MissyLaneyUs Musings

The status of race relations in the UK — has it changed?

I started to research the current social and economic status of the UK black community, in particular those of Caribbean heritage. The query was re-ignited during the pandemic, with much time to consider the status of things. How are my brothers and sisters faring in 2020? Have we made our parents proud by fulfilling their dreams and succeeding, where during their working life, the doors were closed on entry and only exceptions were made?

The pandemic and covid plans highlighted the distrust within the black community of the health service. A study by the University of Manchester found that one third of the Black community was vaccine hesitant in the UK. The research was carried out between December 2020 and April 2021 and compared to the flu vaccine between September 2019 and March 2020. On public discussion boards members of the Greater Manchester community also included experience of racism and appointment hindrance as reason for not taking the vaccine. Has life expectancy and quality of living improved, proportionately for the black community?

In the areas of education, housing, and employment, how do our standards of living compare to other communities? The Conservative government, has announced a levelling up plan, will this benefit, or will it be another policy that has a disproportionate adverse effect on the black community?

These questions and others fall within scope to answer the first question. How are we doing? I want to say good but let me reserve the conclusion and go in search of the facts. I’ll share my findings and you can share your comments and offer other alternatives to what I find.

So far I’ve discovered that we are here, doing our thing. So too, is racism.

The case of Child Q

Racism permeates every corner of the black existence in the UK from birth all the way through to death, our life choices, chances, and expectancy. In the media, the case of Child Q represents another blunder, another damage done, another family in trauma, another child criminalised. Another inequality done to a black person in the UK, more poignantly a young black person. This approach of hindering our future, by limiting our youth’s chances must be changed. When they affect our young it stops our future, the future that includes the chance of a life where freedom of choice is not limited by the colour of your skin.

On the 22nd of April, its Stephen Lawrence day. Stephen Lawrence was a young man whose life was cut short by a gang of white racist men whilst waiting for a bus. Stephen was a bright student with plans for his future. Now we’re talking 1993, nearly 30 years ago. Roll forward to today, 2022 and the community is facing another trauma, this time at the hands of public servants, meant to protect our children. Appalled by the mistreatment, the unfairness, the wrongness.

No one can forget 2020, not least because of the pandemic. We were shown images that many would prefer not to have seen, they were beamed into our living rooms through technology, our phones, TV and internet. For some, it opened old wounds. Some were shown the truth to the lie they had digested, peddled by the media and politicians. Some believed that it was a thing of the past or at least minimal, or that what does exist are only exceptions. Whilst for others, it was their daily lives. For some, it was unimaginable. George Floyd. The world saw the mistreatment of a black man at the hands of police officers, first hand. Black Lives Matters. All across the world, large companies and corporations put forward their senior black professionals, decried the mistreatment and said we will, and are doing better than that. More images of black people appeared in adverts and mainstream TV shows. Collaborations were announced with various groups in the anti-racism space and allyship was offered in the workplace. The UK government commissioned the Sewell Report. A number of boxes were ticked, the masses quietened.

Has the game changed?

Were the racist structures that permitted, or should I say, allowed the possibility for an officer of the law to kneel on another man’s neck or to intrusively strip search a 15-year-old girl, been changed by the BLM and other recent marches? This same story has been played out over the last 50 years. There are countless atrocities enacted upon black citizens of the UK on a daily basis. I hope the reference to citizens will not be overlooked, because that is who we are, citizens. Many born here, in the United Kingdom, whether that be England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. We were, are, and continue to be born here, as black skinned people.

What I’m most concerned with, is how we change this story, for the future?

It’s not enough that the teachers, police officers, school chair of governors, safeguarding officials are sacked. Yes, they are out of that situation, they are out of that job, but the system remains unchanged. The case of child Q calls for systematic change. It calls for a review of the policies to highlight its failures and demand change. That change to include training addressing the attitudes of people who hold a public office, to ensure the appropriate application of the policies and procedures. All our children need protection and safeguarding must be centred around the child’s needs. However, the policy reviews and training should also address the inherent inequality within the system.

An average of 5 children per day are strip-searched by the Met Police. Data released following a FOI request, showed that 5,279 children were searched in the last 3 years. Of which 75% were from non -white backgrounds. These figures only include children strip- searched at a police station after being arrested. They do not include instances like Child Q, that occurred on school premises and was not arrested. The evidence is clear, the policy is being applied disproportionately. The shadow policing minister is on record as stating that “ There’s disproportionality across the board. Clearly there is something at play here we need to fix.” Might I suggest that we call it out for what it is……Racism. The safeguarding report into Child Q, found that racism “ was likely to have been an influencing factor” in the officer’s decision to strip- search her. What about the school’s decision to call the Police? Wasn’t this also racism influencing their decision in the best way to treat Child Q, to protect her and the other children in the school?

School Child Safeguarding Practice and Metropolitan police procedures were followed and failed to protect Child Q. There are various reports on news channels including children and Youth Workers speaking of their experience of stop and search. They tell stories of being strip-searched multiple times in a short number of years. Between the age of 12 years — 30 years old, boys and young black men can expect to be stopped and searched multiple times in their lives. It’s a regular occurrence. One quote was “it’s like brushing your teeth”, this speaks to the regularity of the procedure, such that it second nature. If you live in the inner cities, and in particular sections, some known as ghettos, this is what’s expected. One of the reasons that influenced the decision to remove Child Q from the mock exam, related to where she lived in Hackney. The trend is clear. Our children are disproportionately impacted by these policies, more than their white counterparts.

What change is needed?

A change is needed at the frontline, directed by the top level and government, in these public institutions. The impact of policy on the community is down to the people at the frontline. Customer service 101 — says the customer is always right. Is it still the case for black people in the UK to be the exception to that treatment rule? You can have the best policies and procedures. Well written and covering the loopholes, every I, dotted, every T, crossed. The failure and success [of the policies] rests in the execution and delivery. The responsibility for that delivery is on each and every person in the workplace. The police and teachers were in their place of work, carrying out their duties within the culture of the organisation, led by the Executive team at the top. In our places of work, the policies and procedures are only as effective as the people delivering them. If the culture works to keep a group of people oppressed and not level the playing field, even though some black men and women are Executives of large companies, hoped and worked for by our parents in the 1970s; then true equality has not been achieved.

Frontline staff were the perpetrators in the Child Q and many other racially motivated wrongs carried out by public services. The attitudes of frontline staff are supported by management through the organisation’s culture. If a culture exists where jokes and inappropriate comments are treated as banter or staff bury their heads in the sand rather than call it out, racism is allowed space to flourish and influence the actions of the frontline staff working in the community. What an organisation tolerates is what it becomes. When issues concerning race are raised, how does the organisation react? Do they carry out a review, set up a plan to deal and raise awareness, demonstrating a zero-tolerance approach? Or do they place it in the too hard box because the perpetrator is “important” to operations? These attitudes support the economic and social structures, the structures that limit the black man and woman in the UK. Racism.

The Child Q report made 7 findings and 14 recommendations for improving safeguarding practice in the area. The Metropolitan Police, Independent Officer for Police Conduct and the Department for Education, were all called to make changes to the working practices and work collaboratively to improve the safety of children, in particular, the engagement of an appropriate adult, the grounds for stop and search of children and to raise awareness in schools and colleges of police stop and search activities.

The report’s findings acknowledge that racism was “an influencing factor” in the treatment of child Q. So, what then is the proposal for removing the racial aspect from within the education and police service? This is addressed directly in the last recommendation and speaks to the change: it calls for the local safeguarding team to urgently complete and implement its anti-racist charter and practical guide to eradicate racism, discrimination, and injustice across its working practice. Our workplace is one area where the change can begin. How we relate to each other and what we tolerate, will change if we are more aware of and stand up to the narrative. And by we, I mean all of us, of all colours, as citizens of the UK.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere” is a famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr, written from the jail in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, after he defied a state court injunction and led a march of black protesters without a permit, to boycott white owned stores in April 1963. His letters were smuggled out and published in several leading publications of the time. An extract is below. Words in brackets are for emphasis and relatability to the current times. Has much changed? Really?

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states [cities]. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta [anywhere in the UK] and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham [London]. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

So, let’s continue to challenge the status quo by getting involved and add your voice to others that are seeking, demanding, equality for black people in the UK. How can we do this? To protect our children, we need to be in the education space, as governors or school assistants. Volunteer to assist primary school children with reading, get involved. To create change in the Police service we need to be on their community boards and attend community meetings. To create change in government, your vote counts!! Search out your local councillor and MP, they represent your voice in Parliament.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this read and you can relate. Leave your comments. I look forward to sharing more musings on the status of the UK black community and other commentary.

Stay Blessed

MissyLaneyUs

Petition · Justice for Child Q · Change.org

Petition · No police in UK schools · Change.org

Petition · End The Adultification Of Black Girls And Policing In Our School #ProtectBlackGirls · Change.org

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Missylaneyus

Missylaneyus

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