It’s time to talk about… institutional racism in the UK

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Will the murder of George Floyd be a catalyst that causes us to confront institutional racism in the UK – or will we continue to pretend it doesn’t exist and brush it under the carpet?

Many young people and families we’re connected to in Brixton are shocked, distressed and downright angry at what they’ve seen across the pond on their smartphone and TV screens.

For many, it brings the injustices and pain from their own lives – that society often pretends not to see or simply ignores – to the surface again.

All this is happening at a time when we’re learning just how dramatic and disproportionate the toll of the pandemic is on BAME communities here in London and across the UK.

The sense of distance that quarantine creates is also making emotions particularly difficult to process, articulate and share right now. And some young people tell us they’re afraid to express their thoughts openly on social media for fear that their accounts will be banned by powers who want to keep them silenced.

At CHIPS, we see how racism affects real lives every day.

We see young people being targeted and searched because of their skin colour – and the increase in use of Section 60 powers has made it worse.

We know people whose family members have died in custody with no conclusion to the investigation.

And during one of our activities taking young people to have some fun outside the area, we’ve even witnessed police throw one of our 13-year old girls against a wall.

Institutional racism has never gone away from the conversations we have with families and young people quite simply because it’s an issue that has never gone away from our society. But in the last week, it’s been a loud and repeated theme in our mentoring sessions with students and our support calls with families.

We’ve recently seen yet again on video from the US that violence kills. We know that apathy kills too. So for our part, institutional racism in the UK is a subject we refuse to ignore.

Right now, we’re focused on providing safe spaces – for those young people and families we work who want it – to confront, process and discuss their feelings and their experiences.

We’ll continue to work with other community organisations across Lambeth to challenge the injustices in our society and its institutions.

And as lockdown lifts, we’ll be supporting communities to take action and make change happen through our community organising project, Voices for Change.