Black Lives Matter, so it is time to talk about colourism.

The recent murder of George Floyd has raised many questions about the role of celebrities and companies with regards to social justice.

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Colourism is the ‘preferential treatment of lighter-skinned individuals compared with their darker-skinned counterparts’. Whilst people of colour will suffer from institutional racism, darker skin individuals tend to be further discriminated due to how dark their skin colour is. Colourism often happens within Black and South Asian communities amongst others.

For the last decades, many beauty companies have managed to monetise the cultural desire for fair skin. In India, skin lightening sales are very lucrative, with biggest brand Fair & Lovely earning $500 over million in 2019. In Nigeria, the WHO claims that 77% of women use skin lightening creams.

These beauty companies are endorsed by many Bollywood actors including Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone who have both featured in skin lightening campaigns in India and across the world. In 2018, model Blac Chyna also went to Nigeria to promote Whitenicious, another skin lightening cream. Skin lightening across the Asian and African continents has been normalised to the point where advancement in life are dependent on skin tone, especially for women.

The #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) movement sparked numerous conversations about skin colour and the role of celebrities and companies with regards to social justice. Many have come out in support of BLM but have in return been criticised for their hypocrisy. Both Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone posted their support to BLM on social media, and yet have been part of skin lightening campaigns. Unilever has recently recognised the damage of their ‘Fair & Lovely’ branding and said they would drop the word ‘fair’ from their product, but not the product.

Skin lightening is the result of centuries of colourism and racism. Across the Asian and African continents, it comes from a dated belief that fairness equals value, ingrained in both the caste system and colonisation. When celebrities and companies endorse or create products that serve these dangerous assumptions, they perpetuate the problem, ultimately profiting from colourism and thus racism.

In the last few weeks, we have learnt that it is not enough to be ‘not racist’. We must actively try to be anti-racist  and celebrities like Priyanka Chopra or companies like Unilever must act on the destructive products they are endorsing.

Evidently, whilst celebrities and companies perpetuate colourism, they are not the only culprits. Colourism does not only manifest itself in skin lightening, and stopping the sale of Fair & Lovely products alone, cannot solve the issue. In the UK, many of these products are actually banned but valuing fair skin can still be seen amongst our BAME communities.

As stated by Media Diversified, colourism is seen “daily whether through employment prospects, potential marriage partners or abusive treatment by family members and friends. For the diaspora, the mass of South Asian immigrants that have found themselves stretched out across the world, the closer you are to the default whiteness the easier it is to assimilate into the default which, in the long-term, means success”. It can manifest itself in a simple ‘do not stay in the sun too long’ comment.  In the dating world, it can be a filter,  for example shaadi.com‘s filter for ‘fair skin’ spouses (which it has now removed).

Colourism has severe impacts on society, but it also has huge consequences on people who, having repeatedly experienced micro-aggression, start believing that their worth is ultimately linked to their skin colour.

In light of the George Floyd murder, it is important that people of colour whether Blac Chyna, Priyanka Chopra, our families or ourselves question proximity to whiteness, and the negative stereotypes we might have, based on skin colour. These very stereotypes perpetuate anti-dark skin, anti-blackness within our communities. When we validate lighter skin, we validate white supremacy.

It is important that, collectively, people of colour reflect and remain critical of the bias they might have towards skin colour. As people who have collectively suffered from oppression, it is important to use these experiences to empathise, support and uphold black voices. Supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement is not just a hashtag. It involves defying the assumption we have on dark skin or blackness in an attempt to be anti-racist everyday.

At JAN Trust, we have supported marginalised women for over 30 years. Our programmes have helped Black, Asian and minority ethnicity women find a network of support, founded on empathy, understanding and openness. Our work empowering these women often starts with dismantling the racism and oppression they have been subjected to, but we continue to fight for racial justice for all.

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How do we stop marginalised communities being seen as the ‘other’?

How do we overcome divisions and perpetuated marginalisation?

Marginalised communities (including, but not restricted to, BAMER communities) are often seen as the ‘other’. Individuals are seen as fundamentally separate from the mainstream or majority of society. Reasons for this vary, depending on the person involved. Some may find it emotionally difficult to think of themselves losing everything and fearing for their lives, as many refugees do. Others may find it hard to imagine how different life may be in a less fortunate position. It is easier for one person to see disadvantaged groups as ‘other’ or completely different than to imagine being in that situation, or consider what that person might be doing to perpetuate such division.

