George Floyd, Racism and Why We Exist

Above image: Fight Racism badge, AIU RACE Centre Archive (GB3228.35)

Please note:  In this piece we use the term Black to talk about people of African and African-Caribbean heritage.  We then use Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) when talking about the wider communities we work with. We know these terms can be problematic and we don’t always feel comfortable using language that some contest. For now, we continue to use varying terminology depending on the context and we welcome the ongoing debate and discussion about how we describe ourselves.

On May 25th, with the rest of the world, we witnessed the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

We now watch Black American communities and their allies take to the streets in expressions of anger, disbelief, frustration and grief. George Floyd’s murder is one of many in a long list (to pick a few at random: Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor). What makes each new murder ever more shocking is the fact that there is nothing new about police murdering and brutalising Black communities.

Image: Campaign material for a demonstration against police harassment in Sheffield, UK, 1982-1986.
Collection: Tandana Archive, GB3228.6, AIU RACE Centre


And this isn’t simply an American problem. Here in the UK we have our own shameful list (Sean Rigg, Joy Gardner, Jimmy Mubenga, Cherry Joyce, Jean Charles de Menezes to name but a few). These murders are at one end of a very long spectrum of racism, which includes micro-aggressions and “every-day” racism at one end and violence and murder at the other. All interconnected, all part of the over-arching system of white supremacy.

This is why the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre is here.

We are an anti-racist organisation, holding archives that document systematic, institutional and interpersonal racism and how it affects Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people and communities. We are able to do this due to our relationship of trust with communities and our anti-racist practices. We collect and archive the experiences of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic people living with and challenging racism, in their own words. We work with them in their spaces, to their timetables and allow them to tell us what is important and meaningful about their experiences, rather than drawing our own conclusions.

We then put this history to work.

We use our collections to equip researchers with primary source material, ensuring that BAME experiences and perspectives are fully understood. We support teachers with anti-racist teaching resources which draw on our collections. We offer a safe space (literally and figuratively) for students seeking a non-colonialised part of the University. We put community voices at the heart of the archive sector and the University, though we often have to fight to defend this very small space and the limited resources we have.

Image: Flyer for a Black Resistance Movement weekend school, January 1984.
Collection: Tandana Archive, GB3228.6, AIU RACE Centre


Over the next few weeks we will be talking further about what it means to be an anti-racist archive organisation and how we are responding to contemporary events. We will put our collections to work, shining a light on some of the anti-racist histories within our collections, and sharing some of the excellent books and journals available to those who wish to understand white supremacy and privilege and the impact of racism.

If you are of Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic heritage, we hope you see yourself reflected in our organisation and take sustenance from the histories of resistance and anti-racism we hold. If you are a white reader, we hope you will use our resources to understand your privilege and how you can put that to best use, joining BAME communities in dismantling racism.

Catalogues for our the majority of our archives, including those featured in this post, can be found here: