The first quarter of this year saw the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus in China which spread to virtually every corner of the globe. While people were getting infected and sadly dying from the Covid-19 virus, the whole world witnessed the heartless killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a group of policemen in Minneapolis, USA. It took almost 9 minutes for these uncaring officers to take the life of another unarmed African American.
In the 1960s the African American author, James Baldwin, described America’s treatment of its Black citizens as “morally monstrous.” And in May 2020 the killing of George Floyd is further evidence that America is still a morally monstrous country. And this is just one more example of systemic racism at work.
In examining systemic racism in countries in the West it is important to be aware that it was launched in 1452. In that year Pope Nicholas 5th issued a Papal Bull that gave permission to Portugal to treat all people they encountered in new lands, who were not Roman Catholic, as less than human, take their possessions and enslave them.
This 1452 Papal Bull was an act of pure evil that gave permission to the first European nation to treat everyone whose faith was not Roman Catholic as property. As explorers from Spain vied with those from Portugal to discover new lands, the Popes who followed Nicholas 5th also gave permission to the Spanish to treat anyone they encountered who were non-Catholics or Christians as less than human, take their possessions and enslave them.
These Papal Bulls were soon embedded into the laws of European countries such as Portugal, Spain, England, France, Belgium and Holland. Through these laws everyone who was not deemed to be a European had limitations, restrictions and barriers put in their way in every country under the control of Europeans. This situation endured for hundreds of years.
As we are aware, the UK passed a law to end the slave trade in 1807, and another law to end the enslavement of Black people in the British Empire in 1834. In addition the UK’s political control over most of its colonies in Africa and the Caribbean ended in the 1960s. And other European countries also released most of their former colonies.
However, despite these laws the impact of the evil that was launched on non-Roman Catholics or non-Christians in 1452 by Pope Nicholas 5th still persists. People of African and Asian descent are still suffering from limitations, restrictions and barriers which are placed in their way to limit their progress and social mobility in every aspects of their lives.
So why is this happening? It is our belief that Europeans have been encouraged to be morally monstrous to non-Europeans for so long, this behaviour has become second nature. It is our belief that laws without effective enforcement shall be ignored. Consequently, in 2020 we are seeing this behaviour in North and South American countries, in the UK, and in countries in continental Europe. It is our belief that systemic racism can end, but this will only occur when there is effective enforcement of existing laws in order to send a clear and consistent message that being morally monstrous is no longer acceptable in our society.
On 25 May 2020 the killing of George Floyd horrified virtually everyone who saw the video and it triggered protests by Black Lives Matter groups in the USA, the UK, and across the world; and they involved people of all ethnicities and ages. These protests were by the “alliance of conscience,” or fair minded people who want our society to change, who want society to move away from morally monstrous behaviour that has blighted the lives of citizens of African and Asian descent for too long. It is our belief that the BLM movement will harness this “alliance of conscience” and drive the required transformation.
Reach Society believes that the 21st century will be known as the century when the evil of systemic racism (that was launched in 1452 by Pope Nicholas 5th) will be ended because the decent people, of all ethnicities, who have forged the “alliance of conscience” will no longer tolerate this morally monstrous behaviour.
In addition, the modern Black community needs to teach its young people of the foregoing historical timeline of systemic racism. It needs to teach its young people that the familiar abuse and persecution of people of African and Asian origins by Europeans was launched as an act of evil by Pope Nicholas 5th, and which was acted upon for centuries by colonial nations from Europe. And despite the recent passing of laws against racial discrimination change in behaviour by employers, in institutions, and service providers is very slow because of poor enforcement by governments. Consequently, white individuals remain free to indulge their ingrained habit of discriminating and obstructing the development and progress of people of African or Asian descent.
The modern Black community (or MBC) needs to teach its young people that they are fully capable of developing their God given potential to do whatever they desire to live meaningful, happy and rewarding lives. They need to be taught from an early age to reject messages from anyone – white or Black, family member or stranger – who tells them that they are less than other people because of their skin colour or ethnicity.
That notion has never been true, and it will never be true. Why? In the 21st century scientists have mapped the genetic code of human beings and have shown that people of all ethnicities have the same genetic make-up.
Consequently, parents in the MBC need to invest in their young people from birth. They need to nurture and prepare them to live and succeed in our qualification society. That requires all parents and carers to encourage young children to fall in love with reading through bedtime stories; and fall in love with numbers by memorising their times tables.
Parents need to speak with their children about things they have read and what happens in society as that will help them to learn how to think critically about a wide range of matters. And our young people need to regularly look things up on the Internet in order to increase their general knowledge.
“What we do in life echoes in eternity.” This was said by general Maximus, in the film Gladiator, just before the Roman army attacked a local tribe in Germania. What Pope Nicholas 5th did in 1452 has echoed across the world for roughly 570 years.
In the 21st century we have an opportunity to dissipate the echo of the evil released into the world (in the 15th century) by what we choose to say to our young people to inoculate them from the trauma of systemic racism, strengthen their resilience, and develop their potential to shape their future.
In Reach Society we believe that the leaders in our modern Black community need to make this inoculation process our top priority; and in so doing we shall ensure that what we do will also “echo in eternity!”.
Dr Dwain Neil OBE, Reach Society, Chairman (September 2020) & Dr Donald Palmer, Reach Society, Networking Programme Director
Reach Society was founded in 2010. It is a QAVS award winning social enterprise that encourages, motivates, and inspires young people, especially Black boys, and young men, to develop their potential and make viable transitions into adult life. It is led by a team of professionals, and supported by a cohort of patrons
Website – www.reachsociety.com
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities.