Thursday, 29 March 2012

UK Riot Report 2012: The fire next time….

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London bus on fire during the 2011 Summer uprising

The report into the causes of the August 2011 by the Riots Communities and Victims Panel disturbances has been published. The report like most of its kind tells us what some of us already knew about the reality of life in some inner city areas. The quality of life in these areas has become degraded by racism and the deadening effect of economic exclusion. The consequences are that whole communities have been left to rot in festering islands of inequality characterised by social breakdown. In these places and spaces, hope and aspiration have left town being replaced by desperation and cynicism. Post recession and austerity there are no obvious pathways out of the ghettos of social exclusion. The doors to opportunity and employment have been sealed shut.

What we have are whole areas full of young people bursting with dynamic creative energy and intelligence that are penned in and held down by the metaphorical chains of poverty and racism.

What we have is the absence of hope for the future: a most terrible and debilitating condition.

It is one that erodes community confidence and turns the vibrant, radiant dawn of hope and opportunity into the cold soulless night of hopelessness and despair.

As for the riots: I saw this coming. I have spent years working with communities and have perfected a sensitive social radar that allows me to see emerging trends. There is no great secret to this I happen to live in my community. This connectivity helped me predict that civil disturbances were likely in March 2011, It was then that I described the black community as being at ‘boiling point’ as a result of deaths in police custody. I have also consistently pointed out that the massive rise in stop and search rates were becoming increasingly oppressive and counter productive.

What I and said then and say again today to anyone who cares to listen, was that these events were primarily connected with a widespread sense of alienation, anger at policing injustices and inequality of opportunity.  The legacy of racism and racial stereotypes that is embedded in the culture of Britain has delivered us to this pretty pass. Now the lives of young black people in our cities are seen as nothing more than the raw material necessary to maintain a growing criminal justice system that financially feeds of the dysfunctional symptoms of racism acute poverty and exclusion.

The report completely vindicates those of us who spoke in the immediate aftermath of these riots pointing out these issues. We were castigated for doing so. This report supports our early analysis and critically undermines the expressed view of the Prime Minister that the disturbances were “purely criminal” in character.

Disappointingly the response of some of our “black” politicians was lamentable. MP’s David Lammy and Chuka Umunna (two people for whom I have a great deal of respect) virtually agreed with the line being offered by the Prime Minister.

Their responses, amid the smoke and smouldering embers of the aftermath of the riot seemed to me the equivalent of sticking a finger in the air to see which way the wind was blowing and responding accordingly. Lammy’s primary focus was on the symptoms rather than the cause, criminality rather than poverty, injustice and racism. Umunna  followed a similar line describing the riots as “totally opportunistic and utterly unacceptable”.

This emphasis was wrong and ignored the larger context. That context is the toxic racism that has infected black communities as a consequence of the recession. Our communities were already suffering enormously from a huge range of acute social issues as a result of racism and poverty prior the recession. The last four years have seen the economic and social life of our communities deteriorate substantially and as a result our collective condition has become seriously aggravated.

Where were these voices of virulent condemnation when stop and search rates increased in London by 300%. Why did we hear nothing about the fact that black deaths in custody increased by 120% since 2007 or that nationally, black men dying in custody has also increased?

What they unleashed with their initial comments was a torrent of right wing media bile demonising black youth. They gave a green light to others, like a section of the media, who have a vested interest in promoting racism. I despair for some of our black elected representatives, whose political articulation always seems to be to deny their blackness, avoiding any real discussion on racism. That is bad enough of itself but their desperate desire to appear “ mainstream “ is compounded by the fact that although we face the greatest challenge of a generation they are incapable of working together as a strategic group with programme that the black community can support and get behind? . Where is the All Party Committee on Race? Why do we not have a Parliamentary Black Caucus? Where is their call for a public inquiry into suspicious black deaths in custody?  Reactionary statements focusing on the criminal symptoms with no substantive comment or work on underlying causes of unemployment racism in policing, poverty and exclusion is not only politically unbalanced it is both deeply disingenuous and dangerous.

This failure however disappointing is completely overshadowed by the sheer political ignorance on matter of race and the undeniable culpability of London Mayor Boris Johnson and his crony bag carrier Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse. They were repeatedly warned in a series of articles by others and myself about the precipitous decline in the confidence of black communities in the MPS and they choose to do absolutely nothing.  They were off the pace and out of touch with multicultural London.

These riots were entirely avoidable and could have easily been prevented by early intervention and genuine dialogue. Boris and Kit have no expertise in the field of race equality and black communities. Ideologically committed to a French approach to multiculturalism they wilfully ignored the issue of race and as result they “sleepwalked” the country into the worst riots seen in a generation.

The riots were the inelegant inarticulate political expression of the alienated underclass. These deeply alienated sections of our communities are forced through economic exclusion and poverty to inhabit an economic subterranean twilight zone of crime and unemployment. We choose too ignore these issues and the suffering of this section of our nation at our peril.

The report cites parental failure as a factor in the riots. It would be churlish not to accept this as a reality. However parent’s ability to effectively bring up their children is fundamentally affected by the extent to which both parents and children have access to good employment, education opportunities and the provision of affordable houses.

Lives made ever more miserable by families crammed together suffering overcrowding, failing schools and an oppressive policing that sees entire communities as inherently criminal. The cost of living rises remorselessly.

I challenge any politician or media mogul to live in this environment on welfare benefits or a low wage and bring up healthy families. They would be running back to the comfort of their taxpayer salaries and second homes in a week.

As for black communities we have seen huge increases in the use of Stop and Search (SAS is the new SUS), increasing numbers of black men dying in suspicious circumstances without consequences.

Such is the current level of open contempt for our communities then when such deaths occur we are denied basic respect. No apologies, no timely explanation by an IPCC (that has now lost the confidence of entire communities) nor are we, as far as the police are concerned, afforded any degree of legal or professional accountability.

The real progress made in the decade after the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the McPherson Report has been squandered. The right wing and liberals alike attacked as “political correctness gone mad” the race equality policies that emerged. This prevailing hostile political culture and attitude now applies to the concept of multiculturalism in general and specifically to all formal race equality policies. In London the Mayor Boris Johnson shared this ideological fervour to consign multiculturalism to the dustbin of history. As a result he ignored race equality issues and dismantled the entire policy-monitoring infrastructure associated with McPherson. The result was that over four years the Police and London’s black community entered into a deadly spiral of declining trust and confidence. There was always only going to be one outcome of such political folly such blind ideological hatred of “state multiculturalism” chaos. In a modern city like London race equality is mainstream politics and any politician who does not understand this reality will drag the city into racially dived quagmire. It is this refusal to recognise the multicultural reality of the city, the reality of racism that cost London and the country dear.

As for race equality such is the open political contempt for equality law that this Government have abandoned any pretence at compliance.

For example the Treasury failed to complete an equality impact assessment of the October 2010 budget and has succeeded at bribing bullying and blackmailing the Equality Human Rights Commission into not taking legal action against them despite being found guilty of failing to comply with the Equality Act.  This is an act of political cowardice of immense proportions.

This kaleidoscope of social, economic and political issues combines to create black people who are British in name only. This Government dispenses the high criminality of economic and social injustice as ideological doctrine to the majority of black citizens.  As a result we are relegated to the status of third class citizens in a supposed first class democracy. Make no mistake we suffered under the previous Labour Government but that was tempered until two years ago by economic growth and public sector spending focused on managing the worst effects of poverty and exclusion. Yes things were bad but not impossible.

During the last couple of years poor black and white communities have been pushed into the social abyss. 

This Government’s austerity economic policy refracted through the lens of discrimination has resulted in an appalling and unremitting level of racism on a scale not previously experienced. The huge differential impact on black communities of these cuts is dismissed and ignored and as a result our communities are becoming increasingly economically unsustainable. Its tantamount to   pouring salt into our open wounds.

The current climate is exacerbated by people like the Prime Minister who is virulently opposed to multiculturalism and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. The PM seeks to seek to target Muslim communities as being essential problematic and the source of terrorism. The widening of the remit of once hugely successful Operation Trident to tackle gangs in London results form the equation in Boris’s mind of gangs with black youth. Both regarded race equality and multiculturalism as special group pleading and inimical to British values.

This scapegoating of black communities is contributing toward a rise in levels of societal and everyday racism experienced by black people. Racist attacks are in the rise, the English Defence League modelled on the White Defence League attacks black communities Racism in public places and on the football field and the stands is on the increase. Racism in the UK is resurgent and will be further inflamed by poor communities competing with each other for scare resources.

The report also cites that the relentless focus of materialism and advertising of brand name goods creates an environment where young people in poor communities care goods they cant afford. Peer pressure then results in young people seeking to obtain brand named goods “by any means necessary”. Firstly not all the rioters were young people and secondly the reality is that these brand names firms have not implemented the corporate social responsibility programmes of he same businesses in the US.  These firms fund community centres, sports facilities, education bursaries. Yet once they come to Britain they leave both their employment, supply side diversity programmes and corporate social responsibly budgets at JFK airport. What we need is the US model of corporate social responsibility in these areas.

What the also report ignores is that the current economic crisis has brought with it a crisis of legitimacy. The bankers trillion dollar bail out at the expense of the poor, bankers bonuses, MP expenses, police brutality and corruption, the press phone hacking scandal has revealed the profound economic inequality and moral hypocrisy of British society. In many communities that anger is rising as the public sector cuts begin the process of ripping out and demolishing precious community assets and support networks that made a real difference to people’s lives.

I doubt that any of this report’s major recommendations will be implemented’ with this Government committed to paying lip service to tackling racism with gesture politics and rhetoric. 

The tension is jaw clenching in the riot communities whose orientation is to hit back any time they can. The morality of the nation is discredited and that gives licence to an anything goes society where the only crime is not to get caught. This reflects and is informed by the tarnished reputation of the civic leadership in this country who whose moral decline has mirrored our economic decline. I fear that the prevailing political culture and political establishment will refuse to listen to the legitimate claims for jobs and justice. I predict the fire next time will be more violent and more destructive than anything seen previously.

The report is welcome; there is nothing as pleasing as the sound of gently closing stable doors.

 Lee Jasper

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Report says racially-motivated violence 'on the rise' in Europe

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Article originally published at:

By Martin Banks - 21st March 2012

Racially motivated violence committed both by neo-Nazi groups and other perpetrators is on the rise.
ENAR (European network against racism)

Migrants and ethnic minorities are "disproportionately" affected by the ongoing economic downturn, according to a new report.

It says the crisis "also creates fears among the general public that incite racist behaviour".

The report comes in the wake of the recent murders of children in Toulouse, France which are thought to have been carried out by a xenophobe killer.

It goes on to say the fiscal meltdown "has led to financial cuts to anti-racism activities in many countries".

The report, from the European network against racism (ENAR), was released on Wednesday - international day against racism.

It says, "Economic turmoil has resulted in increased unemployment across the board, but in particular for ethnic minorities.

"In Spain for instance, the highest unemployment rates are found among migrants from Morocco and sub-Saharan countries, with figures close to 50 per cent during the second quarter of 2010.

