Sam Ashworth-Hayes Sam Ashworth-Hayes

David Lammy, George Floyd and the trouble with ‘structural racism’

David Lammy (Credit: Getty images)

What planet do our politicians live on? Labour’s video memorialising George Floyd, and pledging radical change to education and justice policies to combat the sort of ‘structural racism’ that led to his death, suggests which country. All this time I’ve believed I live in Britain, when in fact we’re all living in America. 

What other explanation could there be for a party pledging to radically reshape the nation based on events in Minneapolis two years ago? Why else would British politicians like David Lammy line up to say ‘he could have been me’? If we didn’t live in America, comparing a Harvard-educated London lawyer to a man living in a city on the other side of an ocean based on little more than the colour of their skin seems facile. 

Why do protests leap from city to city? Because people identify with those protesting elsewhere. Why do they leap from country to country? Because we’re all Americans. Why else would trust among black British people in the police plummet when police in New York kill a man? British people watch American films and listen to American music. We use social media where Americans are by far the largest group of native English speakers. Is it any wonder we’re steeped in American political thought?

Why else would British politicians like David Lammy line up to say ‘he could have been me’?

This affliction is bipartisan: from Nick Timothy’s claim that ”being offensive’ is not an offence’’ to Ben Bradley’s belief that ‘we separated the church from the state a long time ago’, Conservatives are just as prone to spouting Washington cliches as their Labour opponents. 

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