Like so many of you, I’ve been outraged by the scenes unfolding in the United States and stand strongly behind the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests here in the UK.
I went to university in America and worked on Capitol Hill for the great Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I know the country well. One of the most formative experiences of my life was taking a job which required me to drive for months through the Deep South. I visited churches where Martin Luther King preached, and stayed in small towns which had undemolished slave shacks – some still occupied by the desperately poor. All were African Americans.
The brutality of some American police officers in dealing with protestors is shocking, and the use of rubber bullets on peaceful protesters is vile. The UK must play no role in this abuse and if British defence equipment has been used for internal repression in the United States, we must stop the exports immediately.
No one is more responsible for what’s happening in the US than Donald Trump. His decision to have peaceful protesters driven back and assaulted so that he could stand in front of a church waving the Bible filled me with revulsion.
Countless thousands refused to be intimidated. Instead, they marched to assert their right to peaceful protest. Centuries of state-sanctioned racism have galvanised decent, law-abiding people to say ‘enough’. It’s not they who are breaking the law. It’s violent, sometimes murderous police officers and the sinister politicians who fan the flames of hatred.
As a journalist, I know how vital the press role is in calling the powerful to account. And yet, CNN has released footage of police officers hosing camera crews with pepper spray. It’s a direct attack on the free press.
We look on in horror at what is happening in the United States, but we must also recognise racism is an evil which afflicts our society too. Black and minority ethnic people are dying disproportionately from COVID-19, speaking volumes about income and housing inequality today here in the UK. But the origins of racist discrimination are too little understood. I’ve submitted an Early Day Motion at Westminster calling for the teaching of British colonial history in schools. Children should learn about Scotland’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade – and the fact that descendants of known slave traders still hold hereditary seats in the House of Lords.
My office has been deluged with powerful, heartfelt correspondence on this vital issue. As your MP, I can give you my assurance that I passionately support the Black Lives Matter campaign.
And I will always campaign against racism, and all forms of bigotry.