Racism In The United Kingdom - 29 July 2021 - RNLI subjected to abuse for saving lives
There was a report in the papers today of an RNLI crew being abused by English people on a beach on the South of England for rescuing people that were in danger while attempting a channel crossing from France. Are we now such a racist country that we only expect rescue services to save 'English people'? What's an English person? I would bet that to some, if not most of these people, an English person is a White person named 'Smiff'. It got me thinking about racism in the UK.
Did you know that the average racist doesn't even know that our ancestors were invited here to work?
The Government of the UK would have you believe that they are committed towards tackling racism and that there are sufficient measures and initiatives in place to tackle those who perpetrate the crime.
After World War 2, the labour force of the UK was greatly reduced and the Government of the day invited Commonwealth Citizens to bolster the workforce and take on the more menial tasks as well as the newly set up National Health Service and rebuilding areas that were decimated through bombings. Many people from Bangladesh, Cyprus, India, Pakistan and the West Indies started arriving around 1947.
Even though they were invited in, many suffered discrimination on the grounds of racism. They weren't given the jobs promised them, denied housing and subjected to abuse and violence by the British.
The first Race Relations Act was introduced in 1965. When you think about it - it's not that long ago in the scheme of things. If you or your relatives identify as Black Asian Minority Ethnic people, then there's a good chance that we know someone that experienced racism in those days ... or we may have experienced it ourselves. The new law meant it was illegal to discriminate against somebody because of the colour of their skin, race, or ethnicity in public places. That didn't protect people in the workplace though or those using public services or seeking homes.
The Race Relations Act was changed in 1968 and, in addition, people were given protection against discrimination relating to jobs, housing and some services on paper ... the reality though is that discrimination still went on and there wasn't a body to deal with complaints of racism.
My first experience of racism was in 1969 at the age of 5 at my Primary School; pupils surrounded me and began racist chants while the teachers stood with them with their arms folded, saying nothing but the look in their eyes was one that I remembered and have seen regularly since. Racism is conveyed in many forms.
In 1976 the act was changed yet again and then included definitions of 'direct' and 'indirect' discrimination. The Commission for Racial Equality was set up to address cases or complaints of racism but was often ineffective as a body. As with all such bodies it was mainly high profile complaints that were taken on ... and even then - racism was a very hard thing to prove in a court of law without witnesses and evidence from sources other than the complainant. People would lose friends over the issue because pressure was brought to bear on potential witnesses threatening the loss of their livelihoods and/or homes if they gave evidence against bodies, employers, landlords etc; a trend that exists to this day.
Apart from the usual experiences of regular racism, I remember standing on Melbourne Road in Leicester when I was around 11 years old, watching crowds of White people wearing white sheets and carrying burning torches marching into our community from the City Centre. I was mesmerised. Even though it was racism - I would have no real awareness of exactly what racism was until much later in life. A Black lady saw me standing there transfixed. She came out of her home; it was clear that she was afraid but she came out and grabbed me by my shoulders and spoke sharply to me, "What are you doing here?! You want to die?! Go home!" With that she pushed me back up towards St Saviours Road. Her tone conveyed the danger of the situation. It wasn't first National Front march to go through our area ... and it wasn't the last.
By the time I was 21, I had experienced the racism serving in the British Armed Forces had to offer. By the time I was 26, I had experienced the worst kind of racism possible while serving as a Police Officer in the Metropolitan Police in London. By the time I was 36 I had experienced but now effectively challenged, the racism I had found in the Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB service as were then). I remember a particular incident in Cornwall where I'd secured housing over the telephone for my family at the time ... I speak perfect English. A colleague from the CAB service was with me when I knocked on the door to view the accommodation. A white man opened the door, saw me standing there and asked what I wanted in an offensive way. I told him I was there to view the property as we'd spoken on the phone a couple of days ago. He said the property wasn't for rent anymore. That was the only instance of racism that I had witnessed by a White colleague. It had quite a negative effect on him.
The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 came into being after the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the Metropolitan Police's conduct during the subsequent investigation. The act now made it unlawful for Police Forces and all 'Public Authorities' to discriminate against people on the grounds of their race or ethnicity. Institutional Racism was identified by the enquiry. It should be noted that Lord Scarman first made mention of Institutional Racism within the Police in 1981 after the Brixton Riots in London; a report that documented incidents of Institutional Racism while at the same time denying that Institutional racism existed in the Police... the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1985 came about as a result in an effort to make police officers more accountable for their actions - particularly on 'stop & search' powers.
By the time I was 42, I had witnessed quite a lot of racism while working with the NHS in Cornwall and worked hard to challenge it from within. I ended up retired on ill health in 2006 and moved to Nottingham where it wasn't long before I experienced direct discrimination again.
