The recent referendum result has generated a lot of heat, anger and confusion. By voting Leave, the white working classes have taken the opportunity to hit back at a political system that they feel has betrayed them. As Ed Cox of IPPR said: “The people have spoken but in the North they have shouted”. These are people who have long felt ignored and used - most recently to bear the brunt of cuts to services and jobs to get the country out of a recession while those who caused it escaped punishment. One of the many articles written in response to Brexit says: "Westminster may have underestimated how very much it is hated by those to whom mainstream politics have not spoken in generations." In "huge areas of post-industrial decline and neglect" people are "more furious than Cameron and his ilk could possibly understand." The legