Last week, the APPG on Social Integration led by Chukka Umunna MP, released its interim report, centred on 6 principles. Some of the recommendations are welcome, but it left us with more questions than answers. More clarity is needed on what the recommendations would look like in practice.
It has become a commonplace idea that the more ethnic diversity there is in a society the more conflict and ill-feeling there is. Difference and diversity are seen as negative and dangerous rather than as positive and engaging. Actually this assumption is highly questionable, but of course the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express expend thousands of column inches a day to try to reinforce this assumption. Along with politicians they have ensured that the dominant prejudice of the age is the fear of the “Other”. This prejudice can then be used to swing votes and win referendums.
A quick Google search defines mental illness broadly as, ‘a condition which causes serious disorder in a person’s behaviour or thinking.’ When we live in a context where a “serious disorder” is often attached to acting and speaking out about racism rather than being racist, we must be critical about our own understandings of mental health and how they have been constructed by those with power.
“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde
In researching BAMER issues in the UK, it is important not to homogenise racial struggle and instead understand the diversity of identities that are present in different racial groups. For this, it is important that we view things from an intersectional perspective.
Pandora’s Box has been opened by the Brexit referendum and it is difficult to see how the evils that it has allowed to escape can be put back in the box. Already there are reports of increasing race hate crimes – many directed at Polish and other European migrants but also directed at Muslims and other migrant and minority groups.
In my blog of 6th March 2014, I forecast that the Immigration Act would make private landlords into unpaid and untrained Immigration Officers. The Immigration Act would become “in effect, a charter for racial and other forms of harassment and abuse where people encounter rogue decision-makers (e.g. rogue landlords)”.
In his controversial and misguided programme “Things We Won't Say About Race That Are True“ Trevor Phillips argues that white people are so afraid of being called out as racists if they criticise black people or minority ethnic communities that they would prefer to stay silent even when serious abuses are taking place. He argues that this "political correctness" stops us telling a number of truths about race and racism and goes on to suggest that this is why there has been a growing UKIP style backlash.
Many white people feel intensely uncomfortable talking about race. They say that they are constantly in fear of saying the wrong thing, of “putting their foot in it” or “treading on eggshells”. Recently a white US rap musician Macklemore put it like this: "White, liberal people want to be nice. We don’t want to be racist. We don’t wanna mess up. We want to be ˜Oh we’re post-racial. We have a black president. We don’t want to talk about white privilege and it’s all good, right?” It’s not the case.
In the United States over the last 30years a useful concept has been developed which we could do with discussing much more on this side of the Atlantic. This is the concept of ”white privilege”. As a white person I can take a whole range of advantages and privileges for granted as I go about my everyday life in the UK. So much so that I can even fail to notice that I actually have those advantages merely by virtue of being from the white majority. For example I don’t expect to be followed around by security guards whenever I visit expensive shops.