|George Osbourne. (Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)|
When you strip away the rhetoric of George’ Osborne’s miserable little budget one sees higher borrowing, unemployment up, no growth and no response that will in any way alleviate the acute distress being suffered by poor Black and Muslim communities, asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees.
Tory war on the poor.
Black communities are now suffering unprecedented causalities in the Coalition Governments ideological war against the poor. This Coalition Government gives bail outs to the bankers and imposes a bedroom tax on the poor. They ensure tax cuts for millionaires using money taken form welfare budgets; they privatise our NHS and atomise our education system.
For our communities who, prior to this recession were suffering from heavy collateral damage, as a result of long term and criminally high levels of poverty and racial inequality, things have become, much, much worse.
Black and Muslim communities, already severely disadvantaged, now find themselves witnessing their communities being pushed into the chaos of a deep and yawning, social and economic abyss.
What we are now witnessing is a desperate descent into social and economic oblivion, of such a scale as to constitute a classical Greek tragedy of immense proportions.
Scapegoating and the rise in racism.
Each day that passes with this Government in power, we see the progress made in tackling racism, over the least 30 years, being progressively eviscerated, burned to a cinder, white hot, on the ideological alter of Tory prejudice, ignorance and extremism.
The rise of United Kingdom Ignorance Party has dragged both Tory and Labour to the right on issues of immigration. The English Defence League continues to spread it racial and religiously divisive poison and inflicting violent racial terrorism on Muslim communities. The EDL is a criminal conspiracy against Muslims and should be treated as such.
As a result both Labour and the Tories are now (particularly post the Eastleigh by election) indulging in the shameless cynical scapegoating of vulnerable communities, as a means of diverting the British public’s attention away from the architects of the current economic crisis – the bankers.
Immigration officials now routinely abuse suspected illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.
They trawl our communities with deportation SWAT teams looking for anyone who they believe is here illegally.
This spreads fear and loathing through communities. The level of routine, systematic and widespread human rights abuses by UKBA can only be rationally explained by sanctions at the highest level of Government.
On the issue of scapegoating Labour should be reminded that they’ve played this game before and lost.
Remember Barking and Dagenham with former Minister Margret Hodge? That needless concession to racism on the issue of Africans allegedly jumping the housing queue, led to disastrous consequences, that saw the electoral rise of the BNP and a huge upsurge in racist attacks in that area. To put it crudely you can’t out racist a racist.
Scapegoating represents the classic divide and rule tactic so perfected by the Tories and so cynically used by Labour which is so destructive for all our communities.
Doreen Lawrence has recently spoken of race equality no longer being a priority for this Government. I think she is in part right but I would go further.
I would go as far as to say that in addition to the deployment of racist scapegoating tactics, this Government has a fundamental pathological and ideological hatred of the principles of ‘race equality’ and what it defines as ‘municipal multiculturalism’.
The Tories have come to the conclusion that they are never going to win the votes of Black and Muslim communities and have decided that we can therefore be discounted in electoral and policy terms.
BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts) believes that this represents a Tory ‘conspiracy’ to punish Black and Muslim communities for refusing to vote for them and from preventing them winning the 2010 general election.
When the economy goes down, racism goes up.
History teaches that when we study European history, wherever there is a prolonged economic crisis, racism, racist attacks and organised fascism inevitably rises.
The 1930’s depression that led to the rise in Nazi Germany.
The periods of economic decline during the 70/80’s, here in the UK, saw the rise of Skinheads, National Front and the BNP.
The 1990’s mini recession saw both a rise in the BNP and massive increase in racist attacks and murders, culminating in the death of Stephen Lawrence.
The recent rise of the Golden Dawn jackboots fascists in Greece; wherever we see economic decline we see a rise in racism.
This the worst recession in living memory and we must prepare ourselves to respond robustly to the rise in racism, the evidence of which is all around us.
Racial and religious attacks are on the rise once more and the extreme right wing racists are on the march. We must march to meet them, without fear or hesitation.
Racism in football has seen a dramatic return to centre stage signifying like a canary in a coalmine that the poisonous stench of racism is on the rise again.
Austerity amplifies racism.
The facts are terrifying and indisputable. In almost all areas of the economy, Black and Muslim people in particular are being mercilessly targeted and economically crushed by this Government.
These communities and particularly the young people, are now facing routine harassment by the Police, and receiving what can only be described, as deeply punitive, colonial style justice from the Courts.
In short this Government has sanctioned the mass criminalisation of Muslim and Black communities by the police and criminal justice system.
Islamaphobia and the relentless demonisation of Muslims by politicians and the press, the drive for secret courts, illegal renditions, state sanctioned brutality and torture, the Tory attack on ‘municipal multiculturalism’ and ‘immigration’, the mass criminalisation of Black and Muslim youth, are all indications of the extent to which racism has been unleashed and given the unconditional green light by this Coalition Government.
The fact is, that austerity has acted like a magnifying glass hugely amplifying levels of racial disadvantage, in relation to education, employment, criminal justice, mental health and other areas of economic and social policy.