A major factor in the division between majority and minority, marginalised and empowered, is the perpetuation of stereotypes, and the idea of difference as being negative. It is inevitable that not all areas are diverse. It is not inevitable that we perpetuate such division, or simply watch it happen. When we do not interact with certain groups of people, we cannot really learn about them, and so we take our information from what other people say or what we read. The problem with this is that sources often do not come from marginalised or BAMER communities. For example, there are very few journalists from marginalised backgrounds. News articles can easily reflect their personal views, or specific experiences of individual journalists. This can perpetuate unhelpful stereotypes or positions of power. People are naturally suspicious of the unknown, and may find it easier to fear something than try to conquer this distrust. This applies to groups of people as well. When this is perpetuated by political leaders and celebrities, it only becomes worse and more ingrained. Islamophobic discourse associating Muslims with terrorism is an example of this. We should speak out against unhelpful generalisations, and promote positive, accurate images of minority communities. Even more than this, we should make conscious efforts to evaluate our perceptions, and how harmful or inaccurate they be.

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It is also easy for people to underestimate the struggles that marginalised groups face. They are often left behind by policies, and indeed often suffer the most from crises or policies that restrict public services. It can be extremely difficult for marginalised and minority communities to access the same education or resources. There is therefore a complete disconnect between their experiences, and the experiences of the non-marginalised. If people do not understand, the easier solution is to use the explanation that these people must just be different. Even if unintended, attitudes towards marginalised and BAMER people can result in “microaggressions” or “microinvalidations”. The former means frequent but individually short negative messages on a particular person’s (minority) characteristics, such as remarks on race. The latter is similar, but refers to concerns or experiences being undermined or denied. One incident alone may have a small impact in the long run. Yet it is never just one incident. The build-up of these incidents reinforces the minority or marginalised position. Every person should be aware of the impact that words can have. Attempts to accommodate or promote the interests of minorities can easily result in patronisation, as the disadvantaged party is addressed as if they were inferior. A more helpful and less insulting approach is empowerment: help marginalised and BAMER people gain the skills and knowledge they may need, whilst take their experiences and beliefs into account.

At JAN Trust, we know how important this is. We encourage, educate, and empower BAMER and marginalised individuals to learn life skills, and learn more about how to tackle issues within their communities. We fight against some of the important issues of our time, such as radicalisation and extremism, FGM, and forced marriage, but we do so through discussion, unity, and engagement with communities, rather than through conflict, patronisation, or imposition. Visit our website for more information.

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End of compassion in immigration policy

The new immigration bill, ending free movement within the EU, may be intended create a ‘high-skill’ economy, but comes at a high cost for the British society.

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On Monday 18th of May, the House of Commons accepted the proposed new immigration bill by 351 votes to 252. Such a development is unfortunate not only for the image the UK is projecting to the world, but also for internal affairs, especially in addition to the on-going crisis that is COVID-19.

The new system in short

The immigration bill proposes a new system for determining who is allowed to make a life in the UK. In accordance with Brexit, it repeals freedom of movement within the EU and classes EU/EEA-citizens as equal to overseas immigrants. This promotes a points-based system for immigration, which pushes for a rather gruesome way of classifying people. Crucially, the bill intentionally denies entry from ‘low-skilled’ workers defined as those who do not have a qualification equal to A-levels. A visa applicant must have a salary over £25,600, unless they are in a particular shortage occupation, in addition to having an adequate level of English. As the bill passed the House of Commons, it will now undergo further parliamentary scrutiny.

Implications of the points-based system

The bill is argued for on the basis that it will create a ‘high-skill’ economy by blocking routes of ‘cheap labour’, as Home Secretary Priti Patel claims, and thus aid the UK on the journey to economic recovery after being severely hit by coronavirus. However, what this means in practice seems quite different: those sectors that have shown up the most during the pandemic are hit the hardest. For example, a sixth of care workers are foreigners, yet their required qualifications and salary level are very unlikely to meet the threshold for a visa. Why is it that we are so happy to show our appreciation for our carers by clapping, but when the workers in those industries happen to be foreign, all that appreciation turns into a narrative of job-stealing immigrants? Furthermore, by now the pandemic should have convinced everyone of the undeniable fact that we are all completely dependent on those very workers, such as cleaning staff, shop workers or refuse collectors, who in the new system are deemed ‘low-skilled’. It is time for us to show appreciation for the brave individuals who work these jobs regardless of their nationality, not merely by a symbolic act, but by compassionate public policy.

