* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A year after George Floyd's death, we can’t have a show of performative care. We need long-term investment into Black communities
Natalie Armitage is the Program Manager at The Ubele Initiative, a social enterprise working to support the African diaspora in the UK.
Rewind to a year ago. On the 25th May 2020; a video was posted of George Floyd being murdered online, that went viral across the world. This video, followed by many, many more: gave us nowhere else left to look, but at the truth. The existence of institutional racism has long been denied, avoided, rebuked, refuted, dismissed, eliminated, repressed, invalidated and silenced.
As the deepest parts of people’s personal trauma continue to stay viral; it's now accessed in the hands and devices of everyone. People living it as reality are forced into action and grief simultaneously, regardless of the state of their mental health that a shocking global pandemic may have put them in.
More videos, more tear gas, more shootings, more deaths. Whilst Gen Z were claiming on social media, they are the ‘wrong generation to mess with’; Indigenous communities in the U.S, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands, have miraculously survived to stand on land that was stolen from them, being denied human rights to this day as a result of White History.
White people have timidly begun to broach the subject with each other. Attempting to centre people who are dying; more continues. Celebrities began to speak; leaders and companies began to talk. As race and racism started to spill into daily conversations with white people, the boundary of silence could not contain the ocean of noise that broke like a dam all over the world.
Everyone joined global protests and took to the streets last year, too. In the UK, signs could be read saying “The UK is NOT INNOCENT”, or “THE BRITISH STARTED SLAVERY” and especially “No Justice, No Peace.”
People knew exactly what this was.
Fast-forward to 25th May 2021. Millions of people have died from COVID all over the world, the crisis is about to hit low-income countries, including across Africa and the Caribbean, even harder. What does it look like now?
UK statistics show that Black African and Black Caribbean people in the UK were two and half times more likely to die of COVID than White people. Young Black men are 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. Black women are five times more likely to die giving birth.
Windrush deportations are still happening. The Home Office admitted that it wrongly deported at least 164 and probably many more, and at least 11 have died on the streets of countries they were wrongly deported to.
Who is making a noise? Communities are, as they have been. Are you listening like you said, you would?
Black and minoritiesed people in communities have been plugging the gaps that the UK system has left them to fall through. Not to mention; the rehabilitation, recovery and mental health support for the bereaved.
This is often unpaid, overworked and without sustainable funding to continue long-term. It is often on a project to project basis, unable to plan for longevity or transformational change not yet coming from the people who have privilege and power to do so.
The Ubele Initiative released a report on behalf of the Black and minioritised community, voluntary and social enterprise sector called The Booska Paper (Booska means ‘position’ in Somali):
One respondent said: "Just because governments have pulled out of being responsible, it does not eradicate the basic needs of Black and minoritised people that are not being met. Whilst people are arguing over whose role it is to plug that gap - we are dying."
Many of the funders interviewed cited Ubele’s previous research in 2020 showed that 9 out of 10 Black and minoritised led organisations were facing closure. After that, dedicated sources of emergency funding for the COVID response were unlocked, which many Black and minoritised infrastructure groups were able to channel onwards to grassroots organisations. These groups have been a lifeline to struggling families and individuals who have nowhere else to turn.
The same Black and minoritised organisations, however, spoke of the cliff-edge that they were facing when emergency funding was set to cease in March 2021 and the on-going anxiety that funding will stop at any time, continues.
For a lot of organisations, this was the first time they received funding at all or were even recognised. Decades of experiencing institutional racism means their confidence has been hammered, even when they are more than qualified to apply for more funds.
This can’t be a one-year show of performative care. We need long-term investment into communities that are keeping each other alive.