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Event Series Addresses Global Perspectives on Race, Justice and Equity

For the first event, U.K. MP David Lammy speaks on the Black Lives Matter movement, justice, and equity in the United Kingdom.

“At the beginning of all of this, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic said that [COVID-19] doesn’t discriminate. It turns out it does,” said the Right Honourable David Lammy.

Lammy is a member of the British parliament and the U.K.’s current shadow secretary of state for justice in the new labour leader Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet. He was on hand for the first virtual event in a “conversation series” co-sponsored by Tufts University’s Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) and The Fletcher School, entitled “Global Perspectives on Race, Justice and Equity.” The series will feature policymakers, public intellectuals, scholars, writers and activists on issues of race, justice and equity. This particular event focused on the topic of Black Lives Matter, Justice and Equity and the U.K. and was moderated by IGL Director and Fletcher Professor of the Practice of International Politics Abidoun Williams (F86, F87).

“Public Health England found that death rates from COVID-19 were highest among people from Black and Asian ethnic groups. Why is this exactly?” Williams asked Lammy. “Is it to do with race or are there other reasons which put people [from these communities] at such a disadvantage?”

After pointing out the flaw in politicians’ rhetoric about the coronavirus, Lammy ultimately brought the answer back to the issue of structural racism. He sees structural racism – whether against Black, historically Muslim Bangladeshi, Pakistani populations or Jewish communities - as endemic in Britain, no matter the status of members of those communities in British society. In particular, he points to the dearth of advice coming from the government to the Black and Brown communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 deaths. “Again, it comes back to structural discrimination and racism […] of the kind of communities I represent here in London,” said Lammy.

In Black and minority ethnic communities (in the U.K.) it’s hard not to know someone who has died, Lammy said. “Put on top of that, Black Lives Matter and issues of structural racism in the criminal justice system, kids being harassed by the police who might be dying – and in this country we have the ‘Wind Rush scandal,’ in which older Black citizens have been denied their rights to pensions, housing, have been deported/detained…there’s a lot of grief and concern and anger.”

Digging further into the issue of structural racism, Williams asked Lammy, “As a Black man and a Black politician, what has been the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on you?”

Invoking the name of the man who has given rise to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. and now – around the world – Lammy turns to the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. “When we saw those images of George Floyd dying in eight minutes and seconds, they were not new,” Lammy said. “There are names like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and so many others that have become names that the global community recognize emanating from a powerful concern about police brutality in relation to Black men, women and boys in the United States.”

Lammy went on to provide context as to why he believes the Black Lives Matter movement has broken through as a “global moment” now. With the world gripped with a pandemic, he said, people have been at home, intently focused on watching the news and their social media feeds “with a gaze that perhaps they hadn’t quite had before. Primarily, because they were focused on news about the coronavirus, but I think for that reason, this global moment cut through powerfully.” The movement has touched nations across the world from the U.S. to the U.K., France, Brazil and beyond. “This was the world’s moment and it has led to deeper conversations, here in the U.K.,” said Lammy.

The conversation, which can be watched in its entirety below, went on to address issues of systemic racism found in both the U.S. and the U.K., as well as the problems of colonization and decolonization, education, policing, incarceration and criminal justice, how we should reconcile history with today’s Black Lives Matter movement, representation, allies and allyship and much more.

Black Lives Matter, Justice and Equity in the U.K.

The Institute for Global Leadership and The Fletcher School announce the launch of the Conversation Series “Global Perspectives on Race, Justice and Equity.” The Series will feature policy makers, public intellectuals, scholars, writers and activists on issues of race, justice and equity. The inaugural speaker in the Series is The Rt. Hon. David Lammy MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice in new Labour leader Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet in the U.K. The Virtual Conversation will take place on Friday, July 24, 2020, 1:00-2:00 p.m EDT on Zoom. He will address the topic “Black Lives Matter, Justice and the UK”. It will be moderated by Professor Abi Williams, Director of IGL and Professor of the Practice of International Politics at The Fletcher School.

Posted by The Fletcher School at Tufts University on Friday, July 24, 2020