A statement from your VP Welfare

Grenfell – 3 years on

Three years.

You can complete a degree in 3 years and then leave, to begin a new chapter of your life. Yet three years is apparently still not enough to bring justice to the victims of Grenfell.

Just in case you are not aware of the Grenfell Tower Fire, here is a quick recap. On the 14th June 2017, a fire broke out from the fourth floor of the Grenfell tower block of flats, in North Kensington. Approximately, 72 lives were lost, with many more injured or displaced and left homeless, due to the fire which rapidly engulfed the entire building, as a result of the external cladding on the building. A 24-storey building, which was housing mostly for those who are from a less affluent background, in a seemingly ‘rich’ neighbourhood. This was one of the biggest structural fires in recent UK history, but the trauma was even bigger.

Grenfell highlights a massive issue with the socioeconomic divide in our society, whilst also emphasising the intersections between class and race. When we look at the residence of Grenfell and their backgrounds, many are from working class and/or an ethnic minority background. The disparity between the wealth and poverty has been drastic, in not just Kensington and Chelsea, but across the UK. Prior to the fire, the residents of Grenfell had raised concerns about the refurbishments, yet their concerns were brushed aside and ignored.

Again, ethnic minority communities were and are still affected disproportionately. It begs the question, why? It comes back to institutional racism. The UK is institutionally racist. The residents were not ignored because their concerns were not valid. They were ignored because they were not the rich and, more importantly, because they were people of colour. Justice has still not been served, not because processes can be lengthy, but rather, because they were not mainly white. The argument of social background, class and race being the reason for this tragedy cannot be separated. The dismissal of their voices when raising the issues of health and safety occurred due to this reason. The reason social housing is not a priority is also linked to this.

Three years on and there are still 257 tower blocks with dangerous cladding, housing over 56,000 people. Tens of thousands of people’s lives are in danger and yet still it’s not a priority for the government. Evidently, we know why. Inequality has never been clearer. With the recent Black Lives Matter movement, the time to consider and prioritise institutional racism within the country, within our councils, within our education system and within our workplaces has never been better. Time to get justice is now. Not just equality or equity, but justice.

As an institution, Queen Mary Students' Union stands with the victims and survivors of Grenfell. We stand with those who are constantly at the receiving end of inequality, especially our black community. This is an emotional time for us all as we are constantly reminded of the unending inequalities of our society: the constant division of the poor and the rich, a life ending due to the colour of one’s skin, your parent’s income determining if you can afford education and the amount of melanin in your skin determining whether you prosper within systems or not. As an existing

institution we need to educate ourselves of our privileges, dismantle our own structure and support our students who are asking for justice for not just the victims of Grenfell but also George Floyd, Shukri Abdi and the many more black lives lost to police brutality and systemic and institutional racism. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Take a look at how you can help at www.grenfellunited.org.uk.

Shamima Akter

Vice President Welfare