End to a lot more than just free movement

Rather ironically, this discriminatory proposal passed the House of Commons during Mental Health Awareness Week the theme of which was kindness. Reducing people from incredibly diverse backgrounds and individual circumstances to points and numbers determining their fate in the UK is quite the opposite of a kind approach. Last week, Mind UK highlighted the importance of kindness in public policy. Indeed, compassion, openness and empathy are more productive starting points for policy. We at JAN Trust have zero tolerance to any kind of discrimination, and recognise the huge efforts of foreign workforce before and during this pandemic. We have been supporting women from the most marginalised communities since 1989, yet clearly, work remains to be done. Many of our services are aimed for women who have migrated from abroad: for example, we offer ESOL-courses, as well as mentoring, advice and guidance in issues of refuge/asylum, immigration, employment, housing and life in the UK just to mention a few. Our experience of supporting hundreds of thousands of women has convinced us of that through community-based integration, everyone is able to reach their full potential.

At the end of the day, we need immigrants – not merely for labour for our economy, but also for an inclusive, diverse and fair society.

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COVID-19 and the Privilege of Productivity

Remote work does not look the same for everyone. The ability to focus is tied to societal privilege on a larger scale.

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Working from home – a blessing and a curse

These past two months, many non-essential workers have had to adapt to working and studying from home to adhere to the government’s social distancing rules. While the government has now urged those who cannot do their job remotely to return to work, many remain in their homes, including university students. Working from home brings with it certain welcome benefits – not having to commute in the morning, for example – yet some still find it extremely challenging. The distractions of home and other family members, lack of a functional workspace as well as the mental distress caused by the pandemic are examples of factors that may result in unproductivity and an absence of motivation. These are all very reasonable and understandable feelings. However, the demands and expectations of productivity from workplaces and universities remain in place, and somehow all of us should keep on top of our work no matter our home environments.

What does productivity have to do with privilege?

Having said the above, it is crucial to note that productivity in isolation is deeply embedded into questions of societal inequality on a wider scale. First of all, the issue of space does not affect everyone to the same extent. Especially ethnic minority households more commonly share a home between multiple generations (read our blog post about intergenerational living here). Many may find themselves distracted with the needs of their family members, making focused work more difficult. A large house with quiet rooms and ergonomic office spaces is a privilege most do not possess, especially those from lower income backgrounds. Working or studying from one’s bed or sofa is common when space is limited, which unfortunately may result in health problems from excessive strain on our muscles and joints.

Furthermore, even if comfortable remote working is possible for some, our key workers including the NHS staff have had to continue working on-site this whole time. Again, questions of inequality are central, as BAMER groups are statistically more affected by the pandemic. Many remote workers have friends and family risking their health working in these key sectors, and numerous households are experiencing personal tragedies due to the virus. Even if one’s friends and family have so far remained healthy, the constant stress of knowing they could fall ill or may not be safe at work is understandably going to negatively affect one’s ability to work productively. Moreover, the economic stress resulting from family members losing their jobs due to the pandemic may also be an inhibiting factor in maintaining focus.

Getting work done despite adverse conditions

The key for productivity is to make sure you are looking after your mental health. There are lots of free resources available to consult if you feel like remote work is taking its toll on you: for instance, Mental Health at Work has compiled a toolkit intended to help you with working from home and maintaining good mental health. It is a good idea to try and maintain some routine in your day, and try calm yourself with some mindfulness or prayer for example. Equally, listening to your body is absolutely crucial. As people in England are now allowed unlimited exercise outside, going for a walk may help you regain focus, and can also be a welcome break from a full house if some time alone is what you crave.

We at JAN Trust recognise the role of inequality, especially to do with ethnicity and race, in the COVID-19 pandemic. Our CEO Sajda Mughal has already highlighted the disproportionate impacts of coronavirus on BAMER communities and called for more support for them. We will continue our work in supporting the most vulnerable communities during and after this pandemic.

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Refugee Week: Imagine Being a Refugee in 2020

This week, for Refugee Week and World Refugee Day, we imagine being a refugee during a pandemic.

