Pandemic Legalities
Legal Responses to COVID-19 – Justice and Social Responsibility
Editors: and

5: Racism as Legal Pandemic: Thoughts on Critical Legal Pedagogies

George Floyd’s last words were ‘I cannot breathe’. But, the truth is that it is we who cannot breathe amid all the ongoing hatred and racism. It is devastating to see that many people survive the global pandemic (COVID-19) only for their lives to end by another human. Hence, it is important to end this evil cycle before it puts an end to us.1

Quite soon after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the UK, its disproportionate impact on Black and other people of colour in our communities and among NHS staff became apparent. We watched the viscerally arresting pictures of the first NHS deaths displaying Black and Brown faces on our news screens. We waited desperately for answers and solutions in the subsequent official reports (PHE, 2020) with the banal ministerial claims that the ‘virus does not discriminate’ ringing in our ears. However, we knew, as Omar Khan, the former Director of the UK’s leading race think tank, the Runnymede Trust, was quick to remind those of us that needed reminding: ‘racism is a matter of life and death’2 which the pandemic has merely served cruelly to expose and exacerbate. ‘Racism is the real pandemic’ – as the banners of Black Lives Matters (BLM) protesters (shown in Figure 5.1) proclaimed – because COVID-19 does discriminate through inequalities in health, education, housing and employment, impacting and determining ‘the lives of BAME groups from cradle to grave’. In November 2020, the American Medical Association, recognized racism – systemic, cultural and interpersonal – as a ‘public health threat’3.

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