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White people must start talking about race and racism

Protesters holding White silence is violence sign

Many white people feel intensely uncomfortable talking about race. They say that they are constantly in fear of saying the wrong thing, of “putting their foot in it” or “treading on eggshells”.  Recently a white US rap musician Macklemore put it like this: "White, liberal people want to be nice. We don’t want to be racist. We don’t wanna mess up. We want to be ˜Oh we’re post-racial. We have a black president. We don’t want to talk about white privilege and it’s all good, right?” It’s not the case.

A second generation south-Asian girl from north-west England

Anushka Asthana

I cringe when I remember an uncomfortable conversation with a female cousin in the 1990s. She ticked me off for what she saw as my arrogant assertion that life in the UK was superior to what she had in India. In my mind - and clearly spewing out of my mouth - was the sentiment that Britain had better roads, better schools, better dress sense, better humour and even (what was I thinking!?) better weather. Perhaps that is why growing up I never really delved into my parents' decision to emigrate in the 1970s. To me - a second generation south-Asian girl from north-west England - it seemed an obvious, life-enhancing choice. It was when those opinions were turned on their head back at home - that it became obvious they were driven less by rationality and more by insecurity about where I belonged.

In Greater Manchester I tried to distance my life from its Indian roots. It's awful now to think back about how I'd be embarrassed of walking with my mum at the shops if she was wearing a traditional salwar kameez, or if she spoke Hindi loudly in public. On the occasions that I would wear a sari to an Indian event I would go to great lengths to avoid being seen by white neighbours, crouching down as I ran from the front door to the car. Perhaps worst of all was the way I felt pleased when a local teenage boy once declared that I was "different to other Pakis". After all I was a girl who daydreamed about what it would be like to have white skin and an English name. Once, when I was very young, I even rubbed talcum powder into my face in a bid to lighten up.

Racism in the delivery of mental health services

Suman Fernando

For many years, black and some other minority ethnic groups have been badly served by our mental health services. Some of the problems can be attributed to the fact that services have not adapted adequately to the fact that the understanding of what is ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ is culturally determined and ‘one size does not fit all’. However, there has been mounting evidence that institutional racism too plays a major role.

Is “White Privilege” a useful concept in the current UK context?

Unpacking the invisible knapsack of white privilege message

In the United States over the last 30years a useful concept has been developed which we could do with discussing much more on this side of the Atlantic.  This is the concept of ”white privilege”. As a white person I can take a whole range of advantages and privileges for granted as I go about my everyday life in the UK. So much so that I can even fail to notice that I actually have those advantages merely by virtue of being from the white majority. For example I don’t expect to be followed around by security guards whenever I visit expensive shops.

A letter home

Rob Berkeley

ROTA recently commissioned Rob Berkeley to write a position paper on the state of racial justice and equality in the UK. Rob has had a long track record in the race equality sector and until recently was the Chief Executive of the Runnymede Trust.  Rob feels that any such paper should be accessible and  informal rather than dry and statistical so he has written it in the form of a “Letter home” to his parents in Grenada summing up  life for Britain’s black communities in 2014.

Researchers reveal that ethnic diversity is good for your health

Diverse hands holding wrists forming circle

It has become a commonplace idea that the more ethnic diversity there is in a society the more conflict there is. Difference and diversity are seen as negative and dangerous rather than as positive and engaging. Actually this assumption is highly questionable, but of course the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express do so much to try to ensure that this has become the dominant prejudice of the age – the fear of the “Other”. Sadly most politicians are prepared to swallow this line of argument whole as well.

Growing inequality is no accident

V4CE logo

Voice4Change England (V4CE)  have recently demanded  that Chancellor George Osborne should set up an inquiry into alarming new Labour Force Survey figures showing that Black British citizens are losing out in the economic “recovery”.  Rates for White people in  employment rose by over 360,000 (a 1.9 per cent increase) but the numbers of Black African and Caribbean people in work fell by 22,000 in the same period (a 3 per cent drop).

Peers are left to head off racist Bill

People queuing at UK Border

Yet again we are at the mercy of the House of Lords.  After the Immigration Bill passed the House of Commons with only 16 MPs voting against it, we are again in the situation where we are reliant on the House of Lords to head off damaging, dangerous and badly thought-through legislation. One of the MPs who did have the guts to vote against the Bill , John McDonnell, has correctly described the Immigration Bill as the most racist legislation he has seen in his twenty years in Parliament.

The Council of Somali Organisations shows the way

Young Somali people

I recently attended an inspiring conference that brought together Somali community organisations with a variety of service providers organised by the Council for Somali Organisations. Many community organisations are unable to overcome the influence of “community leaders” who insist on talking for their “communities”, sometimes in ways that do not reflect the real views, aspirations and feelings of people who they claim to “represent”.

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