Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Race Relations Act @50-Professor Charles Lawrence 'Black Lives Matter'

This blog was inspired by my attendance at a recent conference held at The British Academy on the 09-10 July 2015. The conference was titled ‘The Race Relations Act @ 50’.

On Thursday morning, the conference was opened by a powerfully intense speech by Professor Charles Lawrence, who is a distinguished professor of law at the University of Hawaii. Professor Lawrence has been acclaimed for his work in anti-discrimination law, equality protection and critical race theory. He has sat on numerous public interest boards including the District of Columbia Board of Education. The title of the paper that he discussed at the conference was called ‘Black Lives Matter: Black Freedom, Mass Movements, Race Laws and Lessons from America’s Past and Present’.

Professor Lawrence began by reiterating African-American’s past connection to slavery. He described how African-American slaves who escaped the cotton fields achieved more than freedom. They challenged power and the ideology that property was more important than humanity. He quoted that a slave once said that the land should be owned by those who worked it!
The distinguished Professor described the role of activation in promoting racial equality while explaining the importance of activists learning about themselves during their protests.  He discussed how slavery and prejudice favors ownership of property over humanity. Professor Lawrence also explained how exposing the constitutions lies assisted in the restructuring of the legal system and policies. He also explained that what activists learnt through demonstrations was more important than what they actually achieved!

The most profound challenge came from young black revalued people through demonstrations in the Deep South in a non-violent manner (SNIP). Black activists in the 60s and 70s seemed more and their visions went beyond ideology. They saw themselves as part of a civil struggle rather than legal change. They learnt the beauty and strength of their own humanity as racial segregation became an embarrassment.

After the assassination of Martin Luther King and the implementation of new legislation demonstrations continued as legislation was insufficient. The politics of black civil rights was actually formed through the violent demonstrations during the mid 60's as groups of black people set up their own schools etc.

Professor described how in 2015 black people continue to be disciplined through continued deaths carried out by white people. These deaths continue to highlight racism and the reality that black lives do not matter to the states in the USA. You do not have to dig too deeply to appreciate the lack of justice that continues to exists for African-American men in the USA when at least two are killed each week by police in the USA The State refuses to spend a 10th of what is spent on imprisonment on assisting children in poverty, who are predominantly from non-white backgrounds. Disproportionate prison occupancy, homeless families, hungry children, separate ethnic schooling all highlight the continued division and injustice that African Americans face.

Professor Lawrence chillingly signified how his wife reads aloud daily to him Tweets relating to racism and anti-racism, including the #icantbreath and #blacklivesmatter. He emphasised the all too familiar injustice that we hear of within the media and social media. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as Professor Lawrence reeled of cases such as the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in New York. He described the shock that the public demonstrated in these high profile cases as subconsciously existing due to the lack of injustice being expected, rather than shock.

He moved on to discuss the recent events in Charleston and quoted the killers chilling words "you are raping our women and killing our children". 'The mayor of Charleston publicly described the racist murders as "Pure concentrated evil". Since these inhumane deaths, there have been huge demands to remove the racist confederate flag. Businesses including Walmart and eBay have joined the fight against racism by publicly refusing to sell the Confederate flag in future! "We can't look away and use the law to pretend that racism has been cured!" "The black youths of today must now face the challenges of making sure all black lives matter across the USA."

Professor Lawrence moved on to explain the radical changes that are needed to ensure that his dreams of racial justice and equality become a reality. He explained how the redistribution of land was essential in achieving this. He also discussed how revolutionary transformation is achieved.

At the end of Professor Lawrence's speech, I was left contemplating the fact that historical changes to racial equality have only been accomplished due to the powerful white wanting 'peace' rather than humanity existing in their soles.

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