"Several countries also highlight the negative impact of financial cuts on anti-discrimination efforts.

"In Lithuania, for instance, the national anti-discrimination programme for 2009-2011 received less than one per cent of the funding which was initially planned for 2010."

It adds, "In addition, racially motivated violence committed both by neo-Nazi groups and other perpetrators is on the rise, in parallel to a growing success of far right parties and movements, for instance in the UK, Denmark, Hungary, Greece and Poland."

The report also states that people of African descent are "particularly vulnerable" to racism and racial discrimination in several member states, and their "visibility heightens this vulnerability".

"In the UK, for instance, black people are at least six times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person. In Latvia, most members of the African community hold university diplomas but few are able to find a job that corresponds to their educational level," it says.

Although member states have transposed EU anti-discrimination legislation into national law, it says "few cases" are brought forward and the legal provisions are often not implemented in practice.

"In most EU countries, there is also a shift towards more restrictive migration policies with states seeking to maintain more control of their borders, and of those seeking the right to reside within EU territory."

Reaction came from ENAR chairman Chibo Onyeji who said, "Today in particular, on international day against racism, it is worrying to see that racism and discrimination continue to be so pervasive across the EU.

"Politicians must convey the message that equal access to jobs, housing and schooling are crucial to build a prosperous and cohesive society - all the more so in an economic crisis.

"We cannot afford to leave whole sections of the population on the sidelines."



The failure of Labour and Conservative prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs), Imran Hussain and Jackie Whiteley to present themselves at the by-election hustings in Bradford West demonstrates a disregard for the democratic process, say the organisers of the Bradford West 2012 by-election hustings, the Bradford Muslim Women�s Council, the University of Bradford Students Union, Bradford College Students' Union and JUST West Yorkshire. The retiring MP Marsha Singh, and all the PPCs standing in the 2010 general elections attended the Bradford West by-elections hustings and engaged in a robust debate with the electorate on key priorities for the constituency.

Students at Bradford University and Bradford College are particularly angry at the failure of the Labour and Conservative PPCs to respect the democratic process by giving the electorate a chance to vote based on the candidates� position on issues which impact on local communities. 

Nabeel Hussain, the President of the Bradford College student�s union said, �Our college students are incensed that the Labour and Conservative candidates have shown so little respect for young people. The withdrawal of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the rise in university fees has had a devastating impact on many of our young people who are mostly home students. Many of them are voting for the first time and the Conservative�s policies have had a detrimental impact on their life chances. The failure of both the Labour and Conservative parties to give first-time voters an opportunity to genuinely engage in democracy accounts for much of the cynicism that has infected the political process.�

Imad Faghmous, Academic Officer of Bradford University believes that many of Labour and Conservative policies have had a huge impact on the university�s student population. �We have a large home population too and issues of civil liberties and human rights are critical as young people have been at the vanguard of many of the protest movements which enshrine the youth idealism of wanting a more equal and fair society.  For many of our Muslim students  issues around Britain�s foreign policy, anti-terrorism, war on extremism and stop and search policies have had a detrimental and adverse impact on their lives. The failure of both parties to engage with young people as part of the democratic process and listen to their views on issues is truly disappointing.�

Selina Ullah, Director of Bradford Muslim Women�s Council believes that �clan politics is no longer fit for purpose in modern day Britain. The demographic profile of a place like Bradford West is rapidly changing as Muslim women are becoming more confident and young Muslims are participating in politics on the national and international arena through the social media and the internet. Both the Conservative and Labour parties have been quick to criticise Muslim women for failing to integrate and living �parallel and segregated lives,� but the failure of both candidates to engage with female Muslim voters who will be out on force at the by-election hustings, is tantamount to saying that our votes do not count.�

Ratna Lachman, Director of JUST West Yorkshire, believes that the extremely short campaigning period makes it even more imperative for voters to know the platform on which the incumbent PPC�s are standing on.  Canvassing votes on a street-by-street basis has its place in democracy but it fails to give voters the opportunity to know how their candidates are going to perform in the brutal cut and thrust of Westminster life. It does not bode well for the Labour incumbent to say that he will not share a platform with George Galloway when his role as a potential MP will require him to make his mark in politics amidst MPs who may not necessarily share his political views. Likewise the attempt by the Conservative candidate Jackie Whiteley to garner the Muslim vote by campaigning alongside Baroness Warsi represents a cynical political gesture. The truth is that Conservative policies have had a devastating impact on Bradford West, which has some of the highest levels of poverty and unemployment in the country. Voters want to know how she will fight Bradford West's corner against her own party's policies which have widened the North-South divide�


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Video - Right to Work forum: Austerity & Resistance.

Right to Work forum: Austerity & Resistance
11th March 2012.
 Lee Jasper co chair of  BARAC
(Black Activists Rising Against Cuts)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Why Deputy Mayor Policing Commissioner for London Kit Malthouse should resign

Kit Malthouse
The notion of policing by consent is the cornerstone of British policing. It is a cardinal rule in politics that the political and operational independence of the police should remain resolutely sacrosanct in the maintenance of this important principle. British police still remain scarred by the effects of the 1908’s Miner strike where they were seen as acting in support of the political agenda of Margaret Thatcher. Talk to senior officers about that time and it is clear that this episode still leaves a bitter taste in their mouths.

The obvious danger for the police is that their authority as impartial enforcers of the law becomes deeply compromised when they are seen to act politically.  London has seen the deracination of these important two important principles under the Mayoralty of Boris Johnson and his Police Commissioner Kit Malthouse.

