No wonder aspiring in-work Black households in grief-filled neighbourhoods have doubts. They see little value in the parties eye-catching election pledges. Success in “Re-writing futures for Black Londoners in the 21st century” is their measuring rod for political debate. The goal is PROGRESS: countering threats and enhancing opportunities in the nation’s capital.
By Thomas L Blair 15 November 2019 ©
Black Londoners have been shaping their histories for centuries. Settlers in Georgian times escaped the lash of their colonial masters. Latterly, the Windrush generation made their way to the “mother country”, their centre of the world. This timeline reflects their courage and concerns.
However, there is a salutary lesson here. What I have learned from this timeline is: if your social group suffers three or more terrors of disadvantage over a period of centuries without parole, you should do something about it.
Evidence shows Black Londoners are colour-coded out of the economic, social and cultural opportunities their white neighbours take for granted. Looking through a telescope the main parties woo voters with promises of national renaissance through economic efficiency and growth. Equity and justice like attitudes to people of colour are a real coo-coo soup.
Therefore, it is up to Black Londoners to promote an agenda of choice: to counter wounding threats and forge long denied opportunities.
Certainly, progressive groups will use the city’s changing race-class demographics for the cause. For example, Africans are now the largest group of Black British. As such they are a new power source for progress in Afro-Caribbean London. Significantly, also, they add a new diaspora dimension to “being Black” in politics, community service and enterprise.
This added demographic will power a surge in Black political activity in a city where more than a third of the rising population of 7.5m will be African and Caribbean and Asian and “minority ethnics”. This will empower them as electoral majorities in inner London boroughs where they reside.
Furthermore, Black strivers and aspiring achievers will advance in the emergent class mobility charts. (The old was a severely divided tripartite of upper, middle and working class).
In the more fluid and porous divisions of the 21st century, they will aim to move upward rank by rank — from the most precarious underclass where many are to emergent public service workers to well-off technical and established middle classes.
Some Black personalities and multi-millionaires in sports, fashion, pop culture, crime, business, and politics, may even be accepted in the highest rank of elites.
However, I must pause. Recent evidence shows that social mobility – which is all the rage — is a “comforting illusion”.
Many Blacks no longer earn enough to escape poverty. The bright Black poor have been held back for decades, according to authoritative reports. There is not enough Room at the Top, admit the most progressive politicians, echoing the film that roused popular working class expectations.
Re-defining the Black presence will be a formidable task. However, it cannot be accomplished alone. Vanguard activists and allies understand that progress is based on two key game-changing movements: collective action for social justice and changing the shape of the urban economy.
Expressing this solidarity, Black public intellectuals will forsake the ivy towers of academe and link high theory to popular forces. Political and community leaders, workers and youth, and their allies will rebrand “being Black” as a positive force for change for all deprived sections of London.
These restless currents will relieve some of the terrors of disadvantage still facing Black Londoners. Moreover, thrusting upwards in the urban society and economy, and forward for race equality and justice, they will broaden the democratic base of the capital of one of the world’s rich democracies.
What drew me to this view were the facts. The in-work but poor Blacks have been left behind, and may be slipping farther out of reach. Promoting their advancement in all electioneering political debates is essential.
NOTE: See The Chronicleworld’s page The Shaping of Black London and this edited version of “Re-writing futures for Black Londoners in the 21st century”.
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