No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish

I recently watched a documentary about the condition of Black people, in the 60s/70s when they first came to the UK, the underlying narrative was to take control of our own destiny but the popular narrative consisted of gangs of racist Teddy Boys, the first “recognised” racist murder of Kelso Cochrane by White youths , Black boys being misdiagnosed as educationally sub normal and of low IQ, and the political environment of  “No Blacks No Dogs & No Irish”, “Keep Britain White” and thepolitical campaign “If You Want a N*****for a Neighbour Vote Labour”.

Many have suggested that that was then, and this is now….but are we so far removed from the climate that engendered those dystopian days? We still have racist organisations in other identities and Black people attacked and killed because of the colour of their skin, we still see Black boys enduring different levels of Racism in the education system, we still have “redlining”, for want of a better word, in the housing sector and we still have , alternative expressions of Keep Britain White in other political guises.

Some may recall that a couple of years ago I campaigned for the establishment of a Race Equality Service to provide a means by which individuals and organisations who believed they had been subjected to racism could receive some advice and support. The only organisation that offered any tangible support was UNITE who were able to provide a cost-free location for that to take place. Many seemingly enlightened individuals and organisations nodded their approvalwith little tangible support, the local authority looked the other way as if it had nothing to do with them and organisations who were not comfortable about a closer scrutiny of their practices were relieved it never got off the ground.

The reality ,of course, was that the world was not only getting weary of these Black folk moaning about Racism and discrimination, but organisations were actively writing their own version of how things are now with the active support of those who had been newly admitted to this new version of “multi-culturalism”. Notwithstanding the efforts to keep people politically asleep and not “:woke” the seeds of systemic racism that lay deep within were allowed the space to flourish and infect and the far right found new ways of making themselves the “victims”. Now you may very well ask why I have come to this bleak conclusion, and I guess it’s the part I am playing in a trio of specially concerning situations that are taking place in the Southampton area…..yes in our own backyard!

Picture this: Three Black women violently attacked in central Southampton by a group of middle-aged racists who then proceed to present themselves as the victims and no one is charged. Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but this is 2023 and this is in the middle of Southampton; but where is the indignation from those who have adopted diversity as a brand but make little connection with anti racism.

Picture this: A Black African nurse who is wrongly accused of a serious offence and suspended by the Health Service in Southampton’s major hospital and when they realise that it either was the wrong Black nurse or that this was a malicious complaint and fail to even apologise and continue to place him on probation. Yes, this is the Health Service that takes great pride in its “Diversity”.

Picture this: A young Black boy who is subjected to Racism and gaslighting by other pupils and some staff in a well-respected secondary school in the region and the school refuse to acknowledge that the school has a problem when conversely this should be a learning opportunity for staff and pupils. Unfortunately, schools who bring these behaviours into the light are more concerned for their reputations than addressing the issues.

It does beg the question as to how we measure progress. Is it on the basis of Black individuals occupying positions previously denied but making little progress in advancing the position of other Black peoples. The dilemma is that although Black people in those positions try to distance their Race from their position, they are comfortable for their Race to be used as a human shield to deflect accusations of “Racism” from the organisations they represent. Is progress measured on the basis of paper statements and declarations of good deeds…..and we know where that ends…. or is it, in my view, the means by which we challenge racism and have the guts to address them as sometimes that is the only way for change to take place as power is rarely given away without a struggle and sacrifice.

I know that many don’t want to hear it but taking ownership of the racism that we encounter is the first but very difficult hurdle to get over; particularly when we feel that we have done everything that we can, and clearly the reluctance to set up a mechanism to recognise this and address it is a significant roadblock in moving forward. Ever since the demise of such organisations, individuals encountering Racism have been left with no support beyond the flimsy EDI policies that masquerade as answers to anti-racism in a political environment that is comfortable to not take responsibility.

I shall leave final words to my old friend Linton Kwesi Johnson “I think that the youngsters in the Black Lives Matter movement need to appraise themselves as to what as gone before so that they can draw some lessons from the battles that we fought and won”…….amen to that!

Don John