Black solidarity gains momentum against UK racism denial report

By Thomas L Blair 05 April 2021 ©

Yvonne Field, Ubele

One extraordinary trend, which so far seems to have received no attention, is the rise of Black social solidarity in response to the government’s portrayal of Britain as “a beacon of good race relations and diversity model for other western nations”. [See Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ Report].

In a vigorous counterattack, hundreds of Black civil rights groups, academics and parliamentarians say the recent race report is a flawed piece of work. Teams of researchers and thousands of Zoomers and Tweeters are on the alert. All are raising their voices for racial justice, according to close investigation and text messages reviewed by the Chronicleworld.

The Commission had a unique opportunity to act as a trailblazer for the future of race relations…but missed it. says Yvonne Field, founder of the community action Ubele Initiative.

The harsh fact is half the commissioners do not understand Britain’s history of Anti Blackness, says Patrick Vernon, a pioneer for the 1940s unrewarded first Black generations.

Refusal to accept the existence of structural racism means it is allowed to fester and grows unchallenged says Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, lawyer, women’s rights activist and author of This Is Why I Resist.

The new solidarity reveals the report’s fatal flaw. It blames Black communities for a poverty of culture and feckless lifestyles rather than the real villain — society. Thereby, recasting questionable prejudices against the desperate, homeless, sick and starving class of whites of the early 19th century.

The Institute of Race Relations points out the failure to address “the common ethnic minority experience of structural racism in the criminal justice system.”

As a result,  Halima Begum of the Runnymede race equality think-tank says “To argue that there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK is delusional”. Mounting an open letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Begum and equality campaigners urged him “to commit to extant equalities legislation and uphold the public sector duty on equality and foster good relations”. Fellow signators included theologian and professor of social justice Keith L Magee, social affairs and education journalist Afua Hirsch and publisher and broadcaster Margaret Busby.

Confidence-building academics are clear in their damning indictment.  David Olusoga, one of Britain’s foremost historians of slavery says “the poisonously patronising report is historically illiterate”. Similarly, university professors Hakim Adi of Chichester and theologian Robert Beckford at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham have spoken out.

Remi Joseph-Salisbury, a researcher in ethnicity and inequalities at the University of Manchester, strengthens the solidarity trend. He says we are witnessing a government propelled by fear of the mass mobilisations of summer 2020, and “doing everything possible to undermine the efforts of those seeking racial justice”.

Perhaps the most striking thing is that speaking out has become the new mode of action for hundreds of researchers. They refute the report’s claims that education is the success story of the ethnic minority experience. Why? Because it overlooked the substantial evidence of institutional and direct racism in schools and universities, they say.

Bernard Coard, teaching in 1970s London, wrote How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System.  The rights campaigner and once Hackney’s first Director of Education and Leisure Services, wrote Taking a Stand on Education, Race, Social Action and Civil Unrest 1980-2005. Both identified pervasive institutional bias. White children were “normal”. Black children were treated as second-rate, without a history except by the grace of whites.

Currently, solidarity-building parliamentarians dismiss the flawed race report. Dianne Abbott opposition Labour Party MP tweeted bluntly: “It’s unhelpful to deny the continued existence of institutional racism”.

David Lammy MP says the report could have been a turning point, “instead it has chosen to divide us once more rather than doing anything about it.”

This means the report “gives racists the green light” says Baroness Doreen Lawrence, campaigner for justice for her racially murdered teenage son Stephen Lawrence 22 April 1993. [Subsequently, the MacPherson Inquiry found the murder was “solely and unequivocally motivated by racism”.]

Therefore, Lord Simon Wooley of Operation Black Vote campaign says the Prime Minister can no longer remain in denial about racism. The 2020 Black Lives Matter protests “created a move for change the government won’t be able to hold back”. Clearly, inaction has pressed on the limits of Black endurance.

However, for the historical record, Black solidarians prompted two important results. First, Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to distance himself from a report that drew an angry backlash.

Second, the Black solidarians and allies forced the race report Commission to hurriedly issue a calming press release accepting “the Macpherson inquiry definition of institutional racism, though we did not find conclusive evidence that it exists”. Inaction is pressing on the limits of Black endurance.

Therefore, together, the Black solidarians are a new trend in Black consciousness – a confident history-defining collective of thought, research and action for change. It is far too early to say, but they have made an important contribution to the struggle to change the practices and performance of institutions that maintain discrimination.

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The Chronicleworld focuses on the problems and prospects for Black community development.