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This week marks UK Refugee Week and World Refugee Day (on the 20th). The 2020 theme for Refugee Week is “Imagine”. Imagine a world where no one will be forced to flee their homes. Imagine leaving behind your friends and family for a strange new country in the hopes that you will be safe. Imagine trying to figure out how to survive in a new country where there is no physical danger, but very little government aid you can access. Imagine being uncertain about your new life, and then finding yourself dealing with this in the midst of a pandemic.

No one could have imagined the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, the struggles of many refugees who are living in crowded, deprived conditions, and unable to access healthcare are real. By virtue of their uncertain status and governments’ reluctance to accept more refugees, many refugees are irregular migrants, and do not want to draw undue attention of the authorities by seeking medical attention. The situation is dire for those in camps, where the infected and non-infected must live in close quarters and all use the same facilities. In Calais camps, there is not enough resources to maintain adequate hygiene, and government-provided food goes against religious customs. Government-provided food in Calais is only half of what it was before. It is not hard to imagine how vulnerable these refugees are to COVID-19, on top of their existing disadvantages.

Refugees rely heavily upon charities, as well as government assistance to have enough food and shelter to survive – not to be comfortable, to survive. With the imposition of lockdown, refugees have been largely left in limbo, as helpers cannot meet with them, and they do not have access to the technology required to print forms required by some governments to legally move outside during lockdown. Imagine being forced to leave your home out of fear for your life, finding yourself in a country with customs you do not understand, and losing what may be your only source of support at a time where many are fearing a potentially fatal illness. Refugees face obstacles that most of us would struggle to even imagine.

Imagine a world in which refugees are included and not forgotten in society. At JAN Trust, we try to make this a reality. We provide a supportive environment for BAMER individuals to learn English, and other useful skills, such as IT, life skills, and fashion and design skills. We work to empower the isolated and marginalised, by educating them in a culturally sensitive manner about dangers like online radicalisation. JAN Trust’s work has also come under threat because of COVID-19. If you’d like to help us continue to help those whom society may forget, please donate.

How do you imagine the life of a refugee? Can you think of ways to help refugees? How do you imagine you could make a difference in the lives of isolated individuals? Join the conversation on social media for Refugee Week by using the hashtags #RefugeeWeek2020 and #Imagine.

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Loneliness Awareness Week: the struggles of the isolated and marginalised

On Loneliness Awareness Week, let’s remember the challenges of those for whom this is more than just a campaign.

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This week (15th-19th June) is Loneliness Awareness Week, with a focus on increasing the conversation surrounding loneliness. Participate in this discussion on social media by using the hashtag #LetsTalkLoneliness to remove barriers against discussing our struggles.

During this pandemic, many have found alternate forms of socialising, such as virtual quizzes, or video calls instead of meeting up in person. Many marginalised and isolated members of society do not have the resources or relationships to do so. They may be particularly prone to chronic loneliness or social loneliness, owing to their separation from the rest of society. This has been exacerbated by isolation, where there is even less opportunity to interact with other people. Importantly for these vulnerable members of society, isolation means that they are unable to access important services, and charities are unable to provide assistance. With increasing talk of a “loneliness crisis” and open discussions on mental health, we are seeing strong connections being made between loneliness and mental health problems, most notably depression. If isolated individuals then suffer from poor mental health, it will become even harder to access services and interact meaningfully with society, which will then worsen the loneliness, in a never-ending cycle.

BAME individuals, including our users, are particularly prone to loneliness. Reasons include feeling isolated from society, suffering prejudice and racism, lack of access to services, and a perceived stigma against speaking about this issue. Research suggests that not feeling a sense of belonging or strong connection to their (geographical) communities also plays a major role in increasing loneliness in BAME people. Being isolated or marginalised next to removes the possibility of attaining any real sense of belonging. With the outbreak of the Coronavirus and enforcement of lockdown, many BAME communities are losing out of important sources of support, like foodbanks and other charitable organisations, which are vital in more deprived areas. This, combined with physical isolation and exacerbated stress factors (like family members getting ill, education, or finances) have resulted in a “devastating” decline in the mental health of BAME individuals.

At JAN Trust, we know from our beneficiaries that more and more are struggling with their wellbeing, with increasing cases of depression, in this lockdown period. In difficult times such as these, it is even more important that we do not leave these people behind. The isolated and marginalised members of BAMER communities we help are among those groups most likely to struggle with loneliness that have been mentioned above. We work to empower members of these marginalised communities so that they can reintegrate into society. We must all do more to watch out for those people who do not have the same networks or resources as us, so that they do not also become part of the loneliness crisis, and suffer from poor mental health as a result. This could even just start with starting a conversation with someone with whom you don’t normally speak, volunteering to help someone, or calling out prejudice and hate, to emphasise that everyone belongs in our communities. Charities like ours are crucial resources and sources of aid for many marginalised communities, but we have come under threat from COVID-19 constraints. If you’d like to help us continue to reach out to some of the most isolated members of society, you can donate here.

