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May 25th 2020: One Year on, The Lessons Learned

By Olanrewaju Paul Olubayo

This time last year, we were all left, reeling, disgusted and internally shaken by the murder of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota; at the hands of four, then, Minneapolis Police Officers.

The immediate days, and weeks following this heinous act of violence – which a year later, still, is as heart-breaking as ever – represented a true landmark moment in the international fight for racial justice, equity and the eradication of anti-blackness within society.

Petitions were signed in record numbers. People the world over, took to the streets to protest in solidarity, in a manner unseen since the civil rights movement of the 1950s & 60s. Institutions at all levels: international, domestic and local, released statements and pledged that they would be intentionally anti-racist and make racial justice a centrepiece of their organisational future.

However, as the weeks turned to months, and the months have now become a year. We have to look back in true reflection and ask ourselves how much has changed? How much progress have we really made?

12 months ago, we saw governments and world leaders declare that racism and racial hatred was a scourge that needed to be eradicated. Yet less than 12 months later, we have Government inquiries declaring that institutional racism no longer exists. As well as, the Joint Committee on Human Rights funding, researching and publishing a report on racism, which did nothing more than regurgitate all the facts about racism in the UK which Black people already knew and had been lamenting for years. It tried to pass this off as some new shocking revelation, rather than create actionable plans to amend and correct these injustices.

Schools, universities and other educational institutions, 12 months ago boldly stood up in the face of criticism and declared that they have an integral role to play in eradicating racism from our society. A year later, how many can truly say they have taken actionable steps towards this goal. How many institutions can say they have worked to eradicate the discrepancy in numbers between Black educators and White educators? How many institutions can point to a racial justice and racial equality curriculum which centres minority voices and positively works to teach of our society’s sordid past and present when it comes to anti-Blackness, Asian hate and all other forms of racism. The reality is, less than 12 months on we have done away with our push for inclusion and regressed back to the default of nationalist ideals disguised as patriotism and celebration of british values. Take, for example, the Pimlico Academy and their explicit changes in policy, uniform and curriculum which has deeply isolated and ostracized their ethnic minority students, to the point that students have walked out in protest.

In the midst of a global pandemic which has irreversibly changed our existence and humanity’s course, Black people were forced to relive the reality that so many within society view their life and their existence as subhuman and unworthy of protection, acceptance and appreciation.

12 months on from the biggest wave of anti-racist advocacy and sentiment I have ever experienced in my lifetime, what have we truly achieved? You cannot change the world in one day, and of course, centuries of deep-rooted, and at many times political, racism cannot be eradicated in 12 months. But that is the exact reason that 12 months on, our advocacy and our commitment to ending racism and structural injustice needs to be even greater than it was in the days and weeks following May 25th 2020.

It was a true step in the right direction when “guilty, guilty, guilty” was the declared verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. But that was merely accountability. Now is the time and the moment for transformative justice.  The time and the moment for action. The time and the moment for transformation, and the time and the moment for true systematic change of universal proportions.

Sadly, Mr. Floyd will never be able to live the full life he deserved. And no matter how hard we try we can never truly right that wrong. But we can honour and celebrate his life, and the lives of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Belly Mujinga, Shukri Abdi, Oluwatoyin Salou, Joao Pinto Pedro and all the lives of all Black people who have lost their lives at the hands of racism; by creating a world where no one ever loses their life to this disease again.

Olanrewaju Paul Olubayo

Paul Olubayo is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Class of 2020 Master of Human Rights Program, where his focus was Human Rights Law & International Justice. Paul is also a 2018 Keele University LLB Bachelor of Laws Graduate. In his professional career Paul has conducted Human Rights based work at the local, national & international level, and has worked in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Correspondence is welcomed at: Twitter: @paulolubayo LinkedIn: Paul Olubayo Email: Olubayop21@gmail.com

Additionally, you can find Paul’s publications and public appearances at: https://linktr.ee/Paul_Olubayo

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