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School of Law

Head of the Department of Law's response to police killings, institutionalised racism, and Black Lives Matter

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Dear Law Students,

I and all my colleagues in the Queen Mary Department of Law are appalled and outraged by the recent police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the institutionalised racism which underlies them.

The impact of these killings and the structural discrimination which underpins them is, of course, experienced far more acutely by our students and colleagues of colour. The Department fully supports the Black Lives Matter movement in challenging all forms of racism and committing to ensuring the dignity, safety, liberty, and liberation for people of colour. As a Law Department committed to the pursuit of social justice, we recognise that there is a direct and fundamental relationship between law and racism. The role of the law and criminal justice process in perpetuating racism and other forms of discrimination must lie at the heart of our research and scholarship.

We also recognise that institutionalised racism is not confined to the United States but is very much present in our own society and is a powerful force in preventing equal life opportunities for people of colour in the UK. It’s important, here, to acknowledge that we also have a majority white staff base and many of us, myself included, have benefited from advantages and privileges accorded structurally, socially and culturally to many white people, especially with respect to our educational and career development opportunities. We have been working to address inequalities in the Department, and since 2017 seven of the twelve new academic appointments in the Department were made to people of colour. This is not the time, however, to be self-congratulatory or complacent. There is much more work to be done.
The Covid-19 pandemic has both exposed and exacerbated the structural inequalities faced by many minorities – most significantly Black, Asian and disabled people and Universities have a key role to play in combating racism and all forms of discrimination. I recognise that students of colour face a host of challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, including a greater risk of death and bereavement, and disadvantages such as being less likely to have access to the digital learning technologies required for online learning. This has major implications for the immediate support we offer to students and also to what we do to eliminate racism from our campus.

I am very much aware that at this time words are easily written and that real commitment is measured by actions and outcomes. As some immediate steps that we will take as a beginning:

  1. We will commit to working closely with and increasing support for students and staff of colour who might be adversely affected by the pandemic;
  2. In order to develop a curriculum which is more aligned with the lived experience and history of people of colour and other minorities, we will establish a working group to take this forward. This will enhance the educational experience of all students;
  3. We will prepare an equality impact assessment on the planning decisions we are currently making for 2020-21 and work closely with BME student representatives and the SSLC to ensure an adequate consultation is undertaken.

With my colleagues on the Departmental Advisory Board, we affirm the Department’s ongoing commitment to listening and working together to address structural racism and other inequalities. This work is carried out though our Department, School, Faculty and University governance structures, alongside informal conversations with, and between, staff and students. Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead sits of the Departmental Advisory Board which meets fortnightly and EDI is a standing item on the DAB agenda. It is not the responsibility of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic/global majority colleagues and students to bear the burden of this work. It is, rather, a collective endeavour, led by those of us entrusted with leadership positions.

I would welcome comments and further suggestions.

With best wishes,

Head of Department, Penny Green's signature

Penny Green
Head of Department of Law | Professor of Law and Globalisation | Director, International State Crime Initiative

Queen Mary University of London | Mile End Road | London | E1 4NS

Telephone: +44 (0)20 8826 415 | Email: penny.green@qmul.ac.uk