 

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The anniversary of Grenfell Tower reminds us that BAME lives are still not a priority

On 14th June 2017, the world saw Grenfell Tower engulfed by fires for several hours. The tragic incident took the lives of 72 people. The cladding that caused the entire building to burn down was chosen because it was cheap, but also because it looked good.

On the third anniversary of this tragic event, we remember all the people whose lives have been affected. We now know that despite residents’ constant complaints about fire alarms, the building was not deemed worth prioritising in terms of refurbishment and safety.Grenfell Graphic JT logo

Amongst 72 of the people who lost their lives in the Grenfell fire, more than half had arrived in the UK in 1990. Some were refugees, some had come here for a better life, some were disabled, but none of them had better options. The victims made up 19 nationalities and were predominantly working class, mostly from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, living in a building in one of the wealthiest boroughs in the UK. Despite the wealth of the borough, the cost and appearance of this building was prioritised over the residents’ safety.

When we first wrote about this incident, three years ago, we said ‘it seems like some lives matter more than others’, but sadly, this still rings true today. Despite the Grenfell tragedy, vulnerable Black, Asian and minority lives still seem as though they are not worth prioritising. Just over a month ago, Kayla Williams, a black woman from Peckham, died of Covid-19. She called emergency services, only to be told that she was ‘not a priority’. In the last couple of months, we have seen Covid-19 have a disproportionate effect on BAME communities, and, more recently, we have seen the police murder of George Floyd inspire a surge in Black Lives Matter protests across the world. With the anniversary of Grenfell Tower coming around, we are further reminded that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged will always be the first to suffer from circumstances they have not chosen to be in.

Twenty years ago, Sir Macpherson, responsible for leading the public inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder, defined institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organisation to provide appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”. Looking at Grenfell Tower residents’ complaints about their safety, there was definitely a failure to provide appropriate services.

Since June 2017, an inquiry has been ongoing to determine who is responsible for the incident . Was it the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington, contractors, manufacturers or the ministers who have constantly overseen the ‘weakening of regulations over several decades’?

In 2018, a resident of White City told Gal-dem that ‘when charities go away, and the media goes away, who is left?”. Sadly, charities, especially small BAME charities who support the most vulnerable, are constantly fighting for funds to alleviate the consequences of years of austerity and institutional racism, but we cannot do this alone. It is imperative that the Government recognises the dire effects of not prioritising marginalised Black, Asian and minority lives. We simply cannot have any more Stephen Lawrences, any more Grenfells, and any more Kayla Williams’.

At JAN Trust, we have worked tirelessly, sometimes with little budget, to support women and young people from the most marginalised backgrounds. We have supported people with immigrant heritage, refugees, empowering women to become independent. Our work often starts with undoing the racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia that many of our members have faced, but we are dedicated to supporting the most vulnerable communities including our Black, Asian and minority ethnicity community.

On the anniversary of Grenfell Tower, JAN Trust remembers the 72 victims, their families and all the people who have been affected.

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Britain’s Black Lives Matter

Is the UK racist like the US? Some might say Yes. This does not mean every individual white Brit hates black people – however, it does mean that our institutions, from the education system to criminal justice, uphold some level of white supremacy that puts BIPOC communities at a disadvantage and privileges whiteness.

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The untimely death of George Floyd as a result of horrifying police violence and the subsequent protests all around the world have occupied our news feeds for more than a week. Reactions to these events vary, but one that must be paid attention to is externalising the problem of racism to the US. During the past week, how many times have you heard someone say ‘luckily we do not live in the US, thankfully there’s no such racism here’? This statement is wrong, plain and simple. Some say the UK, like the rest of the Western world, is built on violent oppression of people of colour, especially black people. Recognising this is not enough; we must be actively anti-racist to fight against this systemic oppression.

The UK is not innocent, but it sure is ignorant

Why do people think there exists such a disparity in how the UK and the US treat black people? One of the simple reasons is the inexcusable lack of education about the UK’s colonial history.