The revelations that Kit Malthouse tried to reign back the police inquiry into phone hacking, not once but on at least five different occasions, is further evidence of this growing culture of the attempted politicisation of the police.  The evidence given to the Levenson inquiry is explosive and reveals the extent to which relations between the Mayors Office and Scotland Yard have deteriorated.

What we have heard during the inquiry in relation to the Mayors Office is unprecedented.  The serious public criticism of Boris Johnson and Kit Malthouse by former or current senior MPS officers is simply staggering. (Lord Blair, Sir Paul Stephenson, Commander Cressida Dick to name but a few).

The MPS are a cultural and political institution and at a strategic level they operate like an Empire of old.  No entry into the field of politics is considered without much discussion and meticulous preparation. This stellar line up of officers, all singing the same tune is no coincidence. I believe it reflects a decision by some current and former senior officers at Scotland to fight back against the partisan political influence of Boris Johnson.

The Mayors lack of political vision and inability to grasp detail means he is incapable of seeing past his own narrow electoral interest. Policing needs politicians who act as statesmen/women who understand the strategic importance of maintaining public confidence and ensure they keep their political distance from on going specific policing inquiries.

The importance of upholding the principles of operational independence and maintaining public trust and confidence in the police cannot be overstated. Boris Johnson and Kit Malthouse treat these important issues with a stupefying level of arrogance and a casual disregard that is reckless.

Trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service among Black, Muslim communities and young people has declined to an extraordinarily low level. I have not seen relations as bad as this since the widespread civil disturbances of 1986.

The political demand for huge increases in stop and search rates were demanded by the Mayor in response to the level of violence among young people. Whilst he oversaw massive increases in the blanket use of the power, he spectacularly failed to deliver his flagship youth projects aimed at diverting young people away from violence and crime.

As a result he created the conditions where alienation and anger at the police increased to the extent that young people decided that was no one really cared if they lived or died and that the police who were swarming their communities were the enemy.

The Mayors right wing politics render him blind to the effects of racism and black youth experienced increased levels of criminalisation as a result. The recent broadening of the remit of Operation Trident from its niche focus around black gun crime to “gangs” provides further evidence. Seeking to reinforce his 4-year record of failure in tackling youth violence he demanded that Trident now become an anti gang unit. The implication is clear and unambiguous: London’s gang problem is synonymous with black communities.  This political co-option of Trident is a disaster, the consequences of which are profound.

The Mayors political agenda not only propels him to interfere in areas of operational policing where he has no business, he also finds himself absent on issues where he should be front and centre.

The August riot over the shooting of Mark Duggan is a case in point. Where were the Mayor and his Deputy when the very sinews of the relationship between the MPS and black communities were at snapping point? 

The London riots could and should have been avoided and the Mayors dismissal of racism led him to conclude that all was well despite repeated warning that relations were at “boiling point” from a broad range of influential black people. Boris Johnson failed in the most dramatic way costing both London and the country millions of pounds as a result of riots that tragically saw loss of life.

Riots could have been avoided

This is his most heinous crime: the malign neglect of the issue of police and black community relations in London.

What we now know is that Kit Malthouse engaged in what can only be viewed as an on going campaign to derail the MPS hacking inquiry. I recall the time when I was falsely accused of unduly influencing the London Development Agency and the subsequent headlines and political comment. We faced fierce and unrelenting criticism about the “undue political influence” of Mayoral advisers.  Those accusations were proven to be nothing more than political opportunism; a racially and politically motivated smear campaign.

In contrast Boris Johnson’s serious and fatal political errors born of unrestrained arrogance and ambition attract no such outrage, manufactured or otherwise.  Kit will have to resign, as the reality is that he has now lost all credibility among senior MPS officers who have conspired to hang him out to dry at the Levenson inquiry. 

His position is untenable. He is though, deserving of some credit, in that he has managed the quite remarkable feat of uniting both MPS and London’s black community in their open and trenchant criticism of him and his boss.

When Boris Johnson assumed control of the Police I wrote that he would come to regret that decision. The dangerous unrestrained Mayoral ambition to control the police was foolhardy. As Boris examines the approaching Mayoral electoral horizon, no doubt he will note that the sky is dark with chickens coming home to roost.

Lee Jasper
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Image from The Guardian

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Why are white voluntary sector organisations like NCVO, colluding with racism and betraying black communities?

NCVO: giving voice and support to civil society

The coalition public sector cuts are biting hard. Poor communities are watching their civic, cultural and social support and development infrastructures being swept away in a tidal wave of closures and cuts. The brutal reality is that we have seen only 15% of these cuts actually be delivered: there is much more pain to come. In the context of these savage cuts a conference held by the leading voluntary sector umbrella body should have been a welcome opportunity to discuss the potential impacts and possible responses to Government economic policy.

5th March saw the gathering of the annual conference of the National Council of Voluntary Sector Organisations. This is the UK’s premier event for the 3rd Sector. The event attracts representatives from a broad range of community voluntary sector organisations. The focus of the conference is to examine and explore the latest trends in the sector, lobby Government and local authorities, identify best practice and innovation whilst highlighting issues and problems of policy or implementation. These issues were of course discussed and the conference provided a wealth of information to those in attendance.  In general terms this is to be welcomed, however in the recent context of recession, riots and increased levels of racism, one might have reasonably expected that these issues would have been given an airing. 

Not so I’m afraid. The NCVO conference has traditionally been a terribly white and middle class affair and this year seemed no different.

There were very few attendees from black organisations or voluntary groups. There were no speakers representing these communities and no representation of the specific issue of racism on the conference agenda. Astonishingly in 2012 the NCVO conference failed to identify or highlight the reality of institutional racism within Government policy and its consequent effect on black communities. Given the huge turmoil in the sector and the fact that this is the number one issue in black communities nationwide, this omission is unforgivable.

