Thursday, 17 January 2013

Actor David Oyelowo: To cry racism in Britain is deemed's insidious here. (Independent Article)

Racism and stereo-typing still rife says stars of controversial Channel 4 torture film Complicit
By Adam Sherwin
Originally published at:

The stars of a controversial new drama about the British government’s alleged involvement in illegal torture have complained that racism and cultural stereo-typing and racism are still widespread in the entertainment industry.

David Oyelowo

David Oyelowo plays an MI5 officer who comes to believe that torture can be justified to prevent a British terror suspect (played by Arsher Ali) killing innocent people, in the Channel 4 film, Complicit.
Oyelowo, the former Spooks actor who landed roles in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the Oscar-nominated Lincoln after moving to Los Angeles, said: “The era in which we can contemplate a black Prime Minister is aeons away compared to what we’re experiencing in America. To cry racism here is deemed vulgar. It’s not spoken about but it’s in the room. It’s insidious here. I’ve experienced it first-hand.”

Ali, who starred in Four Lions, the satirical film about a British terror plot, said: “As an Asian actor, seventy per cent of what comes your way is written like (US action series) 24 – you’re the bad guy, the Arab guy. Every dark-skinned guy is the baddie. ‘Kill him and then run away from a huge explosion.’ I spend months turning it away. But this time it felt like it was phrasing an interesting moral question.”
Kathryn Bigelow chose a British actor Ricky Sekhon, 29, to play Osama Bin Laden in her film, Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for the terrorist leader. Sekhon said: “My span of film castings have consisted of either terrorist, drug dealer, drug addict, heavy, henchman, large man, very tall man.”

Complicit, which will be given a cinema release after its television premiere next month, is based on interviews with senior former intelligence officials.
The evidence of Oyelowo’s officer that a plot is imminent is disbelieved, partly because he is black and “not one of us”. When Ali’s suspect is found meeting a known terrorist in Cairo after the Arab Spring, an Egyptian colonel offers to torture him to get information about the imminent plot.

Kevin Toolis, producer, said. “There have been a number of allegations made by individuals that they have been visited in foreign prisons by members of British intelligence, and they’ve been not tortured by them, but tortured by others and then subsequently interrogated (by British intelligence).

“This is a huge national and moral issue because democratic states should not condone torture. Even if they may be bad people who are terrorist suspects.”

Zero Dark Thirty has been criticised for depicting torture as an effective means of gaining information. Guy Hibbert, Complicit writer, refused to include scenes of extreme torture in his film. “I find violence extremely distasteful on screen,” he said. “I hate Tarantino’s films and I hate him for coming here and celebrating gun culture and celebrating violence and turning it into entertainment. It’s totally unacceptable to be making those kind of films when we live in a vulnerable age.”

Hibbert said his film posed a moral question: “In order to save 100 innocent lives am I allowed to torture their murderer-to-be? Edward (Oyelowo’s agent) comes to believe ‘not only am I allowed, it’s my duty, my moral imperative’ because he’s employed to stop terrorist attacks by whatever means he can.”
A subtle form of racism within MI5 pushes him towards that conclusion. “He’s put in this position because he’s not quite one of us. His intelligence is not quite believed, possibly because he’s not quite the right class, he’s not the right colour and that’s making him feel like he’s isolated.”
Speaking at a BFI screening of Complicit, Ali argued that Zero Dark Thirty “avoided the question” of the morality of torture. “Jessica Chastain (who plays the CIA officer who leads the manhunt) spent five minutes umming and ahhing, then a minute later she’s water-boarding someone and then it’s all cool and she’s pouting.”

Britain: One of the most ‘tolerant’ nations in the world?

Illustration/Stokely Baksh

Is Britain a post-racist society? The Governments view is that for the most part institutional racism and covert racism are relics of history. Britain, they are fond of saying is ‘the most tolerant country in the world. This hackneyed and much overused term is usually offered up in response to accusations that British society remains a racist society.
The dictionary definition of tolerant is to permit or to endure something or alternatively the acceptance of the existence of different views.
The loaded implication of this statement is that British Black people and other ethnic minorities are only here on sufferance. We are endured, not celebrated, as if we are some alien or foreign virus capable of somehow infecting British society.
Whilst Britain is a plural society I don’t believe, the usage of this term refers to the ‘acceptance of different views’ as that would mean that Black people or ethnic minorities would be considered to hold widely divergent views from the majority of white Britons.
I despise that phrase. British citizenship is not a gift for which we should be grateful. My citizenship has been secured by the struggle and self sacrifice of our ancestors from Africa and Asia whose forced labour under slavery and colonialism and the expropriation of those nations’ resources made this country what it is today. We’ve more than paid our dues.
Born here in Britain, born of a family now grown to include the fifth generation of Black Briton’s, why the hell should my children and I be ‘tolerated’?
My citizenship is not a legal fiction. I don’t want to be ‘tolerated’ in my own country. The term reflects a colonial mindset that is deeply patronising and relegates black people to the status of unwanted and unwelcome guests.
The use of this phrase is a form of paternalistic racism that tells us we are only here on sufferance and moreover we should be very grateful to Britain for allowing us to live here.
This phraseology is indicative of a broader view on racism held by almost all in Government and the majority of the British press. That view concludes that the back of racism in Britain has been broken and that the worst aspects of racism have been largely eradicated.
All that remains, they say, are the infrequent examples of individual prejudice that represent the last dying embers of a once powerful and ancient hatred.
Black people’s claims of institutional racism are defined as nothing more than political propaganda in pursuit of personal gain. They consider all such claims as overblown racial posturing and their claims are usually dismissed as a case of ‘playing the race card’ by ‘race activists’.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the reality of widespread institutional racism and its deleterious affects on the life chance and human rights of Black and Muslim people in the UK, the evidence is simply ignored. 
Of course, there is nothing new here; claims of historical and contemporary racism in Britain are always met with outright denial;
  • Stephen Lawrence killed by racists? Initial claim denied.
  • Racism in policing? ‘Black people commit more crime’. Strenuously denied.
  • Racism in council housing allocations? – ‘Don’t be stupid’. Denied.
  • Racist immigration laws targeting Black people? Denied.
  • Black men dying in police custody due to racism?  ‘He had superhuman strength’ - denied.
  • Racism in schools?  ‘Educational failure is a result of parental failure and a dysfunctional black culture’ - denied.
This powerful culture of denial of institutional racism results in no serious action being taken to protect Black people from unfair discrimination. Far from being a post racist society, Britain is a nation in denial about the powerful social reality of institutional racism.
2013 is the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous speeches in the world. In August 1963, Dr Martin Luther King led the US civil rights movement in a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, they gathered in their hundreds of thousands, united in confronting the Jim Crow segregation of apartheid era America.
Dr King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech that would resonate around the world. Dr King set out his vision of a post racist America in prophetic fashion encapsulating the essence of common humanity in declaring the God given equality of all men and women.
The dream of a world where racism is no more still resonates with many throughout the world.  You see I still hold to the goal of achieving greater level of equality in our lifetime. I don’t want my children to repeat our history fighting the same battles we fought. It is our duty as parents to move things on and secure the future for our children.
So is Britain a post racist society?
Take two healthy British babies, one white, and one Black, their new lives stretched out before them comforted in the bosoms of their grateful parents.
Both are British citizens, yet their life chances differ dramatically as a consequence of the colour of their skin and the polite, yet devastating overt institutional racism so perfected by the British.
Contemporary British racism has culturally transformed itself into a very ‘genteel overt racism’ that presents no obvious offence. It has none of the social embarrassment of times gone by and yet despite that, racial discrimination still manages to enforce deep economic and social exclusion.
These two British babies start their lives on an uneven playing field with the black newborn being twice as likely to die in next 24 months. In the first years of their lives, the black child and family are much more likely to suffer child poverty and live in low standard overcrowded houses.
Once at primary school, the black child will be more likely to be excluded, once in secondary school the black child will be more likely to fail their exams. They will be much more likely to be unemployed once they leave school. On the streets they are much more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, more likely to be arrested and if convicted they will receive a heavier sentence for a comparable crime committed by a white Briton. These are just a few of the most obvious areas of discrimination; there are many more examples in areas such as health, regeneration, and politics.
This is not solely a matter of class difference. Research has shown that even middle class black people can suffer the debilitating effects of racism. Middle class school children, wealthy black footballers, black politicians, prominent religious figures, celebrities; all suffer from racism despite their economic status. Black people and Muslims suffer higher levels of economic and social exclusion than their white working class counterparts.
Austerity and budget cuts have magnified racial disadvantage. Yes we are all on the same boat but some of are forced to inhabit the stinking bowl of the ship, some are working on the mid decks and some stroll in the sunshine on the top deck. Yes, we are all on the good ship Britannia but some sail in acute distress and some in relative comfort. 

