BHM has been effect since 1987 where the inaugural event was started through the leadership of one Ghanaian pan African activist and journalist called Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. It was started as a celebration of the contributions of Africa, Africans and people of African descent to civilization from antiquity till the present day. Since then, BHM has been celebrated in the UK by various organisations and communities through structured programmes and activities.
It is undeniable that black and brown people have contributed immensely to the British socio-economic landscape and continue to do so. But for some reason it still feels like we are a long way from home. At every major event that has marked the racial discourse of this country there continues to be a sense of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment. All the way from the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1993 to the recent Euro 2020 cup final saga which resulted in the onslaught of abuse suffered by Marcus Rashford MBE, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, there seems to be no end in sight to the scourge of racism. Whether systemic, institutional or otherwise.
Discussions about racism tend to make most people feel uneasy. Non-whites usually don’t want to be seen to be playing victim every time whilst white people on the other hand don’t want to be labelled as racists. It makes the idea of meaningful conversations on the matter more difficult to set up or navigate.
In 1999 the McPherson Enquiry Report that investigated matters surrounding the murder of Stephen Lawrence and how the police handled the investigation determined that the police were “institutionally racist”. The Lammy Review in 2017 found that there was “overt discrimination” and “racial bias” in the criminal justice system. In the same year the McGregor-Smith Review also found that there were significant inequalities experienced by ethnic minority groups throughout their careers.
These are just some of the numerous reports over the years that clearly evidence that the UK is institutionally racist. However, this year the government commissioned report on racism in the UK, the Sewell Report contradicted all previous reports and stated that the UK was not institutionally racist. It has been criticized by scholars and various organisations around the world including the UN Working Group on racism which called the report “reprehensible”. They said it basically whitewashed slavery and colonialism from history with falsified facts.
With this level of denial and whitewashing in the highest echelons of power in the country, is there any surprise why the scourge of racism continues to linger? Incidents like the ones that occurred during Euro 2020 are most likely going to keep recurring until there is more accountability and candour. There needs to be a degree of consequences and repercussions for racism or racist behaviour. It may not put a complete stop to it, but it will work as a deterrent for would be offenders.
Currently racism is classed as a hate crime together with religious discrimination, sexual orientation and transgender identity. It is stipulated that to prove racially aggravated abuse there must be an element of “hostility”. It therefore becomes a bit tricky when it comes to more insidious types of racism like institutional racism which is more subtle.
Even with the Racial Discrimination Act and the Equality Act it is still difficult to get to grips with the challenges involved. Some organisations are committed to addressing such issues as unconscious bias, but others are complicit and are helping to perpetuate the cycle. It comes down to leadership within some of these organisations and a real commitment to address the issues. Victims should be allowed to voice their complaints without any fear of further victimisation or retaliation.
Therefore, with all these issues still hanging in the balance there is still a lot more work to do during Black History Month and beyond.
The Roddy Chasewater Show