As you may have noticed, I’ve been a bit quiet recently, which is most unlike me. I’ve spent this time gathering my thoughts and pondering how I can make a difference in the world that we live in. I’ve decided that it’s time to listen to those voices which have gone unheard for far too long. Listen to those voices which we don’t hear enough of. And now is the time for you to find your voice and speak up for your rights and for what you believe in.
After giving it a lot of thought, I decided that I wanted to speak up on my blog about the recent events in the United States and worldwide in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s my blog and my business after all. As someone who is ‘privileged’ enough to be alive and to be able to stand up for those who aren’t and those who are still fighting oppression, ignorance and downright barbarity, I owe it to my fellow humans to say my piece. So here goes…I’m privileged, simply for the opportunities which I’ve had in life which have allowed me to be where I am today. Opportunities which, for whatever reason, others haven’t had.
As I write this blog post, a press article from the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs landed in my inbox. I’m very lucky that my clients really understand my professional and personal passions. I’ve always been extremely interested in justice. It sounds cliché for a law student, but it’s true. During my law degree, I became increasingly aware of issues which I had been sheltered from growing up in a sleepy seaside town in the North of England. But while I was studying at the University of Leicester, I was immersed in a fantastic multicultural university in a soon-to-be white minority city. It was in my very first year of university where I really started to question what justice means for the world? As it turns out, it means something quite different depending on the colour of your skin. A module on criminal justice basically taught me that there is no justice in the world. No seriously, it’s true. Or at least criminal justice is an oxymoron for some members of our society. And don’t even get me started on the eye-opening criminal law module in my final year.
Have you ever heard of stop and search?
It basically does what it says on the tin.
The police have the power to stop and search you if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you have been involved in a crime or they think that you are in possession of a prohibited item. Prohibited items include drugs, weapons, and stolen property. Depending on what the police find on you during a search, you could be arrested.
The problem with stop and search isn’t the process itself, but the way it is disproportionately used in practice. You shouldn’t be stopped and searched because of your race, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion or faith, the way you dress, the language you speak, or because you have committed a crime in the past. But, did you know that the likelihood of being stopped and searched by the police can also depends on the colour of your skin or ethnicity?
FACT. Between April 2018 and March 2019, there were 4 stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 38 for every 1,000 Black people in England and Wales. Now, I challenge anyone to say that’s not racism. Call it systematic, call it what you will, but it’s racism.
As human beings, it’s hard to process what figures really mean when it comes to life and death, so sometimes it’s best to look at a graph to visualise the problem. Take a look at the graph below and then tell me we don’t have a problem. It’s there for all to see and published on a government website under the ironic heading of crime, justice and law. Hmm, they might want to rethink that heading.
The stop and search rate for White people was lower than the national rate every year and the rates for the Asian, Black, and Mixed ethnic groups were higher than the national rate every year. Do you see a pattern emerging here? It’s a pattern that has repeated itself throughout history and it needs to stop.
This is just one example of how the powers that be within the justice system and those outside of it are abusing their powers in our society and on our streets, day in and day out. If that’s not everyone’s problem, I don’t know what is. We can’t just stand by and watch this power being abused while Black African, Black Caribbean and Other Black groups consistently have the highest stop and search rates.
During my studies, my legal career and through general life experience, my interest in systematic racism within the criminal justice system in particular has grown. That’s not to say it’s my only interest with regards to the BLM movement, it’s simply an area where I feel I can apply my legal mind to the matters at hand. Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time watching documentaries, films and series dealing with racial injustice and that was way before the newly released ‘Black Lives Matter Collection’ on Netflix. It is time well-spent and I urge you to take a look at this section of Netflix and learn something new, because you will. Your eyes will be opened. We can all do better, and this is just one way that we can try to educate ourselves.
But let’s remember, the UK has a serious problem too, there is no denying that. In fact, the world has a problem. It’s our problem because we all inhabit it, regardless of the borders, time zones or oceans that separate us. But the United States of America seems to be on another level, as the last few weeks have shown. The current resident of the White House certainly isn’t helping matters, in fact he’s a huge part of the problem. The hyper rich, white ‘elite’ who think that they can do whatever they please, as long as they write a big enough cheque. Please come back Barack and Michelle!
In what world is it ok for anyone, let alone a police officer, to hold someone down and kneel on their neck while pinning them to the floor during an arrest? In our world apparently. This certainly isn’t conducive to the idea to serve and protect. Regardless of who they are and what they have done, this isn’t ok. We shouldn’t even have to ask ourselves this question, but here we are.
But what happens when they become a part of the system? According to Amnesty International, in a 1990 report, the non-partisan U.S. General Accounting Office found “a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty.” The study concluded that a defendant was several times more likely to be sentenced to death if the murder victim was white. This has been confirmed by the findings of many other studies that, holding all other factors constant, the single most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim.
Disgusting. The colour of your skin should never increase or decrease your chances of death, ever. Nothing should. Neither should it increase your chances of finding yourself on trial, at the age of just 14, for the assault and rape of a white woman jogging through Central Park.
Wrongly convicted for the 1989 assault and rape of a female jogger in Central Park, these five black and Latino men — Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam — served years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. They were only released and exonerated of the crime because the real perpetrator decided to confess his sins after meeting Korey Wise in person. Big of him, huh? They became known as the “Central Park Five”- a name given to them by a very misinformed press. Again, a huge part of the problem. However, in the wise words of Oprah Winfrey, they should now be referred to as the “Exonerated Five” because their previous label was assigned to them before they were even (incorrectly) found guilty.
If you haven’t seen it already, watch “When They See Us” on Netflix. It’s a harrowing and gripping watch, but it made me want to be a better human being. I still can’t believe it really happened. Granted it was in 1989, but the behaviour of the police, the prosecutorial team, the press, and the judgemental public is all too familiar, and they should be ashamed of themselves for destroying five young lives. Their behaviour truly was criminal. Anyone who knowingly prosecutes an innocent 14, 15 or 16 year old child after beating him, depriving him of his rights and finally bullying a confession out of him isn’t only a part of the problem, they ARE the problem and it should be them standing up in court to answer for their crimes. This story really moved me and as history repeats itself with George Floyd, I wanted to use my skills to help in any way I can.
So, what can a legal translator do to help?
They can’t directly defend you in court, should you fall victim to the system. But what they can do is translate your documents for the relevant jurisdiction so that you have a fighting chance.
Let your voice be heard in English and let me communicate your messages for racial justice from French into English.
I want to extend a discount to clients who want to fight for their rights in English. I want to help your voice be heard. Perhaps you have a vital report which needs to be released into the public domain in English, or perhaps you have a social media campaign that needs to be heard by English speakers worldwide. It would be my privilege to help in any way that I can and translate the BLM movement from French into English.
While I will never truly understand the struggle, I can ensure that I’m not part of the problem. As a legal translator, as a lawyer, as a small business owner and as a human being, I stand in solidarity with the Black community.
Money might be able to buy power and sometimes even justice, but it can’t buy your silence. Not if I can help it. Get in touch to make your voice heard.
You can find me on all the usual social media platforms or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get in touch. I don’t bite, I promise!