One Nation: Divided by race.
Of late, there has been much talk about “One Nation” politics. This unfortunate term with a dodgy history has been recently co-opted by Labour from the Conservatives. Used in the 1980’s One Nation politics was an attempt at forced assimilation and a denial of difference encapsulated by this 1993 Tory election poster.

The message was clear and unambiguous: you can be British if you disregard your ethnicity and culture. Labour’s recent articulation of this theme echoes this assimilationist sentiment with its emphasis not on racism, but on the small minority of people who don’t speak English. Posed as a barrier to integration, Labour fails to explain why it is that Black Britons who have no such problems still face social and economic exclusion racism despite their ability to speak English.
Whilst we are ‘One Nation’ geographically when it comes to the equality of British citizenship, many Black and Muslin people are relegated to the status of third class citizens in a supposed first class democracy.
Today, politicians and the press mediate your citizenship, contingent on adherence to a nonsensical set of “British values”. The reality of British equality is that it is based on your race or religion, on whether you’re Black or Muslim, and whether you live in an area considered a ‘ ghetto’ having made a ‘deliberate choice’ to ‘separate yourself ’ from white society.
Whether you wear a hijab or a hoodie will affect the extent to which you can enjoy real equality of citizenship in equal measure to white Britons.
The Coalition Governments record on tackling racism.
David Cameron’s Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister and his Deputy PM and leader of the Lib Dem Nick Clegg don’t ‘get’ racism or discrimination or understand the profound consequences of Britain’s changing make up.
This island is no longer the bland monocultural place of the past.
Britain is undergoing dramatic demographic changes; these changes are seeping into the cultural fabric of the nation, enriching our daily lives and changing the culture, personality and character of Britain irrevocably.
The recent publication of the 2011 Census demonstrated just how much has changed in the big metropolitan areas of Britain. Research done at Leeds University suggests that the growth of ethnic diversity will reach 20% by 2051
Having been brought up in a life of spectacular privilege renders Cameron devoid of any real experience or understanding of either the reality of race discrimination or how best to tackle it.
As with most high profile politicians, Cameron talks a good talk when it comes to race equality. Take these comments made by Cameron in a video broadcast to the 2010 OBV ‘Black Britain Decides’ general election hustings;
‘We must tackle the deep and structural inequalities that all too often hold Black people back especially the young… We know something is extremely wrong when the colour of your skin dictates how likely you are to succeed at school, starting a business, employment, or ending up in prison.’
Or those of Nick Clegg Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib Dems who was equally forthright in expressing his commitment to race equality.
Addressing the same OBV event Nick said;
“ I don’t want to live in a society where a child’s life fortunes are still determined by the circumstances of their birth, where if you’re from an ethnic minority you’re still more likely to be out of work, more likely to be on low pay, more likely to be hassled by the police when you haven’t done anything wrong.”
Powerful words that ring absolutely true today and still provide an accurate and informed description of the reality of racism in Britain. However as the sun set on Labour and a Coalition Government was formed, these fine words and political commitment were jettisoned as election rhetoric, designed to appeal to black voters in a tightly fought election.
We’ve been had, conned and bamboozled.
