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'We must avoid divisive policies'

SPLIT: Boris Johnson speaks to a crowd as he supports the Vote Leave campaign ahead of 2016’s EU referendum

THE WHOLE Windrush citizenship debacle is a reminder for many people of colour that institutional and structural racism remains prevalent in Britain today.

In one breath, they now talk about the rights of those from the Caribbean (despite removing a key protection from the statute books in 2014 and ignoring their pleas for help thus far).

In the next breath, they doggedly talk of a ‘hard Brexit’ and restoring this great island to its former glory – but what glory is this? The British Empire? Colonialism? Slavery?

No, thanks if it involves mass exploitation, criminalisation, incarceration and racial inequality.
How about we start with “let’s make England more fair and equal” instead?

I’m fortunate that my parents were born in England, but also because I’m able to authenticate my own citizenship with a birth certificate, passport, etc. However, I’m aware of people from my community who have been less fortunate and been left unemployed, isolated and traumatised.

RHETORIC
All this talk of ‘hostile environments’ makes me wonder if the present government cares that Britain can already be a hostile environment for anyone who is from an ethnic minority group.

Recent public examples of hostility include the infamous vans telling illegal immigrants to “go home” in 2013 (provoking racial incidents in the street); the divisive rhetoric in the EU referendum vote used by Leave campaigners (which is now the norm in mainstream politics); the significant rise in race-related hate crimes and violent incidents; the rise of far-right extremist groups; the disproportionate representation of ethnic minority people in the mental health and criminal justice systems; the lack of support for the Grenfell Tower victims (who are mainly non-white); the torrent/severity of racial abuse Diane Abbott receives on social media.

I’m pleased that British Association of Social Workers (BASW) endorses a zero-tolerance position to all forms of hate crime.

Divisive policies and stereotypical negative media cover- age can often perpetuate negative outcomes for different ethnic/cultural groups.

This has a direct impact personally and professionally for ethnic minority social workers, managers, service users and communities and affects how they are perceived every day.

These influences can manifest themselves differently and lead us all to question who is ‘deserving’, British/English ‘enough’, normal, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – which ultimately encourages labelling and unethical decision making.

As social work practitioners from a cross-section of society, we should recognise our human tendency to prejudge certain people/groups and the subjectivity of this. I believe through reflective practice we can better understand the journeys of the people we work with and appreciate what might affect them.

Whatever happened to the rhetoric language of yesteryear such as: ‘multiculturalism’, ‘anti-oppressive practice’, ‘positive discrimination’ and ‘respecting cultural diversity’?

It may all sound a bit outdated, but I think we need to realign ourselves with these ideologies to promote unity and integration.

Otherwise, surely our country will go backwards, and future generations will have to re-live the problems of past generations.

The system is broken – we need to fix it.

Let’s step away from these divisive policies and recapture the essence of multiculturalism. It’s a big challenge, but the first step to making progress is recognising the problem – racism has evolved.

Wayne Reid is a professional officer at the BASW.

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