Image Credit: Patrick Hook-Willers
Due to the current momentum and widespread awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, multiple political figures have overtly expressed their support or opposition to the cause. It is refreshing to see that Rachel Maskell, the MP for York Central, is a clear supporter of the movement.
Maskell has expressed her support for the cause in an official statement expressing her views. Maskell instantly asserts that she is “ashamed to say that the UK has blood on its hands too”, which seems to be in opposition to the criticism of the anti-racist efforts happening in the UK.
She goes on to support this view, citing that “Grenfell was the most tragic event I can recall, but the tragedy lay in the fact that the poor, ethnic minority residents, those with no recourse to public funds but wanting to play their part in our nation; their voices were not heard, their pleas for safety ignored, their lives dispensed within the inferno of prejudice.” This reinforces Maskell’s belief that the UK is not separate from the issues occurring across the Atlantic, and thus she seems to be in support of the BLM action happening here.
She further relates the issue of race to the current COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting “how Covid-19, discriminates on the basis of race, because if you are black you are more likely to be poor, living in unsuitable housing, working in unsafe environments and exposed to the greatest risks and health inequalities.”
The language of her statement is powerful and emotive, which is clearly summarised in her statements that “our state judges. Our state discriminates. Our state is institutionally racist.” These social assessments fall in line with her criticism of the current Home Office, which she says is a “Home Office, which deports Windrush public servants to a land they barely know. A Home Office where the colour of your skin weighs greater than the contribution you have made, where the size of your bank account determines if you can enter our country, not the violent place from where you have fled.”
Maskell’s criticisms in her statement also focus on the issues occurring in York specifically, as she ponders the question as to “why York Race Equality Network, here in our city, has lost vital funding.” The York Race Equality Network is a York-based charity which strives to assist BME individuals in York, whether that be through enabling BME voices or improving access to services and support for the BME community, a link to their website can be found here: https://yren.co.uk. The lack of funding for the charity is used as an example of how we need to “look into the hidden corners of prejudice”, and of how “if we are not prepared to challenge ourselves, our own communities, then how do we ever expect there to be change.”
The MP ends her statement with a more hopeful image, musing on the fact that “the outpouring cry that I have received from hundreds of constituents these last few days gives me hope. We have had enough of institutionalised racism, we are not prepared to stay silent, we are ready to take on prejudice, we will not give up.” In her efforts to help with this action against racism, Maskell aims to challenge “the exports of weapons of violence,” stating that “we should not be manufacturing rubber bullets and tear gas, let alone selling these for profit to know that they will be used against our brothers and sisters standing up for their rights.” This statement comes after the news of the UK’s riot equipment exports to the US was uncovered.
Maskell has also expressed her support for the movement on social media, showing a screenshot of her taking part in a virtual silent protest on Zoom with other “Labour sisters across Yorkshire.” She has also shared petitions which have come about because of the movement, such as one calling for Britain’s colonial past to become a part of the compulsory curriculum (this petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/324092).
Maskell’s full statement: https://www.rachaelmaskell.com/news_page/2020/06/04/black-lives-matter/