 

The national curriculum in England states that pupils should “know and understand the history of these islands as a coherent, chronological narrative, from the earliest times to the present day: how people’s lives have shaped this nation and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world”. The vagueness leads to there being no uniform pressure to teach children about imperialism, anti-colonial movements, immigration from the former colonies et cetera, leaving young people oblivious to such central aspects of British and black history. Instead, we witness the outright celebration of Britain’s colonial history, rooted in misunderstanding and, frankly, racism. The very concept of race was constructed by colonialists, as was the idea of racial hierarchy. As Maya Goodfellow argues in her article, this fact in itself is enough to dismantle the ideas of firstly, the existence of historically ‘White Britain’, and secondly, that racism would not be historically embedded in the structures of the present-day UK.

So why does any of this matter? In short, because the collective ignorance resulting from inadequate history curriculums breeds bigotry, overt and covert racism. The ignorance fostered from the early levels of our education lets racism reside freely in our minds and actions that we still ever so quickly label ‘not-racist’ just to shield ourselves from criticism and accountability. All of this is institutional racism at work.

Institutional racism in action                     

We cannot deny that there is no racism in the British system. The profiling of ethnic minorities, especially black people, is immense. In England and Wales, black people are 40 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched, young black people are 9 times more likely to be jailed than young white people, BAME groups are approximately 1.5 times more likely to be jailed for drug offences, and the percentage of black people in prison is higher than the corresponding figure in the US. Beyond targeting, police brutality is a problem in the UK too. Since the 1990s, more than 1,700 people have died in police custody or otherwise following the contact with the police in England and Wales. These numbers are unforgivably high, yet the last time a police officer was convicted for death in custody was in 1969.

Recently, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the structural racism in the UK’s healthcare system. Research shows that BAME groups are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – however, the release of Public Health England’s review on the topic was first delayed allegedly because of the current situation unravelling in the US. Once published, it appeared that the government had held back a key section analysing the role of discrimination in driving disparities of the impacts of Covid-19. Not only were BAME people disproportionately dying from Covid-19, they are also disproportionately fined under coronavirus restriction laws.

There is so much more to structural racism than what has been mentioned above, and the majority of its effects are not even recorded. It is vital we do not forget the injustices faced by those individuals that have been killed in the violent manifestations of the UK’s institutional racism. Here are only a fraction of them, remember their names:

Jimmy Mubenga

Sean Rigg

Belly Mujinga

Naomi Hersi

Sarah Reed

Sheku Bayoh

Mark Duggan

Christopher Alder

Cynthia Jarrett

Joy Gardner

Stephen Lawrence

Edson De Costa

Rashan Charles

At JAN Trust, we stand firmly against all racism in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We have been supporting the most marginalised communities in the UK since 1989, yet clearly even after three decades, anti-racist work remains to be done.

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Who is falling through the cracks? What COVID-19 is teaching us about BAME communities in the UK

We know that in times of crisis be it environmental, health or otherwise, the most marginalised and poorest people in our society suffer the most. People fall through the cracks. This is the case not only during the crisis, but also during the period of recovery. So not only are these people most vulnerable to being affected, they are also the last to be helped.

And even when help is allocated, it often comes about in a way that leaves room for people to fall through the cracks yet again.

An example of this is the economic rescue package offered up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in the March 2020 budget. Many people, disproportionately ethnic minorities, will not be covered by this package. They will not be covered by the wage-support scheme because they will have been fired or they will earn too little to be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. ‘Means-tested Universal Credit’ benefits criteria has a two-child limit, eliminating large families, and many will not benefit from mortgage-holiday packages as landlords are failing to pass these holidays on to tenants.

This is indicative of the way ethnic minorities are pushed aside in our society:  invalidated, and once given the illusion of being listened to, are given a once-size-fits-all treatment that inevitably leads to more cleavages later. They are silenced, only to be thrown a humorously small bone every so often, for the sake of a good press release.

When it comes to COVID-19, the Runnymede Trust, a leading national race equality think tank has highlighted that the effects on the BAME community in the UK could last a generation.

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected BAME communities, with 109 front-line staff who have now died of coronavirus. The Jewish community is just one of the communities that has been affected by coronavirus, with 458 out of 264,000 Jews dying due to the virus. COVID-19 has also affected BAMER communities in other ways too.

