Read their comments in the newsletter here.
The latest newsletter from Greater Manchester Poverty Action focuses on the recent Social Metrics Commission report which highlights the shocking extent to which certain parts of our community are at much greater risk of poverty. The report found that nearly half of BAME UK households live in poverty and many in deep poverty, and BAME families are between two to three times more likely to be experiencing persistent poverty. Coronavirus has exposed many existing inequalities, making talk of the virus being a great leveller, affecting rich and poor alike as nonsense. GMPA asked several leading figures from Greater Manchester's Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector (VCSE) to comment on the Social Metrics Commission figures and what they mean for the fight against poverty in light of the pandemic.
Read their comments in the newsletter here.
An article and video from US network CNN on the situation of Black nurses in the NHS. One of those interviewed said she feels she's been fighting "two battles at once: Racism and coronavirus". Each of 12 nurses interviewed said they acted without hesitation when faced with the challenge of the Coronavirus virus; each of them was putting their life at increased risk, simply through being Black. Minorities make up about 20% of England's NHS medical workforce, but early analysis shows they have accounted for 60% of healthcare worker deaths due to the virus, according to media reports. One in five of all nurses across England are from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds, but about 95% of executive directors of nursing are white, according to a 2019 report from NHS England. The interviewees speak of higher chances of being put on the front line than white colleagues, and of poor levels of adequate PPE (a survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) showed that "only 43% of BAME nursing staff had enough eye and face protection equipment.") They also speak of a reluctance to complain due to fear of being seen as a trouble-maker or lazy. All evidence of systemic racism in the NHS.
Read the article and watch the video here.
Six weeks on from the widespread public outrage at the murder of George Floyd and the upsurge in support for #BlackLivesMatter, a crisis point has been reached. Will the tipping point leading to real and actual change be reached, or, as so many times in the past, will support ebb away as the news-cycle and headlines move on, and with them, the short-attention span of the public and politicians?
This article by Nesrine Malik, titled "It seems black lives don't matter quite so much, now that we've got to the hard bit" takes a pessimistic view, listing recent actions such as the BBC banning its hosts and presenters from "wearing Black Lives Matter badges because it is seen as an expression of some sort of 'political' opinion" as evidence of a reversion back to as we were. Malik states that protest is easy – the hard part is sustaining the movement after that first adrenalin rush to the point of first realising what real change will cost, systemically and for individuals, and then actually making it happen. Getting past that first hurdle may prove too difficult: "Everyone applauds a movement for social justice until it 'goes too far; – when it starts making 'unreasonable demands' in the service of its 'political agenda'"
"We have a great knack for supporting victims once the injustices are out in the open – when David and Goliath have been clearly identified, and a particularly British sensibility of fair play has been assailed." But... when it comes to the "underlying injustice – to making the links between the deportation and death of a Windrush citizen, the NHS worker impoverished by Home Office fees and unsettled by cruel hostile environment policies, the unelected special adviser breaking lockdown rules, and the political party we keep voting in – we’re not so good."
"The same is now happening with the Black Lives Matter movement. Everyone is on board with the principle, but when it comes to the change that is required, the idealistic passengers the movement picked up along the way suddenly come down with a case of extreme pragmatism. Part of the reason for their belated reluctance is that the course of actual change is unflashy. After the first moment passes, the supportive ally has nothing to show for their continued backing for the cause: there are no public high-fives for your continuing solidarity. You can’t post it, you can’t hashtag it; most of the time you can’t even do it without jeopardising something, whether that’s your income, status, job prospects or even friendships. But the main reason for the ebbing support is that change is just hard."
Read the full article here. And ask: Is this fading away inevitable? How do we keep the momentum going?
'Break the Cycle' is a movement aimed at "generating racial equality in educational leadership". This year its national conference will be online with the theme: "Time for Change: How a Racist Education produces a Racist Culture".