The end of black voluntary sector provision.

Eric Pickles’s, Secretary for Department of Communities Local Government, ideological hostility to what he terms 'state funded multiculturalism' has amplified current levels of racial disadvantage. This is a result of the Governments shift from a policy for social cohesion focused on encouraging and supporting integration, to a policy of forced assimilation. As a result, black only provision across the board is being increasingly seen as “racially divisive” and inimical to the promotion of racial harmony.

This is of course nonsense. Separate or additional social care or welfare provision arose in response to the reality of institutional racism in service provision and the failure of the mainstream voluntary sectors to adopt and implement equality and anti racist policies.

NCVO conference sailed on oblivious and bizarrely made no mention of the impacts of policy on levels of racism and racial disadvantage. The issue of Governments failure to conduct Race Equality Impact Assessments as currently required by the Equality Act 2010 was absent despite a range of recent successful legal challenges.

There was only a passing reference to the August ‘riots’, and no real recognition of the substantive issues of deaths in custody, stop and search and the hugely disproportionate impact of cuts on black communities.  Given the very strong link between recession and the potential for increased rates of racism as communities compete for scarce resources, this omission is very serious indeed.

The conference provided no real focus on any of the myriad of social, economic and political issues that impact on urban black communities, all of which are set become much worse.

Why would a major national umbrella body for the UK’s voluntary sector dismiss these important issues? Access to additional finance may provide the answer. But first it’s important to get a historical perspective on the development of the black voluntary sector.

Back to the future: Racism, paternalism and marginalisation.

The black voluntary sector at a national and local level is being eviscerated as a result of a culture of institutional racism within Government at both a local and regional level. This has seen disproportionate cuts to the sector and the closure of thousands of black and ethnic minority voluntary sector projects providing vital frontline services. Local authorities and Government are paying scant regard to race equality issues in making these decisions.

Across the country we are seeing the return of the old ‘colonial’ style model of 3rd sector provision where white mainstream voluntary sector organisations are colluding with the implicit racism of disproportionate cuts by agreeing to provide services to black communities who were once served by black organisations.

Reports from black organisations in London, Bristol and Birmingham reflect a national trend. Whereas they previously provided services directly to black communities they have endured cuts to their grant funding. In a twist of bitter irony these same organisations are now being approached by mainstream white organisations to either join bidding consortia as a junior partner or as sub contractors expecting to provide the same service to our communities for a fraction of the money required.

Generally, majority white organisations by definition fail to represent the communities whose needs they are now seeking to meet. Unable to demonstrate real commitment to equality through the test of representation of both staff and management, combined with a NCVO like disinclination to highlight and confront issues of racism, these organisations do not have the cultural or professional competence to meet our needs.

And yet they are queuing up to bid for such contracts. For those black organisations that do seek to partner these organisations, they report that their treatment is largely condescending and patronising. Black groups find themselves being sidelined, marginalised and undermined in bidding consortiums.

Black organisations providing services such as youth diversion, crime prevention, supplemental education and employment projects, are all being closed down at an alarming rate. Black women and elderly social care projects, public health campaigns targeting black communities, business start up programs, adventure playgrounds and community centres are all facing closure.

The fact is that the funding for such projects had already seen a dramatic decline over the last 20 years. This resulted in a small but dynamic sector that was seeking to look at new ways of identifying and developing a new sustainable model of funding.  The combined effects of the recession are obliterating these projects at a rate that will lead to their virtual extinction.

These specialist culturally distinct services were fought for and won on the back of decades of struggle for race equality in the provision of public services. Throughout the 1980’s black communities struggled to access culturally appropriate mainstream provision of social and health, health, supplementary education, youth employment and housing projects were funded in recognition of the inability of mainstream public services providers to meet the needs of culturally distinct communities. 

Prior to this, services such as local meals on wheels for the elderly, were providing traditional English dishes to Asian and African elders. Fish and chips instead of chapatti and curry. Bangers and mash instead of ackee and saltfish.

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Sufferers of Sickle Cell were misdiagnosed; black youth kicked cans down the road as they boycotted youth services that failed to meet their needs, mainstream community centres refused to allow black social events as they were culturally alien: ‘too loud and noisy’, black homelessness was hidden as black people refused to stay in hostels where they were subjected to racial harassment, people seeking to challenge racism were turned away from advice agencies who had little or no experience or understanding of the dynamics of racism in British society.

Those employed in the provision of these services were overwhelmingly white and failed to have the cultural competence necessary to understand the reality of racism. The cultural reality of institutional racism that pervaded service provision of the statutory and voluntary sector services meant that even where staffing was more diverse, in the absence of effective equality policies, they struggled to deliver for black communities.

The conscious betrayal of a black community for profit.

Today as a result of public sector cuts and a resurgent level of institutional racism we see a fast forward return to these bad old days. On a fundamental level it’s a return to a culture of paternalistic racism of 1980’s that deemed black people as incapable of providing professional services or as venal and untrustworthy. We thought those days were gone and although we might expect a Tory led coalition Government to promote racism, that white mainstream voluntary should collude with that racism for financial gain whilst perfectly aware of the circumstances in which these developments have taken place, is frankly a betrayal of black communities. Add to this their cultural predisposition and deep political reluctance to challenge racism, conferences that ignore the issues, staff and boards that don’t reflect diverse communities and you can begin to assess the enormity of that betrayal.