Final grades and predictions for students taking GCSEs, AS and A levels this year will be based on teacher assessments and prior attainment work. In an open letter, Runnymede laid down concrete evidence from Dr Gill Wyness that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to have their final grades under-predicted. Professor David Gillborn et al. shows that ‘teachers’ expectations of black students and their working-class peers tend to be systematically lower than warranted by their performance in class’.

The implications of this are two-fold. First, the fact that we necessitate external examiners shines a light on subconscious racist tendencies that have been proven to exist in our society’s psychological thought patterns. More practically speaking, this means an entire graduating class will lose out on grades, university places, and quite possibly jobs they deserve. Social mobility, the ability for a person to move up social strata, being already too stagnant for ethnic minorities, will stall even more.

Frustratingly, BAME charities that exist to catch the very people falling through the cracks are questioning whether they will survive COVID-19 financially. With the focus falling on much larger charities and donors pulling out, the number of these charities may decrease despite demand for them increasing.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequalities that exist in our society. Now more than ever, we are seeing just how expendable people consider BAME lives. This becomes even more salient when we consider how BAME healthcare professionals are literally dying at a faster rate than white professionals.

Labour’s review into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities is an attempt to magnify these issues, albeit an unsatisfactory one to many.

For starters, Trevor Phillips is playing a prominent role. As former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Phillips is a suitable candidate on paper, but his lack of trust within the BAME community says otherwise. This is most notable among black British women and BAME healthcare professionals, two communities that have written open letters speaking out against Mr. Phillips’ credibility and record of discarding issues of structural racism in the UK.

The Ubele Project highlights that the government review is only seeking out answers to the current pandemic and its short-term consequences on the BAME community rather than the much broader, significant realities of BAME lives in the UK. They are urging for an independent public inquiry so as to not return to the largely unequal status quo.

This is a time to recognise that our current society values certain lives over others, question why and in what ways, and make changes for the future.

JAN Trust works to empower BAMER women, and we are supporting women through this pandemic but we need funding to do this. JAN Trust’s Patron Baroness Lawrence is leading on the enquiry into the effect of COVID-19 on the pandemic. We are proud to have Baroness  Lawrence supporting our work, and hope that the inquiry shows the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on the BAMER community. To find out more about our work, visit http://www.jantrust.org.

Posted in BAME, discrimination, Diversity, Education, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, Hate Crime, JAN Trust, Racism, Representation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

Deaths of NHS staff are disproportionately those from BAME backgrounds

NHS staff picture

 

The UK proudly houses some of the highest numbers of foreign-born doctors and nurses working for our NHS. According to a parliamentary report from July 2019, around 13.1% of NHS staff are non-British, the nationalities of these staff are wide-ranging with up to 200 nationalities being included.

Nationality picture - NHS blog

As a result of the COVID 19 crisis, the UK government is being urged to further investigate the disproportionate number of deaths of medical professionals and key workers from BAME backgrounds. With statistics proving BAME individuals  four times as likely to die from coronavirus as their white counterparts with official UK figures confirming the death of 109 BAME front-line health staff who have now died of coronavirus.

The lack of sufficient PPE equipment and clothing for those on the NHS frontline has been widely reported with Downing Street accused of failing to handle the pandemic or equipping hospital staff sufficiently or safely. This has partially been a result of the healthcare cuts and creeping privatisation the NHS has fallen victim to over the last decade. As well as this, the failure to risk assess employees who are already vulnerable due to age and underlying health conditions has resulted in the avoidable extra risk of continued work on the frontline.

The virus has previously been referred to as ‘non-discriminating’ in its severity of impact for those whom it infects. This has been proven to not be entirely true as figures have shown higher death rates in BAME communities with BAME patients up to 17% more likely to die. With a large proportion of key workers on the frontline being from BAME backgrounds, this requires drastic attention.

During a time like this, it is important to remember and mourn all who have lost their lives in the fight against this pandemic. We can only hope that further investigation will allow us to analyse the root failures and help stop this from happening again in the future.

If you’re interested….

Read JAN Trust’s blog post from March on the increased risk of infection BAME families face as a result of multigenerational living allowing the virus to transmit to vulnerable members of the family at home.

Also, check out this video and poem ‘You clap for me now’ by Sachini Imbuldeniya, which highlights and calls for an end to the discriminatory abuse experienced by thousands of BAME individuals at work, whilst simultaneously highlighting the key roles migrant workers play in our NHS.

Posted in BAME, british, Campaign, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities | Tagged