In May 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, protests swept across America and extended to the UK along with many other nations. Perhaps galvanised by the sheer brutality of George Floyd’s death, captured on film for all to witness; perhaps compounded by the collective psychological impact of Covid-19, a time when shared commitment to giving our all to protect life was seemingly at the heart of global consciousness and yet people of Black and ethnic minority backgrounds remained far more likely to die from it; George Floyd was the latest in a long line of Black men and women to die at the hands of those who should be there to protect them. His death sparked a response of collective action in America, not seen since the civil rights era. Under the mantra of ‘Black Lives Matter’, UK demonstrations took place in more than 150 towns and cities. From London to Hull, Manchester to Cardiff, Glasgow to Birmingham, Bristol to Sheffield, and Belfast to Bangor, anti-racism protestors united to demand radical change. Whilst demonstrating against police brutality and racism in America, protestors in the UK also emphasised how these same issues of anti-Black racism play out in the UK too, pointing to deaths including those of Rashan Charles, Sheku Bayoh, Mark Duggan, and Dalian Atkinson. All these men died during attempts by UK police to either apprehend or restrain them, or whilst in police custody. Protestors also highlighted the death of Belly Mujinga who lost her life to Covid-19 after reportedly having been spat at while working at Victoria Station. Her death offering just one poignant reminder of a significant disparity between racial groups in the UK which sees members of Black and Minority Ethnic communities more vulnerable to dying from Covid-19.
The importance of communication is never more apparent than at times of significant events. From the UK leaving the European Union, to Harry and Meghan stepping away from British monarchy, it is through communication that our realities materialise. Indeed, as scholar Daniel Nelson reflects, it is a truism that ‘wars start and end with words’. It is no surprise then that a deep-rooted concern with getting communications ‘right’ lays at the heart of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic. From government messaging to public health advice, from media debate to conversations with our families, our awareness of the need for successful communications ripples through our consciousness as we try to overcome this disease.