/ 24 March 2022

Racism is still alive and well

For the few black people who ‘make it’ to justice, there are many more who struggle to access their basic human rights. (John McCann/M&G)

Black people, regardless of income, education and domestic or international experience are affected by oppressive systems linked to interpersonal, institutional, structural and internalised racism. In 2021, of the 2 755 billionaires worldwide there were 15 black billionaires and of the globe’s 56.1-million millionaires at the end of 2020, Africa had 276.

Regarding the oppressive systems in Europe and North America particularly, I believe there is a continuous “bait-and-switch” taking place in systems purported to be protectors of justice and promoters of human rights, when in actuality, their procedures are rejecting the very work needed to address on-the-ground injustices. For the few black people who “make it” to justice, there are many more who struggle to access their basic human rights.

Primarily, the struggle is not because black people refuse to overcome obstacles or decline to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Rather, the struggle is connected to centuries of systematic oppression of black people financially, culturally, scholastically and politically.

While some believe that we are making progress, with more work still to be done, there are growing critiques about having a steady faith in systems when inhumane actions spiral without accountability. For each criminal conviction pertaining to the violation of a black person’s civil rights, there is ample (evidenced-based) research about human rights injustices multiplying against black people. There is often procrastination, such as delayed funding for racial justice initiatives, stopping at apologies or launching investigations only after outcries. 

Two cases encapsulate the familiar systemised racism: the 15-year-old black schoolgirl (Child Q) who was basically assaulted by the police, and the initially-deemed “accidental” death of a black college woman (Lauren Smith-Fields). There were similar calculated attempts to dehumanise black girls and women as early as the 15th century (see also Henrietta Lacks and Deborah Danner). Remember also the assaults on black boys and men, as well as black people living with disabilities and black LGBTQIA+.

Referring to Child Q’s case, the familiar systemising can be noticed when the Metropolitan police were rebuked (two years before the Child Q incident) by a watchdog for conducting “unjustified” strip searches on children. Despite the rebuke, the assault happened in 2020 and the report was not shared publicly until 2022. Another example of systemic racism is the fact that only one person was fired. Black people continue to speak out about the case’s faults, especially the non-justice for Child Q.

In the case of Lauren Smith-Fields, it was asserted that US newspapers only reported on her death after the rapid traction on TikTok. It took an app and its algorithms to spark the viral news coverage about Smith-Fields. Through different media platforms such as YouTube, the Smith-Fields family increased their advocacy efforts.

Black people are excelling and advancing throughout the world. But, in the same world, black people continue to experience human rights injustices.

With all that is occurring around justice and human rights, I am pensive about black people revisiting global economic boycotts, but if they are to take place, I suggest economic boycotts for the long term specifically, to realise substantive change for centuries to come. Perhaps North America and Europe should be the starting points? 

When humane boundaries are properly enforced, they demonstrate seismically a very well-known fact (albeit one that is taken for granted): with black people, economies thrive.