Black lives matter protest in Sheffield

The turbulence of 2020 has laid bare deep-rooted problems which have been ignored for far too long: the fragility of the current socio-economic system, the inequalities that constitute the core of our societies, and of course racism, anti-black racism in particular.

As the COVID-19 pandemic reached all corners of the world, reports started emerging that black people and people of color (BPOC) in several countries were disproportionately hit by COVID-19. Consequently, the UK government was pressured into finding out the reasons for this and tackling them. However, the government, once again, played politics with people’s lives and published a non-independent and heavily censored inquiry report which left out discussions of austerity and racism. Furthermore, the pages containing recommendations were removed and, as ironic as it is, there was little to no mention of how racial discrimination and inequality helped spread the virus, and led to poorer health outcomes for black people and people of colour.

This eventful year has also seen a long overdue racial reckoning following the brutal murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police officers in the US. This turning point created an imperative for action and led to a groundswell of protests  in the US, as well as a wave of protests across the world where people demonstrated against anti-blackness and racism in their own contexts.

Police brutality against black people might occur more frequently in the US, but the idea that the issues Black Lives Matter are protesting about are specific only to the US is farcical since police brutality has a long and violent history in the UK, as well as the inherent racism that underpins it.

Unsurprisingly, mainstream political parties have failed to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only did neither Boris nor Keir offer any action, but Keir Starmer also downplayed the importance of the movement, and tried to portray it as just “a moment”.

Where to go from here?

The UK needs leadership in recognising the institutionalised and systemic racism embedded deeply into society, and needs leadership in dismantling this. In a country where the leader of the main leftist party calls the Black Lives Matter movement “a moment”, and where the Tories are in an on-going raging war against black people and people of colour, the Green Party of England and Wales needs to step in to fill this void.

This is why the upcoming election of next Green leaders and the executive committee is more important than ever. The next leaders have to take all of this into consideration, incorporate it into their work, recreate politics, start campaigning accordingly, and build a mass-participation anti-racist movement in the UK. If there is one party that can zoom out, see crucial connections between different struggles and use them to come up with a different way of seeing the world and doing politics, that is the Green Party.

No more business as usual

One thing is clear: we cannot build on the protests of the past few months by falling back on the same structures that precipitated them. We need leaders to step up and demand a complete rejection of business as usual and an end to the current global political-economic setup that fuels all forms of racism. With this in mind, the next Green Party leaders and executive committee should challenge the status quo to make sure that the current anti-racist protests lead to lasting change.

Decolonised policies as the core of party platform

All Green policy positions should have a decolonisation aspect and the Greens of Colour’s campaigns such as scrapping the costly and immoral NHS surcharge, calling for an independent inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BPOC, decolonising education, taking racist abuse out of politics, ending indefinite immigration detention, closing immigration detention centres and ending the culture of abuse and violence that has prevailed in them. Furthermore, the next leadership should lead in questioning inherently racist institutions like the UK Police and the Home Office, and reimagining the meaning of security and public safety.

Where reform ends, grassroots revolution starts

The next leaders should also identify that there might be some instances where reform can only go so far and acknowledge that some anti-racist goals cannot be achieved through policymaking and reforming institutions and can only be done by taking direct grassroots action. As Cleo Lake said, “It’s like with the suffragette movement, where change could not wait for social reform and action to be granted or signed off by administrations, but had to be taken and forced by the collective will of the people.”

More BPOC in power

Lastly, the racist structures will only change when black people and people of colour have a real say – not only voiced by white decision-makers. In this sense, The Green Party should be a home where black people and people of colour can reclaim politics and where they can hold positions of power from local to national level.

It’s time to walk the walk

The bottom line is: if we are to build back better, we need Green leaders who understand the connections between environmental and racial justice, how capitalism and racism are interlinked and that, as Audre Lorde puts it, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not lead single-issue lives.”

It’s time for the next leadership to have an openly anti-racist agenda, to adopt a narrative shift from being passively non-racist to actively anti-racist, and to go beyond words like inclusion, diversity, and social media posts about solidarity.

Tackling all forms of racial injustice and all forms of racism must be at the top of the next Green Party leadership agenda.

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Image credit: Tim Dennell – Creative Commons