Boris Johnson Launches U.K. Racism Commission Amidst Black Lives Matter Movement


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a cross government commission on racial inequality in light of the George Floyd murder last month in Minneapolis; pressures mounted on Monday for him to take action with the plan.

Criticism of the strength of Johnson’s plan emerged after he failed to divulge details about the commission, according to Reuters.

The commission will tackle racism and the socioeconomic ethnic discrepancy of minority groups in health, education, and the criminal justice system, said Reuters.

Reuters alleged that David Lammy, an opposition Labour lawmaker, said that, “It’s the sort of morning that makes me slightly weary, because it feels like we’re going round in circles,” in response to the Prime Minister’s ambiguity about the commission.

Lammy created a report covering the U.K.’s criminal justice system and it’s over-representation of black people, however the conclusions from the report have not made it past paper, Reuters said.

“The time for review is over and the time for action is now,” said Lammy, according to Reuters.

Since the murder of George Floyd, thousands took to the streets of English cities in protest to racial inequity. 

Johnson, in response to the growing protests, said on Sunday that as prime minister, he wanted to, “change the narrative, so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination,” said Reuters.

By Monday, Johnson’s commission had supposedly been formed, according to a spokesman for the prime minister, and a report of findings and recommendations would be released at the end of the year, said Reuters.

“It won’t be easy,” Johnson said. “We’ll have to look very carefully at the real racism and discrimination that people face,” according to Reuters.

After the riots, statues of Winston Churchill are no longer safe from protesters, according to Reuters. Churchill has been widely acknowledged as a war hero following his leadership during World War II for the Allies.

Prime Minister Johnson’s commission was started to create justice and equality for minority groups and black people, however his take on the protesters actions against the statue reflects unease.

Johnson appeared “extremely dubious about the growing campaign to edit or photoshop the entire cultural landscape,” said Reuters. The prime minister wrote that the country should, “…fight racism, but leave our heritage broadly in peace,” according to Reuters.

An article last week in BBC said that Churchill’s granddaughter believes his statue could be moved to a museum after controversy amidst the Black Lives Matter protests.

The granddaughter, Emma Soames, was “shocked” when she witnessed his statue in Parliament Square boarded up, said BBC; these measures followed the events of last week when someone spray painted “was a racist” beneath the statue.

Soames told BBC Radio 4 that, “we’ve come to this place where history is viewed only entirely through the prism of the present,” said BBC.

Some of Churchill’s social views would not be acceptable today, according to his granddaughter, however at that time in history, she argued, they were not completely out of the norm, said BBC.

However, “He was a powerful, complex man, with infinitely more good than bad in the ledger of his life,” added Soames.

“I find it extraordinary that millions and millions of people all over the world who look up to Britain will be astonished that a statue of Churchill and the Cenotaph, our national war memorial, could have been defaced in this disgusting way,” said Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, to the Daily Telegraph, according to BBC.

Author Shrabani Basu argued that India does not view Churchill as a hero from his role in the 1943 Bengal famine, which was believed to kill three million people, said BBC. Basu does not advocate for the statues’s destruction, however she wants both sides of his story told.

Others who oppose the statue like Black Lives Matter activist Imarn Ayton said the statue should be relocated to a museum because it’s a “… win-win to everyone so we no longer offend the black nation and we also get to keep our history,” she told BBC.

“We cannot try to edit or censor our past,” said Johnson. “We cannot pretend to have a different history,” according to BBC.

Ellie Hunter