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Policing is a hot-button topic on any given day, but the tragic case of Sarah Everard and the recent “Kill the Bill” protests have raised the alarm and reignited public debate about law enforcement’s role in the UK. Despite renewed discussions about policing, the perspectives of Black women, Black LGBTQ+ and Black non-binary people are often excluded from mainstream discourse even though they are more likely to be victims of crimes such as harassment and assault. To amplify these underrepresented and disproportionately affected voices, we reached out to our My Moon Landing community to find out what they thought about the state of policing in the UK.
Our conversations with our members revealed a staggering majority of largely negative experiences with the police. They recounted instances of the police committing wrongful house raids, arrests, assaults and being stopped without a valid reason - highlighting a real disconnect and fractured relationship with the police. As a result of these upsetting incidents, the My Moon Landing members described living in a hyper-vigilant state, where they are intensely afraid of interacting with the UK’s police force.
The overwhelming feeling from our community was one of fear of the very same body of people supposed to ensure their safety on the streets. They expressed concerns about unjust aggression, rough handling and the use of excessive force. And in spite of worries for their own personal safety as a marginalised group that often comes under attack, our community also shared concerns about the safety of Black men who they have witnessed being disproportionately stopped and searched by the police.
How to solve the UK’s apparent broken policing?
Without a doubt, the issue of policing is complex. But there will also be members of the UK’s law enforcement body that will feel that this representation of them is unfair. Sadly, it is the few bad experiences that people remember most. We asked our community what in their opinion can be done to fix a glaringly broken system to law and order in the UK. Unsurprisingly suggestions for improving policing were varied. Some called for increased recruitment from minority communities to foster a sense of safety for ethnic minorities, especially recruiting more Black women, LGBTQ+ or non-binary candidates. Another suggestion was for police to prioritise investigating existing crimes rather than making fresh arrests under the guise of stop and search. Although other solutions mentioned improving how the police communicate with marginalized groups and the police making public apologies for misconduct against Black people, for some, the answer isn’t one single solution. Enforcing a no-racism policy isn’t as simple as telling the police not to be racist. As a result, some people are less optimistic about solutions that would enhance feeling safe around the police.
Despite the police’s existing initiatives for improving minority relations, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Even though many debate the effectiveness of diversity, people from the My Moon Landing community still want the police to undergo personal development courses that could improve relations with the Black community.
As our government looks to the future of policing, we can't afford to relegate historically unheard voices when they are overwhelmingly affected by policing and crime. What feels like a watershed moment now is an opportunity to rethink how we approach law enforcement and ultimately make the country safer for all citizens, including the most underrepresented parts of the Black community.
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What do the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and Kanye West have in common? Many things flood to the mind, but one that sticks as evidentiary is a belief system that corrupts the lens through which Black people are viewed. Notably, Kanye west articulated his own dissenting opinion in 2018 when he theorised to TMZ that living in the 400 year legacy of slavery in America is a choice. Today the Sewell Report exhibits the same lack of nuance and awareness of the way people live and have been affected by negative race relations in the UK. The report proudly couches itself in decorations of objectivity by removing the individual experiences of race, the stories of the people that the data represents from its exploration of it. That is not what research is supposed to do. Research is supposed to marry to quantitative with the qualitative; the numbers and the stories are meant to support each other. In any other institution, particularly institutions with higher academic pedigree than the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, if the stories don’t match the numbers it is the numbers that are wrong.
The elitism built into the assault on race-based activism is rife in the declarations made in the 285 pages they probably didn’t expect many people to wade through. Sentences like this one: “For some groups historic experience of racism still haunts the present and there was a reluctance to acknowledge that the UK had become open and fairer.” Perhaps the reason there was a reluctance to admit the given statement was because it did not ring true to them. In one part of the report there is an accusation that those they were speaking with did not fully understand the nuanced terminology that the researchers were using to define racism, the conflation of terms offended them.
An appalling dismissal
The assumption that the Commission has interpreted the data with, is made clear by mentions of UK legislation that criminalises the use of certain slurs and violence on the basis of race. They have assumed that these overt expressions of racism are the only valid forms of it. In regards to language, there is an early dismissal of microaggressions as a figment of our imaginations with the report stating: “It is certainly true that the concept of racism has become much more fluid, extending from overt hostility and exclusion to unconscious bias and microaggressions. This is partly because ethnic minorities have higher expectations of equal treatment and, rightly, will not tolerate behaviour that, only a couple of generations ago, would have likely been quietly endured or shrugged off. The fact that this generation expects more is a positive aspect of integration.” What the report declares to be “more” my own experience of racism in the UK and the experiences of the staff and members of our own Do it Now Now community would deem to be, is just as awful and in some cases even more insidious. Just as much as I wouldn’t like be called a N***r to my face, I wouldn’t like to be held back from an opportunity because there’s “just something about me” that doesn’t fit the “culture” of a prospective company.
A disingenuous attempt to discredit racial justice groups
It is very clear that the conclusion was decided before the work began. The Commission and report were tasked with the invalidation of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK and other activist groups seeking racial equity across the country. At multiple points of the document the writers invite us to take a victory lap for a battle they are trying to convince us has long been won. How do they expect us to “stop refighting the battles of the past” if they do not acknowledge that those battles rather than benevolence is what has won us the incremental movement toward a better present day that they are so keen to focus on. There are few people that have ever sought to propagate the argument that Britain is where it was; we recognise the achievements and we celebrate ourselves and the allies that have helped us win those battles. As the rapper DAVE so poignantly professed at the BRIT awards a couple of years ago, in a moment that was celebrated throughout the country as a marker of progress, “the least racist is still racist”. We all know we are better off than some places, but the condescending context in which those achievements are placed in the body of this report, ironically, has proven that we are much worse off today than some of us activists and change makers previously believed.