Has anything changed on racial justice in UK adland in the past year?

Campaign 26 May 2021 10:03

A year ago this week, white Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd for nearly 10 minutes, killing him. The murder of a black man by police was a criminally common event in the US, and yet it didn’t become just another forgotten statistic, it was catalytic.

Floyd’s murder triggered anger, revulsion and protest across the world – on the streets, across social media and on the news in people’s homes. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter – coined in 2013 after the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin – became a global rallying cry for the fight against racial injustice.

The world may have been facing a pandemic but the movement gained a virulence that belied a society in lockdown.

A year on, the discourse about race has become more commonplace, and today BLM is instantly recognisable shorthand for the fight against racial hatred, but whether anything has fundamentally changed is debatable.

Racism remains ingrained in our institutions, despite insistence otherwise – demonstrated most notably by the UK government report’s “finding” that institutional racism doesn’t exist. While our leaders – pertinently prime minister Boris Johnson, with his past record of jingoistic slurs – failed to acknowledge reality, many leaders at brands and agencies have spoken up.

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