This week marks the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. Another life taken by a racially motivated act of violence. Over the past year, we as a charity have been reflecting and making changes to ensure we are anti-racist in all we do, as individuals, organisationally, and as a member of the social work community. You’ll hear from social workers, fellows and staff as they share their reflections.
Callum Ross, head of Fellowship
A year on since the murder of George Floyd, I’ve been reflecting on what it was that made me – a white man living in a predominantly white society – and many others like me, pay attention. His death was a terrible and traumatic event, and sadly it is not isolated in any way. George Floyd was another Black man murdered by institutional racist state force and violence.
What is interesting to me is there are two things that stand out about how George was killed by a police force, led by a government not too dissimilar to ours in the UK. Firstly, citizens, not the police, used their power to film the incident. Secondly, communities from across the world united to say enough is enough.
When I think about all that’s happened in the past year, I think about the red car theory – you buy a red car and all of a sudden you see red cars everywhere.
I have hope and I worry. I have hope because now, I see the red car, and so do so many others.
I worry because in the UK, not enough is being done to tackle institutional racism, or even accept that it is an issue that is living and breathing in our country. Institutional racism is not a foreign, American issue. There are countless racial injustices that have happened and are happening to people in the UK, and we need to know their stories too.
One quarter of all Black young men and boys were stopped and searched by police during the first lockdown in London last year. Stephen Lawrence’s family has yet to see proper justice. Traveller and Gypsy children are taken into state care at a significantly disproportionate rate. Sean Rigg and Olaseni Lewis both died in police custody.
I believe now more than ever in the power of bringing people together to take action to fight racism. I also believe in the children and families that we serve every day in the institution I work within – social work. It is my hope that marginalised children and families find their voices, and through collective power and action, their voices are heard. We can try to make this easier, through better listening, taking more risks and being more comfortable in getting things wrong.
I’ve tried to share my own journey of learning. I’ve reflected on times where I’ve been in positions of power; where being white and male in a way enforced institutional racism. It is uncomfortable to acknowledge those times in my life, but I am still here and I can change.
As I look past the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, and onto the year ahead, one of my goals to becoming anti-racist is to build trust through action. Trust is hard to build, and I blame no one for not trusting systems or people that keep failing them. My action will be to stop taking the easy route and sharing power with those I am closest to, who most often are folk who look like me. As a white man in a position of leadership, I recognise that I have skills, opportunities, and power that I can share directly with people from a Black, Asian, and minority ethnic background. So I will do so.