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"Nowhere is truly safe for people of colour"

STANDING UP: Protesters take to the streets of London after the death of Michael Brown last year

AND SO, it is that the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) -
that world-renowned, august body of the civil rights movement stateside for 109 years – has deemed it necessary to issue an advisory against the whole of the state of Missouri, branding it unsafe for black people.

It’s the kind of advisory that you can see on the UK Foreign Office website any day of the week warning Brits of certain parts of the world that Boris Johnson and his merry men deem to be unsafe for Brits on holiday. In other words, 'Don’t go to them places if you love your life'.

The NAACP has taken its time. It was of course in Ferguson, Missouri three years ago exactly this week, that Michael Brown, was shot dead by a law enforcement officer in the kind of scenario that we have seen way too often. That occasion in 2014 was one of the incidents that triggered the Black Lives Matter movement which has gone on to re-energise black activism in the face of the same old racist, colonialist ‘do-you-remember-the-days-of-slavery’ mentality that has been trying to drive black people back to the dark ages of, ‘Yas, sah’, ‘No, sah’, ‘Three bags full of cotton, sah’ obedience that characterised the black condition for 400 years.

Thankfully, that has been long dispatched to the dustbins of history by brave ancestors and the courageous contemporary bruvvas and sistas who know that aluta continua.

WE ALL STAND TOGETHER: A mixed ethnicity crowd in London supporting Missouri residents after the killing of Michael Brown

But one can see the NAACP’s reluctance to issue such an advisory – the first of its kind from them. Because, many other parts of the United States might ask, 'What about us?', which would open-up the floodgates and one would wonder if any single state in the US was safe enough for black people not to have to issue an advisory that you take your life into your own hands if you go there. I suppose this is why Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has been calling in vain for a ‘black’ state of our own for years now.

Missouri is different, though, because it has institutionalised racism with legislation – Senate Bill 43 – that it has recently passed which allows, if not promotes, discrimination. In which case, do we really need the NAACP to tell us that we shouldn’t go there? We’re not stupid.

As the great Rosa Parks effectively showed in the year-long Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 1956 and the most honourable Paul Stephenson OBE showed in the Bristol bus boycott of 1963, racists need us more than we need them. Why we don’t use our financial clout more to get equal rights and justice is unfathomable. After all, look what we’re up against.

It wasn’t that long ago that Marcus Hutchins was being hailed a hero for having found the remedy to kill the virus that was infecting the computers of our major institutions. Do you remember how the NHS was brought to its knees by this malicious virus which had been inserted into the system in order to demand a crippling ransom from the health service?
Nobody even mentioned that it was a black man that saved our NHS from it. And, crucially, he didn’t volunteer the fact either.

ATTACK: The NHS WannaCry virus brought down systems in May

If he had, black Britons might be up in arms in support of him now that he’s gone from hero to zero following his arrest at Las Vegas airport after attending a geek conference there. Given the millions/billions he saved the NHS in defeating the WannaCry computer bug, he might have used that economic power to plea-bargain his way out of his previous misdemeanours. But then, you only start thinking that you are conscious of being a clever black man in a world of advisories for people of colour. A world of, particularly, for clever gits of colour.

Never mind the yanks, though – at least they have a body like the NAACP which speaks up for them and which garners worldwide headlines when it is bold enough to issue an advisory against a state of the union.


Here in Britain, we’re whistling in the wind about the places which are unsafe to ‘coloured people’ – of any shade. Which black parent seeing the way that Rashan Charles was handled by a policeman (and a 'concerned citizen'!) in the moments before his death in Hackney can feel that their child is safe in that London borough? Seriously. Seriously? That kind of rough treatment gives you a headache and can make you reach for paracetamol.

STOP: A man makes his feelings known during a protest organised by Hackney Stand Up To Racism after the death of Rashan Charles

And it’s not just Hackney. Shall we go through the litany of other instances where the way we are treated in so many parts of Britain, for no other reason than that we were ‘made in the shade’, has raised concerned amongst black parents ask whether anywhere in Britain is safe, and whether there is anywhere in the country that does not warrant an ‘advisory’?

For our family, this is even more pertinent now, as my older daughter prepares to go to university in a month’s time. Not least because she is going to study at an old slave port which has a chequered history of race relations and which, on my several visits, has made me ponder on the subjugation of its black residents. I would have preferred that my daughter studied in London. Not to say, as suggested above, that London is without its advisories.

But it’s a question of percentages, isn’t it? Like with the Foreign Office, the black advisories in Britain will need different levels. There will be a level that advises against all travel to an area.Then, there will be an advisory against all but essential travel to an area.

In the case of the former slave port that my daughter is headed for, it’s not so much the threat of physical violence (though it is there), but the psychological violence that has beat down its black population that I am more concerned about.

But, then again, many countries in Africa and the Caribbean are unsafe for black people, too. A luta continua, people. Victoria acerta.

Dotun Adebayo is Britain’s most listened-to black radio talk show host. He presents Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 live Thursdays through Sundays on 909/693 MW, The Sunday Night Special on BBC 94.9FM and Reggae Time on BBC London 94.9FM on Saturday evenings. Tune in if you’re ranking!

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