VISION: The legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. has inspired a new campaign
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode? (Langston Hughes 1951)
Dr Martin Luther King shared his dream of a world where discrimination did not exist, a world of equal chances and opportunity.
Fifty years later, BARAC UK is asking how far have we come, are we there yet?
The answer to many black people living in the UK and those in the USA where Dr King’s speech was made, is painfully obvious. While on the surface it would seem that progress has been made over the past half century; we don’t have to look very far to recognise that discrimination has not gone away and, in fact, is increasing. Dr King said: “The inseparable twin of racial injustice is economic injustice.”
We are in the midst of an economic crisis where black people are blamed and scapegoated by the far right and racists for the lack of jobs and housing instead of looking at the real reasons – the Con-Dem coalition’s agenda. It is an agenda that includes getting the poorest in society, who are disproportionately black, to pay for a crisis they did not cause. We have a government that tells us we have no right to embrace our own cultures, that multiculturalism is dead. This government is proposing a weakening of our protection in law while making severe cuts.
There’s a view held by some that British society has for the most part dealt with the issue of racism. But the reality for millions of black Britons of African, Caribbean or Asian descent is quite different. BARAC is concerned that not only are black workers, service users and communities disproportionately impacted by cuts but that race has fallen off the agenda. With only 20 per cent of proposed cuts made to date we have to ask, what will the lives of black people look like when the additional 80 per cent is made? Already there are high rates of unemployment for black people because of job cuts - 1 in 2 young black people are unemployed. If you are black and poor you face a double barrier to accessing university education. Racism is increasing with a growing far right across Europe.
Black communities can expect fewer life chances, lower standards of education, higher unemployment, a lower income and suffer higher rates of mental ill health. We are more likely to be unemployed and, if employed, we are more likely to be paid less on average than white British citizens. We are more likely to suffer ill health and suffer premature death. We are less likely to get access to bank loans and more likely to be in debt. For the most part, the majority of our communities endure higher and increasing rates of child poverty and higher rates of crime. We are more likely to be over policed as law-abiding citizens and under policed as victims of crime. Racial and religious profiling in policing has become the norm. As a result we are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system, more likely to go to jail rather than university, and more likely to live in sub-standard housing or become homeless.
The effects of racism and religious discrimination are both economic and social. Economic injustice is now the primary effect of racial discrimination. The reality of our situation is that we hand to our children worse prospects than what was handed to us by our parents.
BARAC is launching a new campaign for 2013 marking the 50th anniversary, ‘MLK50; Equality In Our Lifetime’. We believe we have fought long and hard enough to bring about equality; equality should not be an aspiration for future generations, we are entitled to equal rights now. We are planning a national dialogue about race and racism, with the aim of putting race back on the agenda and challenging the discrimination we face.
We are planning a programme of activities during the year which include a march on Westminster on August 31 for jobs and justice and a national conference in Manchester bringing together a wide range of black and anti-racist organisations which have already signed up to the campaign.
We are inviting organisations and individuals that want to play a part to join the national coordinating committee as well as organising events and activities on the theme.
At our first coordinating meeting in Parliament in February there was great enthusiasm from those that attended for the march and conference as well as a black Question Time event and televised debates on the theme. Leading actor Vas Blackwood and television presenter and journalist joined representatives from trade unions and community organisations to support the campaign.
■ There will be a public launch in Parliament 6 - 8pm on March 11 with speakers from BARAC, Race 4 Justice, Black Men In the Community, Mary Seacole Campaign, Society of Black Lawyers and the Trade Union Movement. To book your place, email: email@example.com with ‘mlk50’ in the subject box. You can find out more about the campaign via our website www.blackactivistsrisingagainstcuts.blogspot.com or via twitter @baracuk or Facebook ‘black activists rising against cuts’