Why "checking our privilege" is an essential part of life in the UK
Article originally published on LinkedIn, September 2022
Whilst I appreciate the impact of the death of the longest serving monarch in British history on our collective consciousness, I’m finding myself increasingly bewildered by the lack of coverage about the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in London.
Chris Kaba was 24 years old, a beloved son, father and husband to be, and a promising musical talent. Not that any of these personal characteristics matter – the fact is that it’s illegal to kill another human being in this country. And this killing was carried out by someone who was meant to uphold the law. I cannot wrap my head around why we are not completely, collectively outraged by this killing. Except that, depressingly, the work that I do means that I can wrap my head around it…. Coverage of Kaba’s killing on mainstream news channels has been, at best minimal, and at worst, completely incorrect (Sky News reported a protest march in Chris Kaba’s name as a rally in support of King Charles III).
We had a protracted conversation in a workshop last week about whether the UK is in better shape than the US when it comes to race. A topic we discussed at length last year when the UK government released its report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (spoiler alert – we didn’t agree with their assessment on the state of the nation).
We must acknowledge that the UK is a country where black people are nine times as likely as their white counterparts to be stopped by the police, and where in 2019 (despite making up just over 3% of the UK population) black people made up 16% of those who died in custody and 1/3 of those fatally shot by police. Structural racism exists everywhere in this country, and there is work to be done in almost every organisation in the UK to unpick the impact of stereotypes, ancient power structures and collective bias.
And we must start with ourselves, by acknowledging the “absence of challenge” (as articulated by John Amaechi and Reni Eddo Lodge) which comes with white privilege. I have to be realistic and acknowledge that I don’t have to worry about my son and his future relationship with the police, growing up in the UK. This isn’t the experience of my friends whose kids are black, who are already having to have conversations with them about staying safe if they are stopped by the police.
We know in the work we do that privilege can be a tough topic to talk about, and an even tougher thing to admit that we have. But if any of us have the luxury of being able to scroll past news of Chris Kaba’s killing without automatically imagining someone we love in his place, without feeling devastated, scared or wondering how we use it to warn our kids; then we are absolutely privileged in the truest sense of the word. And we all have the responsibility to sit up, pay attention, and voice our outrage as loudly and clearly as we can.
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