- "There is much more that we need to do; and we will," Johnson added.
- “Black people aren’t playing victim, as Boris indicates, they‘re protesting precisely because the time for review is over and the time for action is now.”
- Johnson also defended the statue of Winston Churchill.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the creation of a commission on racial inequalities. Johnson is calling for combating the “substance” of racism, not symbols, in an allusion to the recent depredations of statues during anti-racist protests. “It is no use just saying that we have made huge progress in tackling racism,” Johnson wrote.
“There is much more that we need to do; and we will,” he added.
“We need to tackle the substance of the problem, not the symbols. We need to address the present, not attempt to rewrite the past — and that means we cannot and must not get sucked into never-ending debate about which well-known historical figure is sufficiently pure or politically correct to remain in public view. It does nothing for BAME [Black, Asian, and minority ethnic] people to go around mutilating statues, or campaigning against this or that cultural relic. There are far greater and more important battles.”
Johnson made these comments in a column in The Telegraph on Sunday. Recognizing that more needs to be done, he announced the establishment of a commission to examine “all aspects of inequalities” in employment, health, and even university studies. On television, Johnson said he wants to “change the speech to end this feeling of victimization and discrimination,” drawing the ire of the opposition.
“Black people aren’t playing victim, as Boris indicates, they‘re protesting precisely because the time for review is over and the time for action is now,” protested David Lammy, responsible for justice issues in the Labor Party. In an attack on the Johnson administration, Lammy explained that it was “immature” for the UK to still be holding discussions on whether racism existed, and condemned the Prime Minister for announcing another review rather than acting.
The death of George Floyd, a black man asphyxiated by a white police officer in the United States, was followed by major anti-racist protests in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. On Saturday, police clashed with right-wing protesters who claimed to “protect” monuments from acts of vandalism. The police consequently arrested 113 people.
In The Telegraph, Johnson declared it “absolutely absurd that groups of extreme right-wing vandals and troublemakers converged in London with the mission of protecting the statue of Winston Churchill.” The monument had been vandalized the weekend before, on the sidelines of anti-racism demonstrations provoked by the death of George Floyd.
The inscription “was a racist” was graffitied on the name of the Conservative leader, accused of having made racist comments, mainly against Indians. Churchill “was a hero,” wrote Johnson.“I will resist with every breath in my body any attempt to remove that statue from Parliament Square, and the sooner his protective shielding comes off the better,” he insisted.
Instead of attacks on statues, such as that of slave trader Edward Colston, plucked from his pedestal by anti-racist activists in Bristol (southwest England), Johnson offered to “build others and celebrate the people who, according to our generation, deserve a monument.”