Black Lives Matter - Coronavirus and the deaths of Belly Mujinga and George Floyd

The Government has this week published a review into the tragically high number of covid-19 deaths within BAME communities, after much delay and with a key chapter setting out the responses to consultation missing. This review provides the devastating quantification of what many families knew already – that people from BAME backgrounds have an increased risk of death from coronavirus – twice the risk for people of Bangladeshi ethnicity and high for other Asian, Caribbean and black ethnicities too.  Statistics just add to the pain unless they are used as the basis for action.  The government must now use this report to save lives – we need a detailed plan setting out the action that will be taken to safeguard people who are at increased risk and prevent further heartbreak. Today I called on the Minister to deliver justice for Belly Mujinga and her family, who died from coronavirus after a spitting attack at Victoria station where she worked, and to ensure all BAME workers are protected from coronavirus in the workplace.  

This report is published at the same time as the horrific footage of the death of George Floyd in America has caused outrage across the globe and has resonated with many in the UK who have also suffered the multiple injustices of racism.  It is sickening that Donald Trump is inflaming this situation rather than listening to the anger and pain and making a genuine commitment to root out racism once and for all. 

The use of military and police force to repress protestors is wholly unacceptable. The Labour Party has called for the immediate suspension of the sale of riot control equipment to the US, including anti-riot guns, tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields. This is least we would expect from the UK Government if any other regime was attacking its own citizens in this way, and the UK’s longstanding alliance with the US must not be used as an excuse for inaction. I have added my name to a letter being organised by Dawn Butler MP which will be published later this week.

Racism is not caused by its victims, and our BAME communities cannot be the only ones to protest and call for action.  Racism can only be eliminated if all of us own responsibility for eliminating it.  George Floyd’s death must be a moment for change to address systemic racism – both in the US and in the UK. In my time in Parliament so far, I have worked hard to call for justice for those affected by racial injustices like the Windrush Scandal and the hostile environment; and campaigned for reform of the history curriculum so that every UK child learns a truthful and inclusive version of British history including the shameful realities of the slave trade and British Empire in which racism has its roots.  I am proud to be the patron of the Advocacy Academy which works to empower young people from south London to fight for social justice and deliver transformative change. I am committed to continuing to fight against racism, and will continue to campaign for justice #BlackLivesMatter