The cumulative effect of all of this, is forcing us into the deadening twilight zone, of the zombie underclass.
Unemployment, welfare benefit reforms, in particular the hated Bedroom Tax, the unremitting racism of the private sector, all are combining with Osborne’s austerity measures to leave black communities facing an economic, social and political crisis of enormous proportions, right here in Britain.
Black youth in Britain suffer the same level of unemployment as youth in both Greece and Spain.
BARAC states unequivocally and with force, that black unemployment in the UK is now comparable with levels seen in Greece and Spain, and last seen during the last great depression.
We are locked into a descending spiral of economic depression, criminalisation, alongside increased and insanely high rates of poverty and racial disadvantage.
You need to let that sink in for a while and let it percolate. What it points to is the detonation of a neutron bomb of disadvantage, incinerating opportunity, aspiration and social mobility, in Black and Muslim communities.
The unemployment figures are stark and compelling. A report published three years ago by the institute of Public Policy Research in January 2010 showed that almost half (48 per cent) of Black people aged between16 and 24 were unemployed – compared to the rate of unemployment among white young people which stood at 20 per cent.
The Guardian Newspaper, in March 2012 revealed that Black male youth unemployment had jumped to 56%, a massive rise of 70% in the period between January 2008 and December 2011.
For black young women the figure was a little better but no less comforting at 40%.
Alarmingly, given the parlous state of the economy, these figures are set to rise again.
Why so high? There is clear evidence of an ‘ethnic penalty’ on employment for most Black groups. This means that Black people have much higher rates of unemployment or ‘worklessness’ that can only be explained by the existence of unchecked and out of control racism in private sector recruitment even after taking their socio-economic backgrounds into account.
Research carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2008 found that employment rejection rates were highest for those with African or Asian sounding names.
Of those in work, within the African Caribbean community almost 80% worked in the public sector.
Black women in the public sector.
With over 500,000 public sector jobs having been cut since 2010 and with the emphasis of those cuts, focused on lower administrative and middle manager staff, precisely where the bulk of black staff are employed, we don’t need to be rocket scientists to work out the result: hugely disproportionate numbers of black workers, particularly black women, being permanently consigned to the dole queue.
These women were the main breadwinners in black families, often single mums, keeping their children’s head just above water.
Now they have become immersed in an economic tsunami, driven by the hurricane like winds of racism, set to drown in a deluge of poverty and despair.
Take a look at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Race and Community’s inquiry into Black women’s unemployment. They found that unemployment rates of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage women have remained consistently higher than those of white women since the early 1980s.
Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women; these women are far more likely to be unemployed than both white men and white women.
Impact of the cuts on Black Communities.
When one fully considers the scale and implications of the current cuts, the obvious social and economic consequences sends visceral shudders down the spine. The impact on communities is almost too unbearable to contemplate.
Official figures are hard to come by; this Government is intent on hiding the awful truth about the effects its policies are having on driving up rates of racism and disadvantage.
The TUC is about to publish a report with research done by the Runnymede Trust that will provide figures, that to be frank, most in the black community are dreading.
Cuts as a cover for racism.
What we do know from anecdotal evidence is that, Black women in particular, are being systemically removed from the public sector, in unprecedented numbers, with budget cuts being used by employers to mask outright institutional racism.
The Labour Party is an equally guilty party in this. Labour authorities are eager to cut budgets and indifferent to the disproportionate effects on black employees and already vulnerable communities. Whilst a section of the Trade Union movement talks a good fight on tackling racism, certain unions seem ideologically disinclined to challenge their Labour local authority colleague’s racism.
And so this unholy alliance conspires in a culture of institutional racism, to throw black public sector workers to the Tory wolves.
The worklessness rates the, proportion of young black men not in work or education was found to have increased from 15% in 2008 to 22% in 2010.
As a result of the abolition of the Education Maintenance Award and the increase in University fees, Black and Muslim youth are unable to access education as well as being unable to access work.
We believe the majority of Black and Muslim youths are now suffering long-term unemployment and are not in education.
This is an explosive and toxic mix that will once again, if left unresolved, explode and ignite the urban areas of the UK.
Black youth are being discriminated against even where they take up employment opportunities.
A report by the TUC Race Relation Committee in 2011 found that the Governments flagship National Apprenticeship Scheme has consistently failed to offer places to Black and Muslim young people.
Where they do, they are consistently, segregated into poor quality “customer service” roles and less likely to be offered permanent employment.
Equality legislation and EHRC Commission.
Employment Law is also under threat with Government threatening to introduce fees for filing cases at Employment Tribunal of anything between £100 - £1000. The effect will be to virtually eliminate, all but a tiny minority of race and gender employment tribunal cases. They also intend to make it easier for employers to sack workers. We know who will bear the brunt of that policy should the law be changed
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), that insipid replacement for the comparatively dynamic, Commission for Race Equality has been systematically taken apart by the coalition, suffering savage cuts to staffing numbers and budgets, removing the only Commissioner providing effective leadership on race equality, Mr Simon Woolley, and appointing a Tory apparatchik as the nodding dog Chair.
