Singer and TV presenter Jamelia has told Sky News white people must put in the work to help dismantle systemic racism, saying black people “have metaphorical knees on their necks every single day”.
Speaking with brutal honesty about racism and protests following the death of George Floyd in the US, the star told presenter Kay Burley: “I’m not interested in hashtags and black squares, I’m interested whether or not [people] are going to back this up” with action.
“Are you going to call this out? Are you going to make a conscious effort to not let this be a trend, to not let our lives become hashtags, to look after my children and my brothers and sisters?
“I am not focused on who’s protesting, I’m focused on who’s doing the work. Are you going to actually continue this work? It’s not about a hashtag. It’s not about a black square. It’s about dismantling systemic racism from the inside and black people can’t do it alone. We need white people to do that.”
She continued: “If you’re listening to this and I’m making you feel uncomfortable, then I’m talking to you.”
Protests have taken place not just in America but across the world following Mr Floyd’s death, with millions of social media users also taking part in the #BlackoutTuesday movement online, filling Instagram and Twitter pages with black squares.
Mr Floyd, who was African-American, died in Minneapolis after police officer Derek Chauvin was seen kneeling on his neck for several minutes, during an arrest for allegedly using a fake $20 note.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, upgraded from third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and three other officers have now also been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Speaking about the protests, Jamelia said: “I believe that systemic racism has been perpetuated in the fabric of British society for generations. And black people have been protesting like this with their lives.
“In a way, I’m kind of like, yes, it’s great to protest, but does it make any concrete difference? I believe that it’s about much more than seeing the protests and highlighting the protests because it’s now becoming and feeling as if it’s a trend that people are jumping on.
“But are we actually doing the real work to dismantle systemic racism? I’m not so sure, because if we were, we wouldn’t be here again.
“This isn’t the first time that we have collectively come together and protested the loss of black lives at the hands of police brutality, or any other brutality that we suffer as black people.”
Jamelia said the onus must not just be put on black people to help white people “make an effort to learn, to understand”.
She continued: “Systemic racism is the normalisation and the legitimisation of racism and it routinely benefits white people and chronically disadvantages black people. So when we understand that, it’s very clear on who needs to do the work.
“In this conversation, I implore white people to do the work. Please do the work, because you are essential to dismantling systemic racism.”
Speaking about Mr Floyd’s death being described as “a tipping point” for many, she said: “It may be the tipping point for you, it may be the tipping point for white people.
“Maybe because we’re on lockdown and you’ve had access and you cannot get away from the fact that this man had a knee on his neck.
“But [black] people have been… disadvantaged and have metaphorical knees on their necks every single day, from the education system, the healthcare system, housing, wealth, jobs, criminal justice, the adultification of our children – they are all knees on our necks and we pay with our lives.
“I think is important for anyone listening to this to understand what that means. Understand what systemic racism actually is. Once you understand, you cannot possibly continue on. You cannot possibly continue to blindly benefit from systemic racism.
“You can’t accept that privilege. You can’t accept that privilege whilst acknowledging what’s happening to black people. If you’re not racist. If you are racist, then I guess you can.”
Jamelia said she had “no thoughts whatsoever” on how President Donald Trump is handling protests in the US and is not interested in Prime Minister Boris Johnson either.
“I don’t want to say anything to the prime minister, I want to say everything to the people,” she said. “I want to speak to people, because we are the ones who are important. We are the ones who can actually bring about change.
“These protests that so many people are being in solidarity with and joining, it’s just yet another protest. We black people, we protest every single day, every single day there is a fight to be had.
“If you really want to call yourself an ally, join us in the fight. Be as vocal as we are because we are protesting not just when someone collectively says, okay, on this day, this time, meet us here.
“We’re protesting. I’m going to protest tomorrow and I’ll be protesting next week. And I’ll be protesting the month after that.
“And when all of this dies down, I’m still going to be protesting.