By Barbara Ntumy, Stand up to Racism Co-ordinator
This year’s Black History Month is a poignant reminder of the importance of campaigning against racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. The government’s catastrophic handling of the coronavirus, in failing to take timely measures to eliminate the virus, continues to disproportionately impact Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
Currently in the UK over 20% of confirmed Covid cases and over 30% of people in intensive care are from BAME communities. We need a public inquiry like the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, into the disproportionate impact of the Covid19 crisis, upon BAME communities.
We also need a “zero covid” strategy, as Independent SAGE, the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and others have rightly called for. Although a “circuit breaker” is a welcome step in the right direction, a strategy to stamp out the virus including proper lockdowns, a fully functioning test, track and trace system and crucially proper financial support for including bringing back furlough and support for small businesses, is what is urgently needed.
However the government is failing to implement this. The evidence over the last six months of the Covid crisis shows there is no trade off between health and the economy. The government’s failure to implement a zero covid strategy has cost lives and livelihoods as Richard Burgon MP recently argued.
In order to distract from this disaster of its own making, the government continues to whip up racism towards refugees. Hence recent headlines of using nets to disable dinghies carrying refugees across the English Channel, Home Secretary Priti Patel’s announcement of new legislation on asylum, including the creation of an offshore detention centre for asylum seekers, which contravenes international law, and her attacks on so-called “do-gooder” and “activist lawyers” in her online address to the Conservative Party conference at the end of September and a similar speech earlier in September.
The whipping up of racism by politicians is routinely met with racist attacks on the ground. Days after Patel’s speech at the beginning of September, a violent racist attack occurred in which a man armed with a knife entered a law firm. Lawyers at the firm said: “Responsibility and accountability for this attack, in the eyes of this firm, lies squarely at the feet of Priti Patel..”
Recent figures indicate a staggering increase in racist hate crimes in Britain. Racially motivated offences formed three quarters of all hate crimes and increased by 4,000 in 2019-20 from the previous year. Case workers from the Victim Support charity reported “significant spikes” in June and July, and intimidation of BAME communities with false allegations of flouting rules during lockdown periods.
This is yet another consequence of the Tories whipping up racism to cover up their own failures. During the summer anti-racists accused Conservative politician Craig Whittaker MP for Calder Valley of “blowing the dog whistle” after he wrongly suggested that Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and Muslim communities were not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously and alleged that Covid cases were increasing in areas with BAME communities. Such outrageous, racist and Islamophobic comments have no factual basis but can have serious ramifications on the ground, as illustrated by the recent figures on racist attacks.
The Home Office also suggested that the rise in racist attacks in June and July was a backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM), an echo of the intense struggle in the US between BLM and white supremacy led by Donald Trump, ahead of one of the most decisive US presidential elections in modern history.
With the US election weeks away, the global pandemic, the ignition of BLM by the US police killing Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others, the defeat of neo-Nazi Golden Down in Greece, this year’s Stand up to Racism online conference takes place at a timely moment.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Diane Abbott MP, Dawn Butler MP, Kate Osamor MP, Richard Burgon MP & Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP will be addressing the Stand Up to Racism conference in addition to international speakers including the host and producer of The Real News Network Jacqueline Luqman (US), Thanasis Kampagiannis, anti-fascist lawyer in Golden Dawn trial (Greece) & Martvs Chagas PT National Secretary for Combating Racism (Brazil.) The conference will be streamed live on Stand up to Racism’s YouTube this Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October at 5pm, and you can register here to attend workshops from 3pm.
The above article was originally published here by Labour Outlook.