In the two years since the 2010 OBV hustings we have endured the most systematic political attack on the general and progressive concept of multiculturalism and an almost scorched earth approach to anti racist policies within local and central Government.
Both, bizarrely, are now designated divisive by this Government and have been wrongly identified as encouraging separatism and extremism. This political about turn by Cameron and Clegg simply illuminates the extent to which both parties have a thin veneer commitment to delivering race equality.
Looking back it is now clear that the OBV audience and the wider British black community were conned by two slick snake oil salesmen.
The Coalition has made a small number of symbolic gestures to tackling racism, but has collectively determined that structural racial inequality will remain untouched. Current economic policy is in fact exacerbating racism
As a result virtually nothing is belong done to eradicate structural racism, the consequence of which will see yet another generation of Black and Muslim citizens and their children sentenced to a lifetime of struggle against racism.
Let us examine the Governments efforts to tackle racism. 
The extent that this government is committed to race equality can be judged by the quality of their policies designed to respond to known areas of race discrimination.
The Governments has no specific race equality strategy preferring a ‘mainstream’ equality approach to tackling any areas of discrimination. The problem is that in terms of reducing racism without the adoption of a laser like specific focus on race, results in the bone achingly slow pace of incremental change.
There is no historical or contemporary example in Government of the huge scale of race discrimination faced by Black Britons being reduced in the absence of a clear and robust policy focus.
All evidence demonstrates that the most effective way to tackle racism is to adopt a specific policy focus with timescales, stated outcomes, targets, sanctions and a budget.
The Tory Lib Dem “colour blind” approach to achieving race equality, implemented in the broader context of a right wing political climate, ensures that this Government pays lip service to achieving the goal of race equality whilst remaining ideologically blind to structural racism.
Leadership comes from the top.
Other than some vague commitment to increase diversity in public appointments, I can see no real race equality strategy for one of the most important Offices in Government the Cabinet Office.
‘Public appointments of 50% women by end of this Parliament’ is the only policy commitment. Unfortunately, there is no base line information, no BME targets and no implementation strategy.
Civic engagement is mentioned; however this Government has failed to maintain a race equality policy consultation forum and subsequently dismissed national black group members from a legacy forum established by the previous Government.
Minster Eric Pickles has made his view clear that he sees no reason to convene such a group. As a result there is no national statutory policy consultation forum on the issue of race equality currently in the UK. Government has simply dismissed the Black Voluntary sector as irrelevant.
The PM talks about racism in football and Deputy Prime Minister Clegg about the racism of British banks and the inability of black business to access credit, loans, and investment funds.
Both are saying the right things but only in those areas where Government does not bear primary responsibility. The FA in terms of football and banks are easy targets for Government to target for tough talk: seeking to create the false impression of zero tolerance in relation to racism.
In November 2011 Clegg highlighted the difficulties that ethnic minority businesses and would-be entrepreneurs were reporting in accessing business loans. Clegg established a review to look at this issue and 15 months later the Government has failed to publish the findings of Clegg’s review. 

