The Empire Strikes Back

We now live in times when many, both Black & White, question whether calling out racism is the right thing to do. Is calling out racism a subversive activity or have we lost the will to challenge racism by either not acknowledging it or not responding to it. Newly arrivedBME communities are less comfortable about calling out racism as many people from those communities feel that they may be open to a scrutiny that could put them in jeopardy and bring them unwarranted attention.Unfortunately, this position threatens some of the hard worn battles fought over the years which are now in danger of being either ignored or reversed.

The Civil rights movement of the 70s exposed how racism divided Black and White communities…. all fuelled by the legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the global domination of the British Empire. More recently the world has lurched inexorably to the right and we have witnessed the rise of ultra conservative leaders who have encouraged those on the left to either move to the centre and some further to the right. This has been compounded by the conscription of Black and Asian devotees who have seen this as an opportunity for personal advancement and whose advancement benefits from not acknowledging Racism…..a process well practised in the colonies…. and the Empire Strikes Back!

Adjoa Andoh the Bridgerton actress was recently attacked for pointing out that the Royal Family was “Terribly White”  and was viciously attacked by the media and ex-chancellor Kwasi Karteng was quoted as saying that the Black community was “absolutely obsessed with race”. Many of us are aware that there are many in the Black communities who are not comfortable about calling out Racism notwithstanding the narrative that Black people always use the “race card”, and this accusation does make many of us absorb this racism lest this accusation is levelled at us. Furthermore, some of us still question ourselves as to whether we are being oversensitive about this issue and whether perhaps we are a little bit “obsessed” and that perhaps we bring some of that Racism on ourselves.

Back in the day the support of White people politically on the left provided a platform and safety net for Black people to feel more comfortable about speaking out. Such support is now less than it was and the political shift to the right has created a class of people who are safely comfortable in the centre politically thus leaving more room for the shamelessly verbose on the right of the political spectrum. The present political situation in the UK has left many on the left confused about how to deal with a government that is adorned with Black and Brown faces like Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch and others who have become the human shields for any accusations of Racism. Unfortunately, this has where we have gone wrong in the past in the belief that Black people all share similar values and many of us know that has never been the case. Sayeeda Warsi, the first Asian person to chair the Tory party, said Braverman’s ethnic origin has “shielded her from criticism for too long”, claiming Conservatives had been “hesitant to hold an ethnic minority MP to account in the same way they would a White MP”… this not Racism!

Although, as Black people we can and should criticise the racist rhetoric of government ministers and we must also question ourselves as to whether we are less critical of Black people in positions of responsibility because they are Black and should we apply the same principle to Black people at other levels of decision making in local and national politics. Is it that sometimes we are secretly proud of anyone one from our ethnic group in a position of power no matter what their politics are? I must confess I do get a little bit frustrated when we as Black people are spectacularly silent when we experience Racism and when individual cases of racism in areas such as the health services, schools and the criminal justice system are poorly supported by Black communities in any tangible way. We seem to have lost the will to identify with each other and are too much concerned about our differences rather than our commonality.

There is now a greater realisation that the injustices perpetrated on Black communities are very often the training ground for such practices perpetrated on the wider community. I have argued for many years that “Stop & Search” is the thin end of the wedge in the reduction of the freedoms of ordinary people and the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and Public Order Act are areas where Black communities will be particularly at risk. The point I am making is that if all communities were more vigorous in the condemnation of practices that operated in a racist manner the authorities would be less bold in the delivery of legislation that clearly challenge the freedoms of all of us and perhaps, we as Black people should recognise the part that we play in our failure to respond to that!

The problem that we have is too many of us from BME communities are too frightened about upsetting White people. Partly because we don’t want to appear as victims or because many of us have White people in our families and identifying too closely with Race politics is not a good look if we want to “fit in”. The popular narrative these days is that Racism is overstated, and many Black people have bought into that position, and we are also too sensitive about being identified as “victims” even though some of us are.

Someone once said that “it takes courage for a black person to speak to a white world, a world that can render invisible people of colour, unless they begin to more closely resemble white people themselves”. So, what does the future look like…well to be absolutely frank it does not look good as I had hoped. The sins of the past have returned…… as The Empire Strikes Back!!