'We can’t be scared of progress': LBC's Denise Headley - a year since George Floyd murder

25 May 2021, 17:17 | Updated: 25 May 2021, 18:32

Denise reflected on the past year
Denise reflected on the past year. Picture: PA

By Denise Headley

A year on from the murder of George Floyd, LBC's Denise Headley - who champions equality - looks back on when she first saw footage of the killing and a year of anti-racism protests.

The caller-turned-co-host, joined Iain Dale on his evening show after phoning to discuss the Black Lives Matter protests and diversity.

Her insight and clarity of thought led to her being asked to co-present the following night’s show and she has been part of the LBC team since.

Here, she discusses the last year.

Everyone saw the murder of a black man on television and it was beamed around the world.

Most people don't choose to watch other people being brutalised but that was what happened – you were watching the brutalisation of a black man, who could have been your brother, your sister, your dad or your uncle.

Whatever your political leanings, no one could escape the inhumanity that was being displayed in public view for everyone to see.

Read more: 'This can be a moment of significant change': World reacts after George Floyd verdict

We're debased, we're dehumanised and as a consequence of that dehumanisation you don't have to then have any concern about how you're treating a person.

One of the things that struck me when I watched it – and I watched it recently, just to remind myself of the sentiment I was feeling – when I saw how Derek Chauvin had his knee on Mr Floyd's neck, he had his sunglasses on, his hand in his pocket and the only thing that was missing was the wings and chips.

It was like a regular day at the office and that to me really summed it up – I can just murder this guy, in front of everyone, with complete impunity and I don’t even have to consider anything about it.

Read more: George Floyd documentary host opens up to LBC about 'understanding privilege'

Read more: Former officer Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder

George Floyd's death sparked protests across the world
George Floyd's death sparked protests across the world. Picture: PA

The man was calling for his mother, saying I love you mum – I can feel that emotion the same way I felt it a year ago, and as I am writing I am suppressing my tears and pain.

People ask what Black Lives Matter achieved – I don't think that’s the right question.

You have to look at this as a political mobilisation for social justice across the western world. The image was so potent you couldn't ignore it.

Everyone who experiences systematic racism and systematic inequality felt they could pin their needs, their ambitions, their desire for justice onto the George Floyd moment.

If you think of Greenpeace as a movement – the environment movement is a disparate collection of organisations, but they can pin their ideas onto Greenpeace without subscribing to the overarching missions of Greenpeace.

It's a watershed moment – the question is not what has it achieved but what is it going to achieve.

It's not an isolated exercise. It's a moment for anyone who experiences systematic racism, systematic inequality and systematic oppression to say I can be part of this movement, and that to me is one of the key defining legacies.

The enduring outcome we want is that we live in a society that's equally fair and equally addresses the needs of its communities where you and I have the same life chances, the same opportunities to have education at a certain standard and living standards.

The legacy is how do we continue to address the long term issues of systemic inequality in the UK.

We're in a state of learning, a state of growth. And what we mustn't do is be afraid when the message comes that your systems are not working because I think a lot of the time people's characters are assassinated when you bring the message of racism, sexism, inequality.

Sometimes it's hard to hear things but it doesn't necessarily mean it's not a good thing to do that.

I think the George Floyd murder, the fact that Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder, the mere fact that we're calling it murder, that is a huge step.

Most times it's 'this police officer used reasonable force', that's one we love in this country.

Essentially, it's brutalisation and he was murdered, and it was seen.

We're in a growth mode and we can't be scared of progress.

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