Meanwhile the fundamental problem of the strong economic character of institutional racism in the financial services sector cements black communities into a prison of poverty and disadvantage as banks exercise racial profiling and post code racism in determining creditworthiness and assessing loan and investment opportunities.  

Government inaction on race and our response.

Meanwhile Black Britons are expected to suffer racism with a smile, thankful that we are not living in Europe.

Black people have helped to build this country through slavery, then colonialism immigration and then settlement. Our legal citizenship rights were fought for and secured by preceding generations paying a heavy blood price for the privilege.

In the modern Britain of 2013 black people are still unable to achieve full-unfettered equality of opportunity.

Racism is on the rise and many of the gains made over the last 30 years have been squandered by a Government whose ideological attack on the poor will result in future generations facing a level of racism worse that that endured by their parents.

Can we achieve equality in our lifetime? Only through commitment to a dedicated, protracted, disciplined struggle focused on legislative change and democratic reform.

This Government is committed to conducting a largely symbolic campaign against racism. What initiatives do exist are well meaning, piecemeal, short term, lack consistency and are incapable of delivering the goal of securing race equality in our lifetime.
The result will be to condemn yet another generation of Black people to suffer increased rates of structural inequality and injustice. Is this the legacy we want to bequeath our children?
Since the first enslaved African decided to leave the plantation each successive generation of the African Diaspora has fought, struggle and died to ensure that the future generations did not face the brutal racism they endured. We may be the first generation to fail in this regard.
I say that we cannot afford to allow the future of our children to be destroyed by racism. We cannot allow their futures to be dominated by a lifetime of struggle against increased rates of racism that should have and could have been more effectively dealt with by their parents.
I believe that the future of our children requires that any price be paid whatever the cost. It is our genetic and historic destiny to strive to secure a better future for our children.
In terms of tactics I believe that having tried appealing to the better angels of the Government and failed, the Black voluntary sector having sought to work in partnership and having been shown the door , having appealed for understanding and received none, bearing witness to the increased evils of unemployment injustice and poverty magnified through the lens of austerity, facing the stark reality that our children will inherit a society where racism is worse than that faced by their parents, I say we must now urgently step up our fight against the evils of racism that strips our children of their God given innate human potential reducing them to a crude racial stereotype. We must engage in heightened campaigning, we must organize, agitate, and educate. We must never give up our struggle for equality and justice. That’s one lesson our parent taught us, they never did and neither should we.
Whatever the odds, whatever the challenge, never ever give up and on the 21st January 7pm in the Betty Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House Victoria Embankment Black Activists Against the Cuts will be holding a public meeting. We will be setting out our plans to achieve equality in our lifetime. We invite you to join us. 

Lee Jasper

Celebrating the life of Dr Martin Luther King and launching the 2013 MLK50: EQUALITY IN OUR LIFETIME Campaign taking place on Martin Luther King Day.

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom & Dr King’s iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech.

An evening of reflection, poetry & an exploration of radical approaches to tackling racism, asking the question from Dr King’s dream; ‘How long will it take to achieve race equality in the UK?’
Joint Chairs, Zita Holbourne & Lee Jasper BARAC UK

Speakers include:

Donna Guthrie. Trade Union Activist, Unison

Khi Rafe, Mary Seacole Campaign

VENUE: Betty Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, (Parliament) Victoria Embankment, London, SW1 1AA

Portcullis House is next door to Westminster tube station on the Embankment, please note you cannot enter via the Houses of Parliament.

DATE: January 21st 2013
TIME: 7pm to 9pm

Due to limited places please book in advance by emailing:

with ‘MLK50’ in the subject box & names attending in the main body of the email

Take the sending of this email as confirmation of your place. We will only contact you if we become fully booked.

Twitter: @BARACUK
Facebook: ‘black activists rising against cuts’

Monday, 14 January 2013

Martin Luther King's Speech: 'I Have a Dream'

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
 It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.

Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

Dr Martin Luther King: Have we achieved the dream of race equality in Britain?

January 15th is the birthday of one of the most celebrated human rights icons the world has ever seen, activist, academic, politician, and Christian religious leader, Dr Martin Luther King.  His commitment and activism in the cause of justice remains an inspiration to billions of people across the globe.
Today in the United States and celebrated across the world people will be remembering that most unique gift of love and justice, bequeathed to the world by African Americans who led the struggle for race equality in Jim Crow apartheid America.
That unique gift, paid for by the blood of many who were brutally murdered, many in acts of bravery and self-sacrifice, seeded the struggle for civil rights and justice across the world.
The US civil rights struggle has, over time, became the moral standard against which all subsequent struggles for freedom and justice are judged. From Native American Indians to the sweltering heat of the Barrios, to the raw visceral struggle of the Palestinian people against the apartheid of Israel, Dr King and the international song of freedom “We Shall Overcome” resounds from the mouths of the oppressed everywhere.
For Dr King, the struggle against racism could not be divorced from the struggle for economic justice. In the later years of his short life, he began to make the connections between racism, poverty, and war, social and economic injustice at home, in the US and throughout the world.
It is without doubt that the US civil rights struggle and Dr King in particular made an invaluable and enduring contribution to the cause of international human rights, peace and justice.

MLK50: Equality in Our Lifetime.

