Lord Boateng calls for a conversation about race and being British
Lord Paul Boateng, former Labour MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, High Commissioner to South Africa and patron of Tutu Foundation UK, has seen many positive changes in attitudes to race in Britain over the past three decades. Sadly he also also knows that underlying racial tensions still remain and a toxic seam of hatred and abuse can erupt at any time.
Following the the largely peaceful protests by the Black Lives Matter movement, the toppling of monuments and the backlash from the far right, he has called for a national conversation around race and what it means to be British.
Writing in The Times last week Lord Boateng, who in 1987 was among the first wave of black MPs to be elected to the then all-white House of Commons, pointed that there were those who didn’t welcome their arrival.
Although in the minority, the objectors let their feelings be known “in a stream of hatred and abuse that continues to this day.”
He added “The events of recent weeks following the murder of George Floyd have thrown the spotlight on a reality that for all too many has never gone away, despite the progress that has been made.”
He now believes that the time has come for a national conversation around race and what it is to be British that goes beyond government.
Young white, black, and brown people who have taken to the streets will be satisfied with nothing less, he says, adding: “If all lives matter, why are so many black lives lost?”
Lord Boateng warns that we must be prepared to confront some uncomfortable truths and discordant voices and cites the way South Africa confronted its demons with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He urges that the nation, its institutions and its people embrace the spirit of Ubuntu - an acknowledging our interconnectedness and interdependence - as we build a nation at ease with itself.