Joining the dots: COVID, Men and Black Lives Matter

Joining the dots: COVID, Men and Black Lives Matter

Imran Manzoor of Breaking The Silence on the shared battles against racism and coronavirus.

In recent months the world has watched in horror as footage unfolded on social media of the brutal extrajudicial murders of unarmed civilians, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Aubrey, by the very people supposedly employed to protect them, officers and agents of the US state.

The ensuing global protests have even trumped a once-in-a-generation killer pandemic as the headlining news event.

This global explosion of anger and solidarity has demanded that all of us question our knowledge, indeed our part, in the matrix of violence and antagonism that forms the scaffold of our anti-black society. From street protests and occupations to the toppling of statues, an unprecedented global effort would appear to be underway with the grand objective of dismantling the racial hierarchy. 

If the Black Lives Matter protests were sparked by police brutality and violence, it did not take long for people to realise the issues and problems go far deeper and wider than that. Talk of ‘structural oppression’ or ‘institutional racism’ may seem abstract and remote to some, but their impacts and effects are all too real and tangible for people of colour who would (or should) depend on the care and support of a just and inclusive society

As councillors and therapists working with Black and Asian male survivors of sexual and intimate abuse, we confront the reality of this discrimination on a daily basis. Even before the current protests began, service providers were beginning to acknowledge a skills gap in understanding how men of this demographic experience and recover from trauma, within the confines of a racial hierarchy.

What structures in our culture and society prevent men from seeking help? What is it that services do that rob legitimacy from this vulnerable group? How do we reverse these processes to ensure male survivors from Black and Asian communities get the help they need?

These questions, which we had been asking on behalf of survivors for a long time, have now burst into sharp focus with another crisis – one that has demanded the attention of us all.

From the streets to corona wards: Black Lives Matter

The Public Health England disparities report of June 20’ found that death rates from COVID-19 were highest among people of Black and Asian ethnic groups. People of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death than people of White British ethnicity. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British. Within all those categories, men are around twice as likely to die as women.

Like everyone working in mental health and therapy, we have experienced a surge in men seeking help – from those who have lost loved ones and are in need of bereavement support, to panicked victims quarantined with their abuser, or young men who disclose to their families being forced into hastily-arranged marriages as an ‘antidote’ to their sexuality.

Breaking the Silence was formed by Black and Asian male therapists in 2012 with the intention of supporting a small handful of men from black and Asian communities whom we hoped would come forward. Eight years later we have supported well over 1,100 Black and Asian men, from across the UK.

We cannot solve all the problems now ravaging our planet and society, but we do know that the skills and experience we have gained can be shared with others. We are offering free training to services to help them understand the unique issues experiences by Black and Asian male survivors, to understand the systemic and structural issues that undermine and inhibit their recovery, and to help agencies gain the legitimacy necessary for Black and Asian male survivors to access your invaluable support.

Whether they are young black men on the streets of US cities, elderly patients in the COVID wards, or survivors of abuse and exploitation, let us say it loudly and proudly: Black Lives Matter.   For more information contact Imran on 01274 497535 or email

Imran Manzoor

Imran Manzoor

Imran Manzoor is head of service at Breaking the Silence, a counselling service for male victims and survivors of sexual abuse from Asian origin, and runs Mashwara, a therapy service for black and Asian men.