In My View: Florence Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall

When the England men’s football team captured the nation’s imagination by reaching its first major tournament final since 1966, their success gave our country a badly needed boost, and a reminder of how much we all need moments of shared joy after 18 months of lockdowns.

But Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka faced an onslaught of racist abuse on social media when all three footballers missed their penalties in the final.

Jadon Sancho has spoken out powerfully against racism. He was born in Camberwell and raised in Kennington, and he is proud of his South London roots.

He is credit to our local community and has given much back including helping to build a football ground for the Lambeth Tigers.

His teammate, Marcus Rashford, has forced the Government to act on child poverty, campaigning successfully for a U-turn on free school meals.

And Raheem Sterling has launched a charitable foundation to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have better access to work and education opportunities.

These three young men are not just leaders on the football pitch, but in society too.

Together they project the best of modern England; unapologetically confident about who they are, they see diversity as a strength to be celebrated and refuse to stay silent about social injustices.

I recently had the opportunity to speak out against online racist abuse when I questioned the Minister in the House of Commons chamber.

I asked her whether the Government would introduce criminal sanctions against social media executives as part of the Online Harms Bill.

In her reply to me she confirmed that this is something the Government is looking at, so I will be following this Bill very carefully as it makes its way through Parliament.

Racist incidents online do not exist in a vacuum; they exist in a world where, according to the YMCA, 95 per cent of young black British children have witnessed racism in education.

They exist in a world where, according to the Runnymede Trust, racism in the UK is systematic in our health system, in the criminal justice system, in employment and even in politics, which I know all too well.

I want my children, and every young black and minority ethnic person, to know that they have a place in society, and they can reach their potential, as I did, coming from a council estate in South London. And in my role as your MP I will continue to play my part and use my privilege to speak out against racism.

That racism also exists in a world where so-called football fans want to boo their own team is simply disgraceful.

Social media companies need to take a lot more action, but until they feel the full weight of the law they will not understand that.

 


 

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