A gradual change has been taking place in British society though and it isn't immediately recognisable - not until you step back and study the pattern from a distance. It's the same pattern that the Establishment of the UK has been using for centuries. What's the best way to describe it? The problem with only focussing on the odd instance of racism is that you don't get the full picture. It's a bit like looking for a house that isn't on a flood plain: if you use Google Maps and only zoom in on the street you're looking to buy a house on, you won't take note of every potential hazard in the area ... but if you zoom out, you'll notice a lot more information that's relevant to your search. Effective networking is the key towards raising awareness ... but as BAME communities, a lot of us tend to look at these issues in isolation.
The establishment does a great job of stopping you looking further out. 'Sensationalism' in the news services grab your attention and brings your focus in and often there's something worse happening somewhere that needs not just your attention ... but you're involvement in some form of activism. There are many forms of activism that don't require you to put yourself in physical harm ... until you come to the notice of the Establishment. The Roman strategy of Divide & Conquer is still used effectively by the Establishment in the UK. Diverting your attention with a lot of trash TV works too. Ask parents, grandparents and great-grandparents about racism in the UK and take notes because you'll find that at the heart of it - there hasn't been that much change - certainly not in my lifetime. Our ancestors can teach us a lot about a whole range of life lessons - perhaps the breakdown of the modern family unit is a piece of social engineering to stem the flow of that information ... after all, not everyone can write and as we've come to know - history is written by the victors, who often happen to be the bullies.
As a veteran of the British Armed Forces, I've been subject to ridicule and racist jibes for raising awareness of racism being experienced by currently serving BAME service personnel. Often with comments about returning to where I was born having a foreign sounding name. They don't know that I was born in quite an exotic location: Newport Pagnall - you know, that service station off the M1.
In 2010, the Race Relations Act was absorbed into the Equality Act. Just another piece of paper to try and soothe the masses with ... not just the BAME masses - but our White brothers and sisters that care about the issue and have campaigned for our rights too over the decades.
As a result of the BLM movement and subsequent civil unrest the Government commissioned another report: Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. This was released in March 2021 and a group of learned people - some from BAME groups in society, have made recommendations for the advancement of racial harmony in the UK. The findings were criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Council:
Geneva (19 April 2021) The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent categorically rejects and condemns the analysis and findings of the recently published report by the UK’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which, among other conclusions, claim that “geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism.” Among other things, the Report blames single parents for poor outcomes, ignoring the racial disparities and the racialized nature of poor outcomes that exist despite an increased prevalence of single-parent families in every demographic. The Report’s conclusion that racism is either a product of the imagination of people of African descent or of discrete, individualized incidents ignores the pervasive role that the social construction of race was designed to play in society, particularly in normalizing atrocity, in which the British state and institutions played a significant role.
Stunningly, the Report also claims that, while there might be overt acts of racism in the UK, there is no institutional racism. You can read the full response here.
Racism exists everywhere in the UK and one of the reasons it isn't effectively addressed is because we don't have the right people working on addressing the issue: some say it's the White man's problem and they need to sort it out. Others say we (people from BAME communities) need to sort it out. Do you know what I remember about activists on the anti-racism front from the 80s? Everyone that cared about tackling racism worked together for a common aim - Blacks, Whites, Asians - everyone...because when we're united, we can't be beaten and we actually make some progress. What I see more of nowadays is champions of the cause being declawed by being offered titles by the establishment.
I did some anti-racism work in Nottingham a couple of years ago, having witnessed some truly exclusive behaviour in a local political party meeting. I made contact with all the BAME Councillors in the City. Most of them said the same thing, you won't progress the race issue in Nottingham because the Blacks and Asians don't trust each other. When it came time to actually do some work on the issue, 3 out of the 22 did something useful, the rest ignored the issue. These people had given up. To my mind, if you give up on the fight to tackle racism, you need to let others get elected that are going to work at it, otherwise you're actually encouraging the status quo and are complicit in stopping any progress on the issue. People get used to the perks that come with politics though and some give up and look to feather their own nests while others have been beaten into submission by the Old Guard.
So, to sum up: racism is alive and well in the UK and it exists in every avenue of British society - it's just the degree that varies. Some BAME communities help to maintain that by not trusting each other. Some BAME politicians are complicit in maintaining the status quo through inactivity or being beaten down on the issue ... but the establishment will say something along the lines of: we have many politicians and councillors, senior police officers and armed forces personnel, NHS staff, businesses leaders, community and religious leaders from BAME communities. We're doing our bit by providing an equal opportunity and progress for anyone that wants to work with us.
And there's the rub - you're fine while you're working with the Establishment to help them do their window dressing and parade around their BAME contacts as show pieces ... but the moment you stick your necks out to actually challenge racism or try to prevent an injustice from happening ... someone will be standing behind you in the shadows, ready to chop your head off.
I hope that better progress is being made in other parts of the UK on the anti-racism front. I hope that the different groups within the BAME community realise the importance of uniting and working together ... and I hope that we start electing leaders in local and national office rather than politicians. We need some honesty and progress together with unity.