Black Lives Matter and racism in the UK

From a public post on Facebook by Rt Hon James Cleverly MP

“I have received a lot of correspondence about the Black Lives Matter protests and racism in the UK. I have taken some time to reply to these because I wanted to think carefully about the situation and my response. This is not the time for knee-jerk responses or hot takes.

I have been at the receiving end of racist abuse, and racist attitudes, thankfully it has been rare and has not held me back. Others have had much worse than me and I completely understand the anger, grief, and frustration that they feel.

The killing of George Floyd was a terrible and unacceptable act and I am pleased that the police officers involved have been arrested. It is also clear that there are still divisions in society that need to be addressed. While I recognise this is true here in the UK, the situation in the USA is of a very different scale and nature.

I support the right to lawful protest and recognise that the vast majority of people wish to make their voices heard rather than cause trouble. As with all protests there will be a small number of people who allow their tempers to boil over, and an even smaller number who seek to manipulate the event and cause trouble.

The people who initiate violence, cause vandalism, and desecrate war memorials are undermining the efforts of those protesting. Indeed, their actions provide ammunition for racists to justify their prejudice, I struggle to imagine something more counterproductive.

I am proud that our police officers have acted with dignity and restraint, despite intense provocation by a minority of protesters.

In terms of my own actions; I have worked to help and support Black Britons throughout my time in politics.

My first political role was as Boris Johnson’s Youth Ambassador when he was Mayor of London. We worked to break the cycle of violence that disproportionately impacted black boys, improve their educational attainment, find mentors, and help find sustained employment.

I liaised with the Metropolitan Police and the London Ambulance Service to ensure the police are better able to deal with people who have an acute mental health episode and reduce the risk of death after police contact, both which disproportionately affect black communities.

Since becoming an MP I am proud that my government initiated the Race Disparity Audit to find and address hidden and subconscious discrimination in the UK.

I have supported and mentored aspiring BAME politicians and through the work that I and my predecessor Conservative Party Chairs have done we have record number of Black Conservative MPs.

I am also proud that we now teach and celebrate the contribution of Black Britons through Black History Month and more widely in the school syllabus. Children are taught a more critical assessment of the British Empire, and historical figures. This is a huge positive step when compared with my time at school.

I have no doubt that contemporary Britain is the best place in the world to be black but the recent BLM protests show there is still more work to do.

I will continue to work to achieve a fair and truly colour-blind society here in the UK.”

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