The other pandemic

15 June 2020  |  Insights
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Like everyone else, for the past three months my world has been turned upside down. I've gone through and I'm still going through some testing times, and to be honest I would go as far as to say that it's been traumatic. This period of lockdown has really tested me and continues to shape me. The coronavirus pandemic is like a bad disaster movie; however, as a black woman I've been living with another, more deadly pandemic my whole life - racism.

I'm married to a black man and have two amazing young children; I've been blessed to have a daughter (aged 11) and a son (aged 9). For the last few years now my husband and I have been slowly introducing them to the real world, making them aware that society isn't a level playing field for a black person; we feel it's our responsibility to do this, to educate them about racism even at this young age.

Watching the video of George Floyd's death was deeply upsetting. I cried, and in some small way a part of me died with him - sadness filled my heart, closely followed by disgust and anger. Even though we have not shown our children the footage of the incident, we have spoken to them about it and together we've allowed them to watch suitable commentary on Floyd's death and surrounding topical discussions.

This incident has left me feeling totally drained, like many I'm so tired of it - his words 'I can't breathe' still ring in my ears. Yes it happened in the US, and yes I didn't know him personally, but in some small way, in that moment, I felt connected to him. Perhaps it's the feeling of the injustice of it all, and let's not be naive here to think this is a US thing, because it happens here in the UK.

Of course, as a black woman I’ve experienced many different forms of racism, although I have to highlight that a black man's experience is on a whole different level, and to be honest this is my biggest fear for my son... like my parents who arrived here in the 60s from St Kitts, part of the Windrush generation, my husband and I are trying to equip both our children with the necessary knowledge and prep, so they can navigate their way through this world diseased with racism. I guess watching the video it really hit me, hearing my Dad's encounters with racism in the 60s, it feels like the world really hasn't moved on that much.

As a people we have historically always tried to fit in with society, to be accepted as equals; but the problem is that the rules keep changing, the system is rigged against us. Some say the system is broken but it isn't broken, it's always been this way, built this way – a system is by nature deliberately systematic. Black people are tired: tired of the trauma, tired of the grief, tired of dealing with the loss of dignity, loss of freedom, loss of lives and loss of humanity for over 400 years.

What's my hope?

So what's my hope? My hope is that if you're not black you feel uncomfortable right now, because it is this positive discomfort that will help us drive change together, to push people to reassess their behaviour. To encourage them to develop a filter where they constantly self evaluate their language and attitude. It's not enough to say I'm not a racist because I have black friends, because racism can raise it's ugly head in many different forms - you only have to look at the Amy Cooper incident.

I'm praying that this will become a pivotal moment in history, one where my children will get to tell their children that 2020 was a year of change, where the fight against racism experienced a global breakthrough and started to make a real impact in peoples lives. That they won't have to prepare their children about how society will treat them unfairly because of the colour of their skin, that they won't have to go through what generations before them have had to endure.

So I'm asking you to be part of the solution, help cure this disease; because if you do nothing you become part of the problem, being silent is complicit - so do better, be better.

Lynda Martin, Director of Strategic PR, Jersey Road PR

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