The costs of inequality

Witnessing the distressing scenes of George Floyd’s death as a white police officer knelt on his neck as he gasped for air was beyond belief.

The demonstrations and protests across the world brought about by his death are the voices of black people and white people coming together to say ‘enough is enough!’

Sadly, the disproportionality of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) casualties to COVID-19 is staggering and seems to reflect the disproportionality of inequalities experienced by black people in UK society.

Despite making up only 14 per cent of the population, these groups are most likely to be on the frontline whether in the NHS as care workers, shelf stackers in supermarkets, or bus and cab drivers.

While the difference between ethnic groups in COVID-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage, a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained.

Lambeth Council is taking action by carrying out a community survey with our residents. We want to hear about how they are coping and their thoughts on life post-COVID-19.

We have also been speaking to community groups, businesses and Faiths Together in Lambeth about their fears and concerns around reopening. We are listening to them and supporting them with risk assessments, and will continue networking to ensure services are tailored to the needs of the BAME community.

The council is committed to listening to and working with all our communities to discuss what our services will look like, post-coronavirus.

“Our BAME communities need to be empowered to curate public space in a way that properly commemorates their histories”

Lambeth has a wonderfully diverse and tolerant community, of which we are proud. In June, we commemorated the contributions made to this country by the Windrush generation and its legacy in Brixton.

At the time, I wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel MP calling on her to reconsider the proposed decision to place a Windrush memorial in Waterloo Station, and instead to site it in Windrush Square, Brixton.

The square was named to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush. It is home to the Black Cultural Archives, the only historical institution of its kind in this country dedicated to collecting and preserving the history of African Caribbean people in Britain, and to the national war memorial to African and Caribbean soldiers.

What better place to have this monument, providing both the historical and educational experience of the Windrush generation, for generations to come?

What has become abundantly clear over the past few weeks is that our BAME communities need to be empowered to curate public space in a way that properly commemorates their histories.

Many of the Windrush generation are critical of the Government’s decision to build a monument in Waterloo Station, and they need to be listened to.

The council is carrying out an audit of all statues, monuments, landmarks, street names and works of art in Lambeth linked to the slave trade. On completion, we will consult the community, sharing the outcomes and make decisions collectively.

But as well as an honest debate about some of the shameful acts of British history, it is also vital to use our public spaces to properly celebrate the achievements and diversity of our history, of which we should be proud.

For more information, see www.lambeth.gov.uk.

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