I sat in on a meeting in Bristol where these things were being discussed. An elderly Asian man spoke about the closure of his local Asian elderly centre. He spoke movingly of the culturally appropriate and professional service he enjoyed on a daily basis. He bemoaned the closure of the centre saying that all those who attended the centre are now sitting at home “whilst their brains rot.” Asked if they would go to the largely white elderly centre that remained opened he said no as the food and the culture was alien to him and he believed he would not fit in and probably have to deal with a degree of racism. It was heartbreaking stuff.

I recently raised these issues with NCVO on line during a twitter '#NCVOevents' debate about the conference and was invited in to meet the Chief Execute for a chat about these issues. I certainly intend to do so with a small delegation of organisations that can seek some accountability from NCVO as to why in the 21st century we still have to raise these issues. The phrase ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’, comes to mind. Watch this space

Lee Jasper


Please support this action and share the link. 
Supported by Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC)  
Lee Jasper, Zita Holbourne

The Tory government is continuing with it’s brutal cuts agenda even as the jobs crisis continues to grow. February’s unemployment figures revealed another 48,000 tossed on the unemployment scrapheap. 20,000 of them aged 16-24The government’s ‘solution’ to this problem is to view the 1.04million young unemployed people as cannon fodder for their friends the bosses. By threatening to remove their only source of income they have already forced tens of thousands into unpaid ‘Mandatory Work Placements’ and ’apprenticeship’ schemes with no real full-time job at the end.

This is a disgrace when the government could and should be spending the billions it has poured into the bottomless pockets of the bankers and workfare profiteers like A4e to provide the unemployed with real training, real jobs and a real future.

Protest has forced big companies like Burger King and Tesco to drop out altogether or offer to pay the minimum wage to those it takes on via the schemes – we hope it can also make the government bring a complete halt to the schemes and start investing in people’s futures.
JOIN THE DEMONSTRATION: Help us form a mass dole queue outside the DWP in Westminster on 14 March when the next unemployment figures are released.Assemble 9am outside DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1H

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Click here to download leaflet:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Love Football, Hate Racism UK: Formal complaint re: Steve Rotheram MP

Love Football, Hate Racism UK - Twitter: @LFHRUK

5 March 2012
Mr Ed Miliband MP
House of Commons
Open Letter, sent by email

Dear Mr Miliband,

I am writing to you with a formal complaint about a member of your party, Mr Steve Rotheram, MP.
As both a trade union and community activist I have campaigned against racism all my life. I am a member of the PCS Union National Executive Committee, the TUC Race Relations Committee and co-founder of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK, a national organisation established to campaign against the disproportionate impact of cuts on black workers, service users and communities, as well as a member of the Consortium of Liverpool and National Black and Minority Organisations.The Consortium has raised concerns about the handling of the Suarez and Evra affair through a letter to Liverpool Football Club and establishing the campaign Love Football Hate Racism. We established an online petition details of which you can access here:

The petition has four key demands as follows:
We the undersigned call on Liverpool Football Club to meet four key demands;
(1) Publicly accept the findings of the FA into the Suarez case.
(2) Liverpool FC and Luis Suarez to publicly apologize to Patrice Evra.
(3) In partnership with Liverpool and national black and minority ethnic organisations commit to and sponsor an international conference on the issue of eradicating racism in football.
(4) Together with civic leaders sign up to a public declaration reaffirming commitment to combating racism and promoting race equality through proactive actions.
On Friday 2nd of March 2012 some Liverpool fans tweeted their opposition and criticism of the petition and the authors of the petition and called on people to ‘educate’ us.

On the same day one of these individuals tweeted @ Steve Rotheram MP ‘Hi Steve I think you should look at the rather dodgy labelling of Liverpool city on this online petition’. He included a link to the petition and went on to tweet to Mr Rotheram, ‘it’s basically tarnishing both the city and LFC as racist. Dangerous’
Mr Rotherham tweeted in response also on the 2nd of March ‘Lads you can’t stop people intent on causing trouble from this sort of action other than ignoring them’
I have taken screen shots of both tweets should you require them. My complaint is about Mr Rotheram’s blatant disregard of the serious issue of racism and concerns raised about racism. Petitions are widely used tools in campaigning that are recognised, raise wider awareness of issues and can bring about positive results. The fact that Mr Rotheram regards me as someone who is intent on causing trouble by setting up a petition is of grave concern. By branding me and others involved in the campaign as trouble makers he is demonstrating that he does not see racism as an issue and if he has a different opinion does not believe in engaging, communicating and working to resolve issues.
I am concerned that as a member of parliament representing a diverse constituency he believes that anti racists and those who campaign against racism are intent on making trouble and believe that his expression of those views on a public forum such as Twitter bring the Labour Party and its values into disrepute and that he is acting irresponsibly as a member of Parliament. MPs are supposed to engage and take seriously the concerns of their constituents. Whilst I am not personally a constituent several members of the consortium and members of the communities they represent are residents in Liverpool the city that Mr Rotheram’s constituency is based in. Racism in football is a serious issue which must be tackled rather than ignored as Mr Rotheram has suggested. When discrimination is not addressed it empowers those who discriminate and leads to increased discrimination as we have seen recently with a rise in racism at football matches.
In addition to the petition already mentioned in this letter our campaign has submitted a petition aimed at government, which is currently awaiting approval, calling for a parliamentary debate on racism in football.
I am requesting that you raise my concerns with Mr Rotheram and seek an apology for his comments and call on him to engage with anti-racist organisations such as Love Football Hate Racism, Kick it Out, Show Racism the Red Card and others with a view to working to meet the aims of our petition and to campaign against racism in football, communities and society.
Yours sincerely,
Zita Holbourne
On behalf of the Consortium of Liverpool and National Black and Minority Organisations

Friday, 2 March 2012

Groupama and the poison of racism - Pepe Reina in racially stereotypical advert


 For background to this article please read:

Groupama and the poison of racism [2.7391304347826]

The international insurance company Groupama and Liverpool and Spain goalkeeper Pepe Reina have both shamed themselves in the making of the racially stereotypical television advert that depicts Reina meeting a Black “tribe” in a jungle scene, which is both racist and homophobic.

