Black Lives Matter – equality and human rights above wealth, power and oppression

This weekend has been dominated by mass protests and demonstrations across the globe against the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. One murder of a Black man at the hands of White police officers was the last of many, his life like those that went before should not be lost in vein, but serve as a catalyst for the outpouring of pent up anger at the discrimination Black people face in our society. 

It was pleasing to see so many young people finding their collective voice, once again breading new life, new ideals and passion into protest and demonstrations.  

The tearing down the statue of Colston, the 17th Century slave trader, and its ceremonial dumping in the Bristol harbour from where his ships once set sail to the African coast will stand as a symbol for equality and human rights above wealth, power and oppression. 


Malcontents will bemoan the lawlessness but to do so fails to recognise the history of progressive movements. Nelson Mandela languished in jail for 27 years for breaking the laws on apartheid, Gandhi found himself incarcerated for sedition and civil disobedience, Martin Luther King was arrested five times, and Rosa Parks the African American civil rights activist who became famous for taking a stand — by sitting down – arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus for a white person contrary to Alabama law.  

And we should never forget that it was just a few years ago the law allowed the deportation of British Citizens from their homes here in the UK. Many of them public service workers who helped build our NHS. Ministers of State will stand firm in their defence of the UK, but faux claims of tolerance and openness will never erase the memory of Windrush.

Racism, discrimination and the marginalisation of minority groups is and will always be a trade union issue. If you’re Black you are more likely to be unemployed and for longer, less likely to be a manager, earn 23% less, live in overcrowded accommodation, suffer mental health and die younger. We in the trade union movement have a special responsibility to campaign against the division inherent in racism, and for equality and human rights, as every trade union negotiator knows when workers are divided it’s the boss that wins.    

The road to equality is always long and often difficult to navigate. It will never result in an outright win nor will there be an absolute defeat. Each generation has their own responsibility to fight for equality and human rights.

If the last few days teaches us anything it is that we must all do more.