 August 28th 1963 saw the largest civil rights demonstration ever in American political history. The iconic March on Washington for Jobs and Justice led by Dr Martin Luther King saw the consolidation of what became a global campaign against American Jim Crow segregation and racism take shape. It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that Dr King delivered what is now considered to be one of the greatest public articulations of human rights of all time, known today as Dr King’s “I have a dream” speech.
That world famous speech came to epitomise a vision of a world where skin colour matters less than the colour of your eyes. A heady intoxicating vision of a world where racism is confined to the murky dustbins of history.
Who could not be moved by the prophetic Christian radicalism of Dr King’s speech? That dream, of a post racist world, continues to this day and Dr King became a global icon for human rights, peace and justice. The speech is as powerful today as it was in 1963. This year, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of that most momentous event in history.
In honour of this historic occasion, Black Activists Against Cuts (BARAC) UK has planned to make 2013 a year of celebration, reflection, and opportunity to assess just how far the vision of Dr King’s dream of a world without racism is a reality today. In remembrance of that historic occasion, we have declared 2013 the year of MLK50: Equality In Our Lifetime providing an opportunity for a national conversation about the state of race equality in Britain.
On 21st January 2013 we will be launching the year long celebration and campaign on this important theme on Dr Martin Luther King Day at 7pm at the House of Commons, Portcullis House Victoria Embankment in the Betty Boothroyd Room.
We here in the UK are at a critical stage of our struggle for equality and justice. The harsh economic effects of austerity have led to a serious increase in the economic effects of racism on black communities.
Unemployment, poverty, economic exclusion, racism in the workplace, racism in sport, racial attacks, stop and search, deaths in police  custody are all on the increase threatening to consign future generations to a Britain where the debilitating effects of racism will be much worse than it is today.
That reality ultimately leads us to the critical and in some sense perpetual question that defined the US struggle for civil rights, how long? How long will it take to achieve the goal of true race equality in the UK?

Race equality in Britain today.

In 2010, Operation Black Vote organized a huge election rally “Black Britain Decides”, where for the first time all major political figures from all the major parties attended. The rally made history, never before had an election rally been held for Black communities that had been accorded such importance by all the political parties.

The event broke new ground and the assembled audience was addressed by a phalanx of some of the biggest names in British politics all of whom were unsurprisingly evangelical about race equality.
With over 1500 people in attendance, this was the largest election hustings in the UK during the 2010 general election. The prospect of a tight election in the offing resulted in mainstream parties,  who historically dispatch minor political figures to such events, lining up some of their biggest hitters to attend in order to court the black vote.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the meeting of his personal commitment to prioritising race equality both within Government and the Liberal Democratic Party. He said:
“I want this election to mark the beginning by real change in Britain I don’t want to live in a society where a child’s life fortunes are still determined by the circumstances of their birth, where if you’re from an ethnic minority you’re still more likely to be out of work, more likely to be on low pay, more likely to be hassled by the police when you haven’t done anything wrong.”
He outlined three policy initiatives that he pledged to deliver in Government:

1.    An extra £2.5 billion spending on tackling disadvantage in schools.

2.     A crack down on race discrimination in the workplace through the introduction of blind job applications and statutory pay audits.

3.    End the systematic abuse of civil rights by;

ending the harvesting of black men’s DNA on the national DNA database; reforming Counter Terrorism legislation that place entire communities under suspicion.
Vince Cable told the meeting that having a Dad who was, I quote 'a white supremacist' and eventually marrying an Asian woman in the early 1970s and being the father in a ‘mixed race’ family, he was personally committed to tackling racism and discrimination. He lamented, as did Clegg, the failure and the stunning lack of progress made by his party on ensuring black representation. He said:
“I know there are still problems the worst thing I could possible do here is to be complacent, there are still problems, there is still discrimination which prevent people fulfilling their potential but my background gives me a sense of hope that we can deal with these problems”.
He went on;
“I want in conclusion to affirm my belief that we can overcome prejudice and discrimination and want to make it absolutely clear that I commit my party to that end and to make sure we’re properly represented with you as a part of it.”
Both Clegg and Cable committed to leading the debate about tackling racism in Government.
Tory George Osborne followed and told the meeting that both he and Cameron and his party were implacable opponents of racism and in Government  he would be focused on removing the last remaining barriers of discrimination faced by black Britons.

