Common Council member Andrien Meyers has written to senior City of London Corporation figures imploring that the Square Mile “must do more than call for change, we must be the change.”
Cllr Meyers, who is the youngest Independent member of the Court of Common Council and of mixed race heritage, wrote to Lord Mayor William Rusell, policy chair Catherine McGuinness, and his fellow members saying the fight for racial equality “starts with us”.
In his letter, he said: “The events over the past few days and weeks have left me feeling a plethora of emotions – anger, confusion and
frustration to name a few.
“These events have brought back some unpleasant memories, such as the numerous occasions I have been ‘randomly’ pulled over by the police and had my person, passengers and car searched; having to defend my wife, son and myself at international airports; and more recently as a young/new councillor being stopped at the entrance to Mansion House and the Houses of Parliament; the list goes on.
“All of these instances represent implicit assumption – if not outright discrimination – which many of you will never encounter. I don’t like the phrase but that is what many are referring to when they talk about “privilege”. It is about relative experience.”
Cllr Meyers went on to state that he is thankful that the Corporation is taking a public stand with its pledge to create a fair and inclusive society in response to the killing of George Floyd.
Mr Floyd suffered cardiopulmonary arrest after officer Derek Chauvin knelt down on his neck for nine minutes in an video-recorded incident that has sparked protest worldwide.
But Cllr Meyers doesn’t want to see the message regarded as tokenism in the absence further action.
“I have read with interest the Corporation’s statement on #BLM and I am thankful that we are taking a public stand.
“Speaking up is important and we have a powerful voice across many communities and networks. It was the right thing to do and the fact that it was in response to a specific incidence makes no difference to the necessity of the message.
“I have also read the numerous emails from members in response to this statement and the various suggestions being made as to how we could do more.
“However, when you speak to our community and ask us for our views, for example on flying a flag, our response would be – ‘that’s a good gesture, but what is it really doing for me and others like me?’
“Just as it is for the LGBT community it is an important symbol of solidarity and support – but it is tokenism in the absence of other more impactful actions.
“Having spent the last week or so speaking to my family, friends, young adults I mentor, industry colleagues, politicians/policy makers etc… there is a common theme – for people to be educated on BAME culture and heritage, and for there to be unity.
“Ultimately, the general feeling is that the time has come for policy makers to bring in real change.”
Alongside changes to the education system and the way businesses and City of London Police approach support BAME communities, Cllr Meyer promoted changes to governance make-up at the City Corporation.
Together the Court of Common Council and Court of Aldermen is made up of 125 members, yet only 7% of members come from a BAME background.
The City Corporation has previously agreed to work to increase BAME representation in its ranks.
Cllr Meyers said: “There is only one race, the human race – and we all collectively have a responsibility to do our part so that in this vast ocean of material prosperity, no one from the next generation is left on a lonely island of poverty and missed opportunity.
“It starts with us – we must do more than call for change, we must be the change.”