We’re building on a quarter-century of anti-racism

With Black History Month in full swing, regional secretary Tim Roberts blogs on UNISON’s role in ending racial inequality

Just over a week into October and it’s been inspiring to see the explosion of events, articles, videos and more covering Black History Month 2020.

Over the last year, the issues facing Black communities in the UK have been thrust into the spotlight to like never before, with protests up and down the country after the death of George Floyd in the US unleashed the pent-up anger felt by Black communities on this side of the Atlantic.

Anger caused by the very real structural inequalities Black communities face in the UK. The stop and search, the lower-paid jobs, the higher prevalence of zero-hours contracts, the worse housing, the disadvantages in the job market — the list goes on.

I lived in Bristol for many years and used to walk past the statue of Edward Colston every day on my way to work. Colston was slave trader and was responsible for 90,000 Africans being taken from their land and shipped across the Atlantic — thousands of whom died on the way and their corpses casually tossed overboard.

I was happy to hear that his statue had been toppled. Removing statues of men that perpetuated unspeakable barbarism is important but the legacy of slavery and its impact on the fabric of our society can still be felt today.

Black History Month is an important time to remember how we got to where we are now, to reflect on how much there is still to do — and renew the struggle for racial equality.

Because Black history and Black lives don’t just matter for the 31 days of October — they matter the whole year round.

In UNISON we’re committed to taking racism head on. Central to tackling racism is elevating Black voices. I’m incredibly proud of the work our Black members’ self-organised group does, raising Black issues and making sure Black voices are heard in our region, in branches and in workplaces.

UNISON is a powerful anti-racist force and has campaigned for change and secured significant improvements for Black workers and users of public services in the last quarter of the century

But we know there’s more work to do. We’re supporting our Black members take self-organisation further, building Black members’ groups on a county level across the Eastern region and ramming home the Race for Equality campaign in the NHS.

Thank you to the Black activists already doing this work — and their non-Black colleagues supporting them. I look forward to seeing more and more Black activists coming forward to make history before next October.