The destructive reality of systemic racism in limiting young people’s potential 

12/06/2020 – The murder of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests have brought into sharp focus a long known, ugly truth about the systemic racism that pervades our global society. It also leaves us facing a deeply disturbing question: how can we expect our young people to realise their full potential when racism consistently stands in the way of their progress and, in the worst cases, cuts their lives short?

Across all of the areas in which Fight for Peace focuses its work, young people, and Black young people in particular, face considerable and disproportionate barriers to making progress. This comes in myriad forms: obstacles to progression in employment, a lack of diversity in leadership across our companies, institutions and among our high earners, omission of Black history and culture from school curriculums, higher rates of school exclusions among young Black students and racial stereotyping and profiling across our media, cultural sector, law enforcement and criminal justice system. Black people are consistently asked to do more, to overcome greater obstacles, and face violence and threats to their lives.

At Fight for Peace we know that to reach their full potential in life, young people need support and access to opportunities, they need peace and a safe environment, and, crucially, they need a society that they are a full part of – one which both recognises them and safeguards them against prejudice, oppression and injustice.

Working in the front line of the provision of services to young people in some of the most underserved communities, Fight for Peace staff already do a considerable amount of work to tackle racism, inequity and injustice. This comes in the form of provision of support and access to opportunity and in promoting personal growth and development through deeper understandings of Black history, identity and culture. It also comes in the form of incredible work individual members of staff do, regularly going beyond in support of our members.

We know that while we do many things right, we can go even further in the fight for deep and lasting social change, and this starts with looking inward. This means having open and honest conversations across our family of staff and young people, and asking where are we making progress in tackling injustice and oppression, and where can we contribute with greater potency towards systemic change? This process began this week, where we gathered together virtually as a team of staff to evaluate and discuss these very questions. We look forward to sharing the outcomes as well as building on this initial step by increasing our influence in working for systemic change.

It is a damning indictment on our society that racism continues to impede young people and cost innocent lives. Our voices and action, both individually and collectively, are vital in challenging and reverting this gruesome and intolerable reality.