Today is the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd’s, an outrage that initiated the Black Lives Matters movement across many countries.
That movement is shining a light on structural and institutional racism and demanding racial justice and equality for people of colour and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME).
Institutional racism continues to disproportionately and unfairly impact on life opportunities for BAME people in education, employment, criminal justice, and dignity in the simple realities of everyday life.
City Council commitment to anti-racism
In Oxford, the City Council responded by committing to declaring itself as an anti-racist city, and developed the Anti-Racism Charter which it launched in October 2020. This is an initiative that the council developed for the whole city.
Every organisation and individual who signs the charter commits to the principles of and anti-racist definitions encapsulated in the charter, which includes a specific definition on Anti-Black Racism. The Charter reframes how the council engages on issues around structural racism, tackling it in all its forms so that people of colour and Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities are treated with equity, dignity and respect and realise their potential. This is more than challenging racist words, it is about action: changing how we do things to create fairer opportunities and make this city work for everyone.
The City Council now has a more ethnically diverse cabinet than ever before, with three of the ten members from BAME communities. By placing decisions in the hands of the people that better represent the communities of Oxford, not only will the city become fairer, relationships should improve too. This builds on the work of the past year: this year for the first time the council published the ethnicity pay gap as well as the gender pay gap; it has continued to build on engagement with diverse communities during the pandemic, by taking a “relationship first” approach; and will recommit to the Anti-Racism charter during Black History Month this year.
“The murder of George Floyd, filmed live and broadcast around the world galvanised a global anti-racism and racial justice movement. It highlighted the injustices and dehumanising treatment racial minorities have had to endure to a global audience.
“It is not enough to say we are not racist or oppose racism, we need to work to be proactive in being anti-racists in all spheres of our life which includes holding uncomfortable and difficult conversations – demanding and making change in structural and institutional practices for the betterment of everybody.
“I am proud of the changes the Council is making - representative local leadership is vital and more so in a multi-racial and dynamic city such as Oxford and especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, exposing racial and class based systemic inequalities.
“It is important that we now have more diversity at senior levels of the council to ensure the issue of racial justice and social justice is embedded in all our thinking and work.
“Our work must be in partnership with communities and people and this is why a “relationship first” approach is crucial and what the council is developing.
“As a council we have a duty to instigate change and influence others to tackle institutional and structural racism, and that means explaining why economically, culturally and socially all our residents and communities must flourish if we are to build an inclusive city for everyone.
“The Council works closely with Oxford’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities every day, and when we reaffirm our commitment to the Anti-Racism Charter in October - we do so by putting Oxford’s communities at the centre of our commitment.”
Councillor Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities
This week also brought news that anti-racism activist Sasha Johnson, who grew up in Oxford and studied in the city and owns a business here, was seriously injured in a shooting in London. The motive of the shooting is not clear at this stage, police are investigating.
Locally there a prayer vigil has been organised for Sasha on Tuesday evening.
“This is tragedy has left a young Oxford woman and mother fighting for her life and everyone who knows Sasha deeply devastated and distressed. The motive for the attack is unknown and it’s important that people refrain from speculating as this is creating additional distress for Sasha’s family and friends.
“What we do know is that Black working class women in the UK are disproportionately the victims of violence.
“Our thoughts are with Sasha, her young children, family and friends during this very difficult time.”