Organiser Steve Chalke explains in this article the need to break the cycle of racism and inequality by "creating an education system that dismantles, rather than reinforces, racism." Referencing the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston, Chalke says that "lasting change has to be more than symbolic; it must become systemic" and that the real question is: "how do we turn this moment into a movement? A movement that serves as the harbinger of genuine transformation? Racism is the complex system of privilege and legacy, advantage and disadvantage, power and poverty. It is explicit and implicit. It is conscious and unconscious. It is the air that we breathe." Chalke believes that education can be "the engine of social and cultural change we long for. I believe that education can be the most potent driver towards equity and true opportunity."
The conference is on Saturday July 18, 10am to 1pm, hosted by Oasis Charitable Trust and sponsored by the Time Educational Supplement. Speakers include Professor Robert Beckford, educator, author and award-winning broadcaster; Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award; Lord Michael Hastings. Tickets are free and can be booked here.
Read more about the Break the Cycle movement here.
In this interview in Relevant magazine actor David Oyelowo says that America won't truly heal of racism until the Church repents of its role in supporting it. The British-born actor who powerfully portrayed Dr Martin Luther King Jr in 2014's Selma, is now resident in the US. Comparing racism between the two countries he says that in America it is "far more overt. To be perfectly frank, I’d rather see my enemy coming at me than them pretending to be my friend, which is a lot more prevalent in the UK." .
As a Christian, Oyelowo speaks of his shock at how quiet the Church has been "in the midst of literally the largest protests this country has ever seen as it pertains to race" and his disgust at the Church’s "lack of energy behind this movement at the moment from a place of repentance". While finding the last few weeks very challenging he is encouraged by seeing "more Christ-like behavior in the streets from protestors who may not even profess to be Christians".
Oyelowo states "there is something wrong in and with America, and the Church is tied into that. For me, nothing would be more incredible than the Church coming together and having a day of repentance — making Juneteenth a day where we as Christians go, 'Dear God, forgive us for the foundational sin on which this country was built. Help us to be better going forward than we have been in the past.'".
Read the full interview here.
This is a Facebook post written by Steve Burton in Leicester. He has given permission for us to reproduce it here.
You’re 31, working in the clothing and textiles industry in Leicester. You live in a small 3-bedroomed terraced house with your wife, two children, your elderly parents and your 28-year old brother. Work is in a small unit in a Victorian factory that used to be a huge engineering works but was split in dozens of ramshackle units back in the 1980s. You are crammed into a tiny space with all the other workers and machines. Health and Safety at work is something for big companies, not for small firms like yours.
The toilets, that you share with two other units, are a disgrace. They are never cleaned, there is no hot water, no soap, no towels. You are expected to bring your own toilet paper, although you are strongly discouraged from any kind of break during the working day – you are expected to do that kind of thing in your own time. In the six years you have worked there, you have seen so many of your fellow workers sacked on the spot, at the bosses whim, so you know better than to even raise the subject, let alone complain about the conditions. Your boss knows he can act with impunity – most workers do not understand the complexity of workplace legislation, and it has been made clear that they face instant dismissal if they join a union.
You earn £4 an hour. Someone told you about a legal minimum wage, but you can’t ask your boss about that because he’d sack you. Your brother works cash-in-hand for a local builder, and you live in constant fear that you’re going to be found out and thrown in jail – not least because you don’t know who would look after your parents. Your wife’s part-time cleaning job has disappeared, and she is not eligible for any government money. You live from pay packet to pay packet, just managing to scape by each week. There is never enough to save, never has been.
Before lockdown, you could take your family to the temple at the weekends, meet up with family and friends, share food, support each other, but you can’t do that in lockdown. You are terrified that you will pick up the virus and take it home to your parents – your mum is diabetic, your dad has never been well since he recovered from TB.
You friends in a richer part of town have been furloughed, which means they are being paid twice as much as you for not going to work. You think your boss is getting furlough money for you too, but you don’t really understand the scheme – you are still working 9 or 10 hours a day for the same pay. When you tried to ask other people about it, you were told that if you don’t like it here, you should go home.