Groupama commercial
 For centuries, Black people have been forced to endure and live with a viscerally poisonous caricature. History is replete with examples of crude and negative racist stereotypes depicting Africans as cannibalistic savages. In this imagery, Africans are usually portrayed as subhuman, violent and dangerous simpletons usually wearing grass skirts with the obligatory bone through the nose.

The other powerful image is the persistent White association of Black people with monkeys. The inference being Black people are more closely related to apes than to modern man. The cultural resonance of these types of stereotype are so powerful, I bet even as you read this you can see these mental pictures in your head.

There is a view within the UK’s Black communities that we are increasingly expected to laugh at such examples of racism in the name of tolerance. God forbid that Black people should react or publically complain should they have the temerity to do so, their complaint will be routinely dismissed as “having a chip on your shoulder”.

If they are public figures they will be lambasted by sections of the printed press and will undoubtedly face an avalanche of racism from the UK’s growing online Twitter Tea Party tendency.

As you would expect, Black people are naturally reluctant to collude with our own oppression in a society t
hat arrogantly and falsely assumes that Britain is a “post-racist society”. Such denial is the stock response to any accusation of racism in the UK.

To date, neither Liverpool FC, nor Reina has issued a statement on this issue. No doubt they are in denial, hoping this issue will blow over. The club has made that mistake before. It is bizarre that they seem to be determined to repeat the mistakes of the past in relation to this latest incident.

Their reported stance can be summarised as ‘what the player does off the field is nothing to do with the club’. This, of course, is complete and utter nonsense and reinforces the growing perception of LFC as a club that is failing to take racism seriously.

Here is some free advice for LFC: Ensure Pepe Reina gives an immediate explanation and apology. As a gesture of remorse and by way of repairing the damage done, Reina should donate the fee he received for the advert to an anti-racism charity. End of.

What starts off as Reina’s extra-curricular earner or a ‘bit of fun’, ends up as racial chanting on the terraces.
The persistence of racism in sport and advertising affects us all. In particular, Black footballers, Black fans, Black politicians and activists and communities are all forced to endure the ignominy of such ignorant portrayals and the on-going right-wing backlash that follows any attempt to raise the issue of racism. And yet what children see players doing today, they do on the streets tomorrow.

The fact that these cruel and archetypal racist stereotypes persist to this day is significant. Such is the all-pervading power of racism and the prevalence of graphic, racist propaganda dressed up as advertising. These derogatory images of Africans are globally recognised and instantly understood by millions across the world.

In both Europe and the UK, Black people have faced serious abuse and at times, deadly violence when faced with groups of White youth infected by such imagery. Such stereotypes are grossly offensive and extremely dangerous.

The last few months has seen the issue of racism in football splashed on the front and back pages of the British press. Liverpool Football Club’s disgraceful handling of the Luis Suarez affair saw a combination of racial abuse and ungentlemanly conduct inflame racial tension on the terraces. Black leaders from Liverpool and across the country wrote in protest at the clubs action, describing Liverpool FC's inept handling of the Suarez matter as “inciting racism”.

Prime Minister David Cameron called a summit of the resurgent phenomena of racism in the national game. As the economy continues to stall and unemployment rise, there is growing anecdotal evidence that the violent racism and bigotry is on the rise across Europe and the UK.

As we approach the European Championships in Eastern Europe, whose record on tackling extreme, violent racism is abysmal, the Football Association, English clubs and FIFA need to send a strong and unambiguous message to players and clubs that racism will not be tolerated in the beautiful game.

My advice is that Black football fans should not attend the EURO 2012 games without absolute assurances from the UK and FIFA that they will not be subject to racial violence and or abuse.
Liverpool Football Club needs to support the efforts of the FA to challenge racism and take real action to provide a national lead in tackling racism.

Lee Jasper

Thursday, 1 March 2012

OBV campaigns successfully to ban the racist Pepe Reina Ad

From OBV 28 Feb 2012

Another Liverpool player Pepe Reina in race row

We sometimes forget to our peril the battles we have fought here in the UK against racism and racial stereotyping.

Most of the readers of this article will not remember seeing the type of derogatory stereotyping in cinema and TV advertising, which at the time was not only common place but won awards and acclaimed fame. For example, some 40 years ago the cigarette company Benson and Hedges commissioned the nations number one advertising company Saatchi and Saatchi to make a film for the Silk Cut brand. So prestigious was this account that mini-films with huge budgets would be made. One film in particularly paraded the British Film the Zulu’s.

‘ At the height of the Mbongo uprising a garrison of 80 were surrounded by 30,000 hostile warriors’, Queue a blackened up actor with a plumy English voice dressed as Zulu warrior extolling the virtues of the cigarette brand before threatening to put the English warriors in the ‘pot’.

Many of us thought these types of videos would be consigned to the museum of very bad taste. Not so. Today in Spain Groupama Seguros –Insurance company- are running a similar distasteful ad in a tribal scenario in which once again a blackened up ‘African king’ speaking in native tongue is presented with the -and you couldn’t make this up-Liverpool and Spanish international goalkeeper Pepe Reina- Reina in Spanish means Queen. So the joke is the African –eye rolling homosexual –King chooses his Queen, Pepe Reina, who looks to the camera for help to check his insurance.