The Commission is now a pathetic joke. These words, I hope, will ring deafeningly in the ears, of those like Trevor Phillips and his New Labour supporters who so ardently advocated for the closure of the CRE.
All our deepest latent fears expressed at the time, have been given life, pumped full of anabolic steroids, fed raw red meat and have now come back to haunt us, in a nightmare so horrific it defies belief.
We are now without access or recourse to affordable legal redress against race discrimination, left naked and defenseless against the ravages of racism, that is now infecting our communities like a deadly virus, killing both hope and opportunity in equal measure.
Black Voluntary Sector.
If Black workers have been fed to the Tory Wolves, the Black voluntary sector has been thrown off a cliff.
The once proud, mighty and influential national Black voluntary sector has been reduced to the status of a political pariah.
They have in part, only themselves to blame, having made the profound error of swallowing the New Labour lie about race equality being a “managerial, rather than a political issue.”
Some prostituted themselves for empire building, prioritising cash and career over than the noble pursuit of principled social and economic justice.
Then, having sold out in a misguided attempt to fit into New Labour’s “third way, depoliticised managerial culture”, they urgently set about redefining themselves from away from a traditional of “radical activism” to “neo liberal Black professionalism.”
After the 2010 general election, the new Minster of the Department of Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles dismissed these so called “national black voluntary sector leaders” with utter contempt, cut off the Government breast milk of dependency cash and threw them out of the building.
This Government then blatantly refused to publish a “race strategy” aimed at reducing racial disadvantage and tackling institutional racism and decided that it need not consult with any of these so called national “race equality organisations”.
As a consequence the sector now find’s itself metaphorically, hung, lynched and twisting in the wind.
With this top tier of “national leaders decapitated”, that left local Black and Asian frontline, voluntary sector organisations, providing key community services such as elderly luncheon clubs, youth provision employment facilities and supplementary schools, completely and utterly defenseless.
Local authorities, who have always harbored a desperate desire to rid themselves of these troublesome, outspoken Black and Asian organizations, now had the opportunity to do just that.
Pickles issued a departmental decree, stating that single ethnic provision or “municipal multiculturalism” of any kind was likely to encourage “separatism and extremism”.
There are no figures available for precisely how many organisations we have lost, but what we can say, with great certainty, is that the evidence from the frontline is one of utter carnage.
We estimate that of the 17,000 Black, Muslim and ethnic minority organisations in the UK dependant on central or local Government funding, less than 5,000 remain and those that do, will face further cuts in 2013.
The sector at a local level is now smashed, with vulnerable communities left to drift, unable and unwilling, to access mainstream services, incapable of meeting diverse needs and with no alternative safety net.
In 2009, according to the EHRC 51% of black and black British children lived in poverty compared with 27% of white children. They also found reinforcing our earlier point, that women, heading their own households, especially lone mothers and single pensioners, have the highest risk of poverty;
They concluded that Black and Muslim women had an increased likelihood of living in low-income households; and a tendency to have more children, which is associated with poverty.
In 2009, a joint report by the Fawcett Society and Oxfam, suggested that Black and Muslim women were particularly at risk from the recession and identified that they are amongst the poorest and most socially excluded people in the UK and this presented two major risks: One being that Black and Muslim women living in poverty would be locked into their destitution for the foreseeable future;
Second as a consequence of what is now a triple dip recession, even more Black and Muslim women will be made vulnerable to poverty.
Conclusion and rallying call.
This Coalition Government is the most ideological right wing Government ever seen in a generation. George Osborne’s budget will increase racism as have every one of his previous budgets.
The economic crisis brought by the reckless activities of British bankers is now being used as a flag of convenience for the most vicious ideological attack on working people we have ever seen.
In order to ensure we remain divided in the face of this trenchant attack, racism has been unleashed. The consequences for us and our children is a society where the gains made in the last 30-40 years are disappearing before our very eyes leaving our communities open to racism, racist attacks and organised fascism.
Most or all the virus of institutional racism is back with a vengeance having been driven back but not defeated by the outcome of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report.
If we are to avoid watching our cities, our communities our families be brutally torn apart by racism, violence, religious division, poverty and unemployment we must unite and organise.
We have until 2015 to ensure we get ourselves mobilized. To that end and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s world famous “I have a dream” speech, BARAC has launched an important campaign.
The campaign is entitled: MLK50: Equality In Our Lifetime. Dr King delivered that famous speech on August 28th 1963.
50 years on BARAC is asking the questions;
Have can we achieve Dr King’s vision of non-racist society?
How do we achieve equality in our lifetime to ensure our children do inherit from us a society, where racism, poverty and disadvantage, is significantly worse for them than it is was for us?
To that end we want to recreate the famous 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington led by Dr King and others for Jobs and Freedom. This time we are calling for a Unite Against Racism March for Jobs and Justice.
The time is now; we must act before the fires of racism across Europe and here in Britain burn brightly again.
For more information and/or to join the MLK50 Campaign:
Co Chair BARAC.