The current spike in Leicester is your fault. Although you stay at home when you’re not working, along with the rest of your family, following the rules as well as you can, it’s your fault. You are to blame. No one has told you what you should be doing differently, or how you would survive if you weren’t working, but never mind all that – you are to blame. It’s all your fault.
This article about the higher death toll from COVID-19 among the descendants of slaves in Brazil illustrates again that countries that took part in the transporting and enslaving of Africans have, as a major legacy, structural racism. And this invariably results in disproportionate negative outcomes for the descendants of those slaves. Brazil forcibly brought some 4 million enslaved Africans into the country over three centuries, more than anywhere else in the Americas. About half its 209 million people are black – the world’s second largest African-descendant population after Nigeria. Though Brazil has never had legalised racial discrimination like Jim Crow, there are deeply embedded race-based inequalities shown in employment discrimination, residential segregation and a 3 year difference in life expectancy between black and white Brazilians (similar to the USA).
Government data does not include racial or ethnic information, and it was only after coming under pressure that the collection of COVID-19 racial data was begun in late April – but has yet to be released. Now outside researchers have shown that 55% of Afro-Brazilian patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 died, compared to 34% of white patients. The research has found that structural racism – in the form of high-risk working conditions, unequal access to health and worse housing conditions – is a major factor shaping Brazil’s COVID-19 pandemic. There is also extreme economic inequality. White women earn up to 74% more than black men.
There are parallels here with data coming out of the UK and USA. Read the full article here.
On Juneteenth, the annual celebration marking the end of American chattel slavery,a powerful and righteously angry theological statement has been released from a collective of Black pastors and theologians to emphatically repudiate white supremacy and anti-Black violence. No punches are pulled in the naming of the "incessant onslaught of anti-Black violence that is the progeny of white racist structural evil" which "constitutes the very fabric of U.S. society" or calling of "the social, moral and political failure of the 45th administration of this nation." A searing summary of 400 years of white violence is followed by a theological assertion that God is on the side of the oppressed (Luke 4:18).
"We reject the white Christ that propels so-called Christians into complicity with white supremacy and bad faith that separates justice from righteousness. We further reject the prevalence of the individualist gospel of white evangelicalism that aims toward the perfection of personal piety and the prosperity gospel that asserts “manifest destiny” and capitalist acquisition as the will of God. We affirm God’s care and option for the poor, the prisoner, the infirm, the immigrant and the persecuted."
Read the full statement here.
On Windrush Day, the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, it has been revealed that the scheme set up in April 2019 to compensate the victims of the Windrush Scandal has, to date, only paid less than 5% of the claimants. It is now over 2 years since the scandal emerged – people who had lived and worked in the UK for many years losing jobs and benefits, and at least 164 held in detention centres, or deported.
Just like before, with having to prove their right to stay in Britain – the Home Office having destroyed landing cards and other records, “the burden is on the claimant to prove financial loss,” said Beri Nwosu, a solicitor and immigration specialist at Hackney Community Law Centre, adding that specific, “scientific” terminology used throughout the form made the application process extremely difficult.
Campaigner Patrick Vernon’s, whose parents were part of the Windrush generation, said: “It’s important that we remember the huge contribution the Windrush generation made to the UK, and Windrush Day helps us to do that. But it’s bittersweet, because the hostile environment policies that led to the scandal are still in place. People are still waiting for compensation and we’re still waiting for action on the Lessons Learned review.”
The application process Vernon says is "re-traumatising people who were traumatised in the first place by losing their homes, their jobs, their access to healthcare as a result of this scandal. We know of five people in the UK who have died in connection with the Windrush scandal, but we still don’t know what has happened to those who were deported to the Caribbean or Africa because the Home Office has made no effort to help. It has severely impacted their quality of life and wellbeing. The form itself was supposed to be simple and accessible, but people are having to employ solicitors to help them complete it which really defeats the object. The process itself is deterring people from even trying to apply.”
Read more here. A petition calling for government action has so far gained over 130,000 signatures. Add yours here.
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