BLACK LIVES MATTER. PERIOD.
We cannot be silent and must speak out against injustice and racism, and do everything in our power to end perpetual systems of oppression. We must not settle for optical allyship as Mireille Cassandra Harper has brilliantly outlined in the toolkit ‘10 Steps to Non-optical Allyship’.
At Wen we wholeheartedly believe in this and aim to actively challenge racism in everything that we do. We believe that this should be central in any post COVID-19 Green Recovery plans, as well as working on this within Wen as an organisation. Challenging all forms of inequality, discrimination and power and how they interact together is at the heart of our intersectional feminist approach to the environment.⠀⠀⠀⠀
We are creating a working group within the Wen network, to explore our practices, interrogate our own privilege and see how we can amplify the #blacklivesmatter movement within our work both at a grassroots level in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets but also nationally and politically.
We would also like to issue a statement on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups, as confirmed this week by the Office of National Statistics. ONS research demonstrates a direct link between mortality rates and the level of deprivation in an area. Inner London boroughs including Tower Hamlets, Newham and Hackney are afflicted by both the highest levels of deprivation and the highest age-standardised mortality. Given Wen’s close operational ties to the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets, we were particularly concerned to note that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity have twice the risk of mortality as white British.
ONS found that higher levels of deprivation are likely compounding the COVID-19 death toll, with Londoners in low income areas most exposed and vulnerable. Inequality has clearly worsened the pandemic in these areas and, vice versa, the pandemic has worsened inequality. We already know from our work on the climate front that women and minorities are disproportionately affected by the negative impact of climate change, and air pollution in particular. It will not just be important to build back better, but build back society differently to produce better and more equal outcomes for women, black and minority ethnic communities. As a priority, we will be pushing the Government to commission further research into the causes behind the ONS finding that more people from BAME backgrounds are affected more seriously by COVID-19 – it is vital to identify causation, not just correlation in order to find solutions.
We have curated a list of further reading and resources. Please get in touch if you have other suggestions.
Dr Halima Begum, Chair of Wen Trustees
Beth Summers, Co-Director
Kate Metcalf, Co-Director