On Monday 25 May 2020 a black man was killed whilst being arrested by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Ordinarily, that might not even have made the national American news, let alone world-wide circulation. His name was George Floyd and he had allegedly tendered a counterfeit $20 note. The last minutes of his life were filmed by members of the public and his cries of ‘I can’t breathe’ and calls for his mother, struck a note around the world.

In the days and weeks that followed many protests were held. Statues fell but so did a sense of complacency.

Institutions were called upon to examine not just their history, which cannot be changed but their current attitudes which are capable of change.

Middle Temple has prided itself, rightly, on its open welcome to all. Is that enough? Is the fact we are open to all sufficient to meet our responsibilities? What more can we do to examine our individual and collective attitude to race? Do we really treat all equally? Do we do enough to include those who do not automatically feel included?

We have celebrated 100 years of women being members of the Inn and the profession. We should also celebrate the many long years, back to the 1840’s and possibly earlier, since we admitted our first black barrister. Examining
our history will discover some very unpleasant historical facts, not just in the way black people have been treated but other minority groups too. Looking at the past is the easy bit; it will be harder and more painful to examine our current attitudes.

The Treasurer has established a working group to survey the attitudes and experience of students and members of the Inn. The responses will inform what we need to do to learn and improve. Thank you to everyone who has already completed the survey.

If you have any further feedback or ideas that you wish to feed into this research, please contact Richard Frost, the Inn’s Outreach Officer, at r.frost@middletemple.org.uk

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