Many constituents have written in and it’s heartening to see so many Southsiders taking such an active stance against systemic racism – a system that has brought too much pain, violence, suffering and death, not just in the USA, but around the world. It must stop.
The scenes in the USA following the killing of the late George Floyd have shocked me. Not only such heavy handedness towards peaceful protesters, but attacks on journalists – including a UK journalist – that have no place in a functioning democracy have rightly jarred with many.
The United States has given the world many great leaders, thinkers and activists over the years and, like you, it pains me to see that nation descend into the place that it now finds itself today. But allies must always speak frankly and robustly with each other.
During the joint foreign affairs and defence select committee session in Parliament on Tuesday 2 June, we had before us Senator Tom Cotton (Republican, Arkansas) and I made it clear to him that black and minority citizens in the USA deserve much better from their government and that current presidential leadership is undermining his own nation’s ability to work with others to defend human rights and liberty abroad. It is also my intention to raise the concerns expressed by a great number of my constituents with US embassy officials in London. I will also press the government on the issue of police supplies (rubber bullets, tear gas etc) as it cannot be the case that through our own commercial relations these weapons are being used against the citizens of a friendly country – if that is the case then it is unacceptable.
I have also personally donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which offers legal assistance to those who need it following the protests. I would encourage others to do the same or donate to the many other similar causes at home or abroad if they can.
However we must not fall for any false comfort that Scotland is perfect. I know that Scotland does indeed have problems with racism, and the Scottish Government has committed to doing what it can to tackle the racism that too often poisons our own society, and I will always be a voice against racism and bigotry as your MP.
I believe I have been consistent in calling out racism and inequality where and when I have seen it - be it some of the abhorrent comments of President Trump and far-right activists, or in support of the Jewish community when antisemitism rears its ugly head. The heel of oppression has been extending its reach throughout the world, whether it’s the situation you are writing to me about, the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, the detention of Uighur’s in Xinjiang, the oppression of Crimean Tatars or human rights campaigners in countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia or Hungary, I will always stand up for those who simply want to live justly and freely.
As a constituency MP I see how UK government policy disproportionally impacts upon ethnic minorities – not least when it comes to matters of asylum and immigration. So long as I hold my post I will always advocate a fairer system based on dignity and respect.
Along with other MPs, from across the House of Commons, I am a signatory to a cross party letter to Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade, calling for an immediate halts to sales of all non-lethal weapons and riot control gear to the United States.
Racism is never acceptable. Those who practice racism must always be met with vocal opposition. George Floyd’s death has exposed a racism so deeply held that it must mark a turning point – if not then we will all have failed.
The Black Lives Matter movement has my full support, and to those going to protest in Glasgow this week – or anywhere else – my only ask is that you do so safely and with public health guidance in mind. Coronavirus hasn’t gone away and it is vital that we keep doing our part to stop its spread.