He said;
“I think we can all agree on this: we have become a county that is fairer, more equal, more tolerant, less prejudiced and we should all be proud of that progress but while we have come a long way there still is a distance left to travel. Immense barriers remain; the question is how do we bring about that change?”
He added;
“Well first of all I believe we need a full frontal assault on the remaining discrimination and prejudice. It will not be tolerated by Conservative Government and we want every child, irrespective of their background or the colour of their skin to have the best possible chance in life and  there is a powerful leadership role that political parties could and should play.”
Fine words designed to entice black communities into believing that both the Tory and Lib Dems understood the black condition and were determined to tackle race discrimination
A lot has happened since that hustings. In 2013 and as part of the MLK50: Equality in Our Lifetime campaign we want to now assess what progress has been made and where we go from here.
Race has been dumped off the Government’s political agenda.
The Coalition Government has a stated committment to achieving the goal of an equal society, where all citizens, regardless of race or faith enjoy equal rights and protection against unfair discrimination under the law.
The Government’s Equality Strategy was published in December 2010.  Home Secretary Theresa May wrote in the forword,
“Equality is at the heart of this Coalition Government. It is fundamental to building a strong economy and a fair society; and in these difficult economic times equality is even more important. As we rebuild our economy, it is essential that we make sure we benefit from the talents of everyone in the UK. As we take the difficult decisions necessary to tackle the UK’s record deficit we are determined to do so fairly, protecting the most vulnerable and prioritising equal opportunities for all”.
In the concluding section the Government states:
“We will put equality at the heart of government, ensuring that we lead by example, embed equalities across all departments and work in partnership with business, community groups and wider society to deliver tangible results.”
The Coalition’s recent publication of their “midterm review” was an opportunity to assess, to what extent Cameron and Clegg had delivered on their key election promises and their Equality Strategy.
It’s important to ask the question whether this Government is meeting the needs of Britain’s increasingly diverse citizenship.  What is immediately noticeable is the fact that the specific issue of race equality is noticeable by its absence. More generally, on equalities, however the Government had this to say;

“Every citizen has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to full equality under the law. Over the years huge advances have been made in protecting people against discrimination on grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age. This Government is determined to continue that progress.”
The warm words of Cameron and Clegg gave way to the harsh and cold reality over the next two years. Contrast these words with the stark reality of this Coalition Government that has embarked on an ideological attack on the concept of multiculturalism and anti-racism.

2010 Budget

Chancellor Osborne’s October 2010 budget failed to meet the requirements of the Equalities Act. This was despite their apparent commitment to race equality when it came to the first big policy test.
Osborne, Clegg and Cable simply ignored the legislation that required them to produce an equality impact assessment identifying the potential for racial discrimination within their budget proposals. As a result of massive public sector cuts we have seen rates of racial inequality increase. Both adult and youth employment have seen huge increases as a result.
Black women and young people felt the initial brunt of spiralling rates of unemployment compounded with an increase in University fees and the ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). As a result we have seen an increase in rates of poverty, unemployment and indebtedness. For a community where race discrimination had resulted in profound economic and political marginalisation and that was disproportionately affected by racism prior to the economic crash, austerity has simply magnified the intensity of racism and its effects.

Legal redress against discrimination.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) under the disastrous leadership of Trevor Phillips refused to prosecute the Government despite launching an inquiry which confirmed that the Government had deliberately and in a calculated way ignored the law of the land. Much good, this spineless act of political cowardice did for the Commission. In subsequent years, they saw their budget slashed, and late last year the Government removed the only active black commissioners.
Trevor Phillips
The EHRC is now utterly ineffective as a statutory regulator and the subsequent ethnic cleansing of Commissioners along with the appointment of a Tory crony as chair will see its eventual demise.
In effect, this leaves Britain’s black communities with very little recourse to statutory protection against racism in law. Failure of the EHRC, closure of local race equality councils, cuts to legal services such as Citizen Advice Bureaus and advice centres means that in effect, there is now no nationally accessible or affordable legal avenue for black people to challenge racism in Britain.
 Welfare reforms will also see thousands of black people targeted as part of the cuts programme. Housing benefit reforms have seen thousands of black families being forced to move as the Government attempts to reclaim the inner cities for the rich whilst pushing out both poor and black communities. Whilst refusing to tackle racism in recruitment black people will be doubly punished as they suffer the consequences of being demonised for being unemployed and then demonised for being poor.

Stephen Lawrence Macpherson Report.
The Coalition Government’s real agenda, apparent to all today, was to reverse the gains made on race equality as a result of the seminal Stephen Lawrence report.
Over the last two years, Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Cable dismantled the entire post Macpherson policy reporting forums and task forces set up to drive the implementation of the recommendations across Government. Alongside their cavalier disregard of the Equality Act the message that went out to Government departments, statutory agencies and local government was clear and unambiguous: “We don’t care about race equality”.
Unbelievably there is no real national policy consultation with black communities. The Coalition Government abolished a dedicated funding stream for work on race equality and dismissed all the black and ethnic minority organisations from a race equality policy forum. In addition, the Government also issued guidance to departments and local government that specific funding for distinct ethnic or cultural groups was encouraging separatism, bringing to an end targeted funding for deprived ethnic groups. The mere mention of the word racism today is seen as divisive.
Racist and religious attacks are increasing and history teaches us that periods of economic decline always see an increase in racism. As this economic crisis deepens so the re-emergence of racism is blindingly obvious.
Suspicious deaths of black men in police custody saw a massive increase throughout 2010 – 2011 alongside large increases in the rates of stop and search andthe riots that took place in August 2011 means we have seen black community police relations significantly deteriorate. The result of post-riot policing has seen huge increases in the number of black youth now in British jails. We have more black young people in jail than in university.
Despite some progress in recruiting black officers to the police service we have seen those gains reversed as more black officers leave the force than join. That’s a net loss of black officers as a result of racism, and cuts to the policing budgets halting recruitment.
Institutional racism within the Criminal Justice system is now unleashed as a result of the ideological opposition of the current Government to the principle of race equality.
 Both Doreen Lawrence and her son  Stuart Lawrence have publically condemned this Government’s vacuous commitment to race equality and these comments reflect the growing anger in black communities.
The rise of racism in football both on the terraces and on the pitch has shocked the nation. Whatever the public reaction the failed prosecution, by the Crown Prosecution Service, of Chelsea player John Terry illustrates the growing normalisation of racism within society at large and in the judiciary in particular. The legal definition of racist abuse now depends entirely on context.


The cuts to Britain’s budget have also led to economic tensions that are being exploited by this Government which is engaged in highlighting the issue of immigration as a means of distracting the public from targeting those responsible for the economic crisis: the bankers.
We can expect increasing attacks on black communities by the media and right wing politicians. Whether through the prism of “terrorism or criminality” the hijab or the hoodie: both will become demonised as the economic crisis continues to deepen.
The racist English Defence League’s violent demonisation of Islam is another illustration of increased rates of racism and religious bigotry.
EDL: fascists and racists


This Government has launched an economic war on working class communities and black communities in particular.
We are in danger of bequeathing to our children a society where racism is much worse than the society bequeathed to us by the Windrush generation.
They fought and sacrificed themselves in the spirit of Dr King to secure the future for their children and future generations.
We are in real danger of enduring a decade of increased rates of racism that will force future generations of black young people to decades of struggle against racism instead of achieving their innate potential.
That is why we are launching this important campaign.
The once mighty and radical black voluntary sector has been decimated and brought to its knees. The black church remains powerful but lacks coherence and clear leadership. The Trade Unions focus their efforts in fighting cuts and combating the extreme right wing rather than fighting institutional racism. The EHRC has lost its way and has become a fig leaf for Government racism. Racism is on the increase and economic injustice prevails everywhere as the Government punishes the poor and rewards the rich.
It’s time to make a change and commit ourselves to a course of action that can secure the future of our children. We posed a question at the beginning of this article asking how long before we achieve race equality in the UK?
The answer may surprise many analysing the rate of progress achieved over the last 50 years here in the UK and taking into account the current Government’s disastrous economic policy on black communities it will be 2513 before Dr King’s dream becomes a reality.
Now the real question to all concerned with race equality in Britain is can we wait that long? If not how do we achieve race equality in our lifetime? Come and join us as we assess our options and discuss what can be done to save the future of our communities.

Lee Jasper