Stay positive. We have been conditioned into believing that there is no alternative, that we have reached the end of history. That is white supremacist PR that cannot see beyond its own experience. It is time to radically rethink society to make it value black life. History tells us that the oppressed won’t wait for ever. It is time to get on the bus or get out of the way. 

Contributor

Kehinde Andrews

The GuardianTramp

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