New start needed for race equality

In his first months in office Prime Minister Gordon Brown bristles with intent, but can he deliver a Covenant with Black Britain?

Now-a-days it’s sophisticated and trendy in politics and the media to claim we live in “a new country in the making” and “open to diversity”. Indeed, we’re told, the barriers to equality are quietly receding. The new Prime minister’s pledge to ‘change’ Britain and “tap the pools of talent”, is one example of these sentiments.

But, in this era of change in government leadership, my Afro-barometer tells me that for all the talk of “pioneering for social justice”, Mr Brown will have to demolish the colour bars that stretch into every area of life, domestic and foreign policy.

This is no random thought or personal view. Let’s face it the interests and the rights of Black Britons have been under attack for a long time. Without an effective counterforce the assault can only grow more oppressive.

A recent survey by the Voice, the 25-year-old Black newspaper, supports this view. “Almost the entirety of Black Britain (9 out of ten) agrees that racism remains an issue,” said Voice reporters.

Moreover, “seven out of 10 Black persons in the UK believe that racism has either remained the same or worsened over the past three to four years” – a period when Mr Tony Blair’s New Labour Government, of which Mr Brown was the Chancellor, promised to confront the problem.

Though it would be churlish to deny individual achievements over the years, in sports, fashion and music, the Voice reports that in all essentials of life “racism is alive and well”.

What does this mean in real terms? It means talents wasted in poor schooling, hard-knock neighbourhoods and low paid jobs. It means skills never developed and legions of Black youth in care, prisons or on the mean streets of London and big cities.

Even aspiring, law abiding, job-hungry Blacks are so marginal and insignificant they do not appear on the positive side of the social ledger.

Worse yet some of the biggest issues facing Black — such as chronic unemployment, poor housing and racial discrimination — don’t register a blip on the radar of mainstream, corporate and political elites.

Left adrift, Black youth face difficult lives and are often destined for tragic fates.

To counter this dire prospect, Britain needs concrete strategies that will lay to rest all fears of continuing Black disadvantage.