Britain’s quiet revolution: The unintended side effects of lockdown and isolation

In the last few weeks, many surprising and perhaps even unprecedented changes have taken place in Britain. There have been worldwide protests against police brutality, which of course were triggered by the untimely death of George Floyd. We have also seen familiar faces come forward and apologise for racially insensitive things they said or did in the past. Leigh Francis for example, apologised for the portrayal of some of his Bo Selecta characters stating, ‘I didn’t realise how offensive it was back then.’

‘I just want to say sorry for any upset I caused whether I was Michael Jackson, Craig David, Trisha Goddard, all people I’m a big fan of. I guess we’re all on a learning journey.’

Certain companies have also decided to remove programs they consider to be racially insensitive from their platforms. HBO Max removed the much-loved Hollywood classic, Gone With The Wind due to “ethnic and racial prejudices” that “were wrong then and are wrong today.” The BBC have also removed Little Britain from iPlayer, Netflix and Britbox stating, “Times have changed”.

It was only a few months ago that we were crossing our fingers, hoping and praying that the coronavirus would disappear as quickly as it came, but now here we are, in this new, acutely self-aware reality, no longer willing to brush aside even the slightest tendril of racism. Part of me believes the lockdown played a major part in this. It forced many of us to look inwardly, to introspect, to evaluate our lives thus far, but like a child who has been grounded, as soon as Boris Johnson eased the restraints, we let loose and made up for lost time in a very big way. Not everyone of course, some Brits are naturally still afraid and wary of venturing outside, but for others, the easing of lockdown restrictions have been an invitation to release pent up emotions. Weeks of fear, frustration, isolation, money woes and issues to do with job security have left people emotionally fragile and when you couple this with the death of yet another black man at the hands of a police officer, problems are bound to happen.

With every revolution, icons of the past are always taken down and this one is no different. On Sunday 7th of June, a statue of Edward Colston (English Merchant involved in the slave trade), was pulled down by Black Lives Matter protestors in Bristol. The police stood back and let it happen stating that intervening would be dangerous. Since then a few other statues of imperialists have been taken down with even more to follow. While those that subscribe to the political left are bubbling with enthusiasm for this, those on the right have been suspiciously quiet. Eerily quiet. Almost as if they have conceded defeat. The children of tomorrow are dictating the future and perhaps the right have realised that the power is no longer in their hands? There have been a few videos of English men and women protecting statues within their city, with some getting into a war of words with BLM protestors. You can also find images of English men cleaning statues spray painted by BLM supporters. Nevertheless, it still seems like the reaction from the right and society in general has been rather minimal which may be an indication of the political leanings and beliefs of the British public as well as their disinterest in history.

On the 9th of June, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced the formation of the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm that will focus on “increasing representation among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, women, the LGBTQ+ community and disability groups.”. Covid-19 claimed many lives, but it brought about an unexpected cultural revolution. One many could never have predicted and one that will continue to benefit Britain for years to come.

Journalist, Filmmaker