In 2020, the world suffered so many challenges.
Those of us in the UK dealt with COVID-19 and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, while the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin sparked outrage in the US and led to protests and marches all over the world.
The incident was caught on camera, immediately going viral as people everywhere were shocked and appalled by the actions of the law enforcement officers involved. What followed was
a worldwide Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
The Black Lives Matter organisation existed prior to George Floyd’s death, but the scale and intensity of their activism increased markedly as a result of it, and their numbers were swelled by the vast influx of people from all backgrounds who came together to demand greater social justice and equality.
In general, the BLM protests were passionate and well-attended, as large groups gathered to demand change. For the younger generations, this may have been the first time they’ve seen such demands for racial fairness, but for others, it will merely have served as a reminder of past events.
‘Nineteen Sixty-Three Is Not An End, But A Beginning!’ – Martin Luther King
The iconic ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, given by Martin Luther King to the thousands who gathered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States.
Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech was a defining moment for the civil rights movement, and among the most iconic speeches in American history.
When watching video footage of this event, what struck me was the number of white faces in the crowd who stood up with their brothers and sisters to demand a better, more inclusive world for everyone.
As Decades Pass, Problems Remain
I was looking for a modern-day perspective on MLK’s speech and its aftermath, so arranged an interview with a lady named Celine Odhiambo. Celine arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker, and now runs a support group for refugees.
I wanted a personal account of how the events of 1963 compared to what people like her face to this day, and I was shocked to hear about the lack of progress.
Celine is a mother, and she told me of the fear she has when sending her child to school, as she knows he could be bullied for the colour of his skin. Most white parents would never have to go through this, so Celine’s story brought home to me an understanding of what the term ‘white privilege’ means.
If we look at the era when Martin Luther King made his iconic speech, and compare it with the experiences of those who face racial discrimination today, can we honestly say that things have changed much for the better?
We need to do more, and we need to face casual racism in the workplace and in wider society head-on. We must also understand the injustices of the past, and work towards a better future for us all.