All very funny if you live in the dark ages and you have no idea or don’t care just how offensive this is. But I’m afraid that’s Spain and much of Latin America too. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that the former Spanish football manager Louis Aragones  was outraged, and refused to pay a paltry fine for calling Thierry Henry, for no good reason, ‘ Negro de  mierda’. ‘ …Black  shit’. More recently the Uruguay President defended Luis Suarez , for saying, among other comments, ‘No hablo con negros’ . I don’t speak to Black people’.
Despite these shockingly disrespectful ads and comments much of Spain and most of Latin America would argue that there is no racism in their countries. Well I guess on one level if you don’t acknowledge it, you have nothing to confront. But one can only be surprised at Liverpool's  Pepe Reina, who has lived in the UK for a long and is acutely aware of how his  football club has been  embroiled in an unnecessary and protracted  race row.
OBV has contacted the company via their publicist to make an official complaint.
I guess it just goes to show just how far we have come here in the UK.
Simon Woolley

 OBV force Spanish multinational to pull racist ad

(From OBV 29th Feb 2012

OBV have learned that Spanish multinational insurance company, Groupama, which has a subsidiary here in the UK, has pulled one of its adverts currently showing in Spain that depicts Black people, in a jungle scenario as stupid, backward, animalistic homosexuals.

Sadly, however, the group go on to say,
“Groupama Seguros does not consider that this advert contains either offensive nor any discriminatory content.”

The advert which stars Liverpool and Spanish international goalkeeper Pepe Reina, plays on his surname Reina-which is translated to Queen in English. In the ad the blackened up chief chooses Reina, the Queen, as his partner in a lustful manner.

 OBV’s Director Simon Woolley said,
“I’m shocked on so many levels. Firstly, how would the Spanish feel if the English stereotyped Spanish people as backward, stupid, and animalistic homosexuals? Secondly, what does this say about Pepe Reina? The Liverpool goalkeeper has lived and worked in the UK for nearly a decade, does he think it’s ok characterise Black people this way? Does he think his Black team mates will laugh at his joke?”
Given that Liverpool football club is trying to move forward from the Suarez affair, it is a shame that another one of their players has caused offence, by appearing in an advert that seems to come from a bygone era. Those who are old enough might remember those despicable Benson and Hedges Silk Cut Zulu ads of the 1970’s."

(Update from OBV March 1 2012)

There has been a lot of heat generated from OBV complaining about a Spanish TV ad starring Pepe Reina. Many bloggers on national websites have been outraged that our organisation should say, ‘this demeaning portrayal of Black people in Africa is not acceptable’. Many comments have been very abusive. But few writers have taken a step back and tried to objectively unpick and understand what is being played out in regards to this ad and what it means in Spain and here in the UK

Pete Jenson writing for the Independent has had a go. Whilst you might not agree with everything he says he has nonetheless written a very thoughtful piece.
Simon Woolley

'It is Alf Garnett humour, and Spanish still think it's funny
In 2004, when Spanish club Getafe's supporters were accused of racist abuse, their president, Angel Torres, offered to make his players black up for a game to prove the club was not racist. He was being serious.
It should be pointed out that Torres also proposed that any supporter found making racially abusive comments be banned for life. His intentions were good but, seen through the eyes of people with a different cultural and socio-political history, his idea was hideous.
Pepe Reina's advert for insurance is the kind of thing that would have been screened on British television about 20 years ago, probably while the Alf Garnett series In Sickness and In Health was airing on the other channel. Today anyone coming up with the idea at a brainstorming session would have been getting their coat before you could say "crude racial stereotype".
The question is: should the Spanish be allowed to define and redefine their own perimeters of what is and is not acceptable, taking on board the opinions and complaints of their own ethnic minorities, or do groups from outside the country's borders have a duty to tell them what is and is not acceptable?
In the advert the Liverpool goalkeeper Reina is introduced to the king of an African tribe. The person presenting him to the king says: "Great white man – Pepe Reina." Then the king says something which is translated to Reina as: "The boss says 'you Reina [meaning queen in Spanish], he Rey'" (king in Spanish). The king then says something else and when Reina asks: "And what does that mean?" the interpreter shakes his head worryingly and a spearholding tribesman puts a crown on to Reina's head and shuffles him forward towards the king – the inference being that he will have to marry the king. Reina utters the advert's catchphrase: "Me siento seguro", which translates as: "I feel secure".' The word seguro also means insurance.
Whether the ad for the multi-national insurance firm Groupama really depicts black people as "animalistic homosexuals", as Operation Black Vote suggests, is highly debatable. It's Benny Hill humour with a silly play on the fact that Reina's name means queen in Spanish. The tribal king is the fool in the story – in another of the adverts from the same series the joke is on the Spanish, with Reina sat on a coach being asked for his autograph by a fan, who turns out to be the coach driver who has left his mother at the wheel – Reina utters his "I feel secure" catchphrase as the coach veers across the road. Women drivers could take offence at that one.
Of course, women drivers have never been enslaved and persecuted, and that maybe is the part that Spanish culture still does not get. Should Reina have got it, with his years of playing in England? The behind-the-scenes shots of him filming the advert have him joking with the black actors as he struggles to say his lines without laughing. He will be as surprised as the Spanish TV audience that the commercial has caused so much outrage beyond the country's borders.'

Pete Jenson writing for the Independent


Reina leaps to defence of Suarez - December 22, 2011 - Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina believes striker Luis Suarez has been "crucified'' over his racism charge.
Anti-racism campaigners attack Pepe Reina over 'stereotyped' African tribe advert

Pepe Reina in racism storm: A Spanish TV Commercial featuring Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina has been banned following complaints of racism and homophobia.

To see the extent of the internet coverage of this issue worldwide, please check out: