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Race Equality and the Black Experience in 2017 – the current debate

Ade-house of commons
Was at the House of Commons yesterday to take part in this debate.  this is my presentation.
Inequality remains a problem in the United Kingdom, especially for black people.
There is a still a penalty for being black, there is a penalty in stop and search, in health, in education, in the criminal justice system and in dealing with people with learning difficulties, there is an ethnic pay penalty and a penalty in doing business.

The government needs to tackle inequality!  This country will not be a better place when inequality is still glaring, and our younger people are not getting the jobs that they are ordinarily qualified for even when they go on to higher education.  Without true equality, the country will be unstable in a way that will affect community integration and social cohesion.

A more equal society will put the country back in better balance and will promote the equity that breeds more prosperity and the environment that engenders prosperity and the contribution to the wealth creation effort and more fairness in the distribution of wealth in this first world country.

We have certainly come a long way from those days of open discrimination, but there is still urgent work to be done by black people to keep up with the protest and campaign against racial discrimination.

We need to push for positive action now that our proportion of the population is growing.  It is no longer less than the 1% that it was in the 1970s when we pushed for the Race Relations Act 1976 to be passed.
Over the past 40 years, a lot of work has been done but we cannot afford to be complacent now that there are over 2 million black people and in some local area almost 50% of residents.

The black population is expected to reach over 10% of the working population in the next 10 years and yet black people continue to be discriminated against in workforce.  This is the time when the government must lead the way in implementing targets for the recruitment and progression of black people in their employment.  The question that needs asking is why were those targets that were promised in the Home Office stopped?  Were those targets dropped after an evaluation or was race no longer the flavour of the month. My answer is that let us bring the targets back; the targets may look symbolic but they may yet prove effective for the benefit of the black population, because other departments and other establishments may just follow that desirable example!!

Black people still have problems in business; their aspirations are sometimes impeded, they are still excluded from networks that could result in beneficial contracts.   Years back when they were mainly involved in personal services, food, clothing, music, entertainment, personal grooming, they served a mainly captive ethnic community and market, but this generation of young black people are interested in creating and running high-value business, they are up there in the digital and knowledge economy and yet they cannot get the contracts that will turn them into growth businesses.  They are frozen out because the public sector is only interested in working with big businesses preferring to bundle contracts instead of offering them in smaller lots so that small businesses, despite their size, can compete more fairly in the tenders.
The public service delivery conglomerates are cleaning up all the contracts even those that should be delivered by the smaller black businesses and I wonder what really happened when the government decided to open up contracts during the Olympics.  Did black businesses really benefit from contracts or was it all just a window dressing exercise.  The talking must cease and just as the government has committed to allocating 25% of contracts to SMEs, this is perhaps that time to also commit to offering enforceable 10% to black businesses, the set-asides that infused new blood into small black businesses in America and gave them a chance to survive and grow.  That is the only way that we can open the marketing networks so that we can get a fairer look in for people who are disadvantaged.

Voluntary codes will not make for a fairer society and we cannot always rely on the enlightened self interest of larger businesses to employ more black people and to help more black businesses.  We can be more effective through legislation that is why we have the law, and that is why political representation is so so important in the scheme of forging equality.  Voluntary codes did not work well but the race relations act worked.  I wish that the amended Race Relations Act had been given a chance before the abolishing the Commission for Race Equality.

Therefore we need to increase our political leadership and it is even more important why we must support our black politicians.  We need to be training the next Diana Abbots and Chuka Umunas, the David Lammys and the Dawn Butlers, the Kate Osamors and Marsha de Codivas.  We need to ensure that they are valued by their parties and deserving of promotion.
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We need to start supporting our black councillors so that they are not at risk of being recycled based on the whims of party whips and selection panels.  We need to start organising our youth and helping them become political activists so that when the time comes it will be easier to pass on the mantle to them.

But how do we support our councillors if they are not willing to caucus; is it because they also face the divide and rule politics of discrimination.  Let us provide them with information about their constituencies and even more information about what is going on in different sectors of life so that when they go into the chambers to cast their votes, when they are approached by their constituents with problems that they face, they are bolder to steer their councils to implement policies that the people want.

If only we can get them to ask the right questions of their colleagues we may be finding lasting solutions to this issue of racial discrimination and perhaps design better programmes in health, in housing, in education, in the criminal justice system, in employment and business and leisure and sports and entertainment.

Perhaps we do need a website that will tell us about the inequalities. that is important.  but what is really really vital is a site that will provide our politicians with the necessary information, allow them to discuss issues so that they are bolder to effect change.

That is my challenge to black politicians because it is only through their efforts that we will have a fairer and less discriminatory society

Ade Sawyerr London November 2017

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The Matters Arising blog is a collection of thought-provoking, thought-leadership pieces sprinkled with some blue-sky thinking on pertinent issues affecting African communities both in the diaspora and at home. It includes articles on culture, politics, social and economic advancement, diversity and inclusion, community cohesion topics. It is also a repository of the political history of Ghana, traditions of the Gadagme people of Ghana, and the Pan-African politics of Kwame Nkrumah. Read, enjoy, like, share, and join!


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