Pandora’s Box

I wrote this spoken word poem in response to a news article talking about race, ethnicity and the dreaded COVID-19. This poem also originates from a related thread on Twitter.

For my own peace of mind I would like to say that BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] is not a homogeneous group.

I have drawn on the language of public and private sector bodies to show that even in death, Black people, brown people, migrants and so forth — are still talked about like key performance indicators [KPIs], not as individuals with very different identities of our own.

My own thoughts on the usefulness of BAME, (as it’s a term I have come to think is counterproductive and problematic) come secondary to the spoken word poem I have written itself. Enjoy!

In my self-isolation, I find it quite impossible to ignore the conversations on race inside COVID-19:

Black — ethnic minority — people of colour. BAME — a British acronym used in public and private bodies meaning hatred, deadbeat, lazy, poor, deprived.

Say BAME or B-A-M-E and the excuses I see as to disproportionality remain in “scientific evidence” solely see.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

And in 2020, we still don’t want to acknowledge the racism disease.

Despite people of colour making up 44% of the NHS, they are 100% of the dead doctors, 50% of the nurses and 35% of those in ICUs.

They are 0% of the journalists asking politicians questions and 0% of the medical representatives answering those questions, that much is clear.

We don’t know if this the fault of White tears or a genetic vulnerability, or both, or simply more exposure in built-up areas in inner-city communities.

Do BAME medical staff feel less able to complain about PPE not fit for purpose? Do they experience racism on shift and made to feel worthless?

But because many in this country think racism is only allotted to people and not places or institutions, that racism in housing, employment and education cannot exist;

that the 100% death rate of BAME doctors as the first ten doctors to die are random acts because “we’re all in this together”, that Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate —

but institutions do, systems do; whose lives are much harder because of the intersections between race and class — do orgs like WHO think about that

or even the BBC or The Sun or The Times or The Mirror CNN, Sky, Anglia News or Channel 4

that the same problems highlighted in the MacPherson Report could not possibly appear in higher education or healthcare. I watch these news programmes with White hosts that say Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate

not on its own maybe but see the disease of racism running riot through the implicit bias of housing and universities, and news stories perpetuating a legacies of racism and inequality… forgetting that our NHS is propped up by

seas of British people of colour and migrants, but we’d rather see racism as something separate to Rona’s host. The people who protest racism — it’d be easier to keep moving the goal posts.

This virus has exposed many inequalities in the UK , see— from the distribution of wealth to extreme poverty. And the death rate is likely being undercounted because they want to keep the statistics low-key

Photo by Metin Ozer on Unsplash

I look at our NHS staff and give them the respect they deserve. And I go on Twitter to see “race doesn’t matter” and that “COVID doesn’t discriminate” but systems do, institutions do, and the Black and brown NHS staff know that too

today I refuse to dumb down Rona’s messiness, for people of colour and for all the identities in which they intersect, and whilst it’s a kind gesture to clap the NHS — I am sure I’m not alone when I say:

we need to push parliament for an independent inquiry, call it ‘Race and Coronavirus: An Inquest’




Public Historian-Essayist | Poet | Speaker: Race in arts/humanities, Black History, dyspraxia/autism | Work: | Neurodivergent

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Tré Ventour-Griffiths

Tré Ventour-Griffiths

Public Historian-Essayist | Poet | Speaker: Race in arts/humanities, Black History, dyspraxia/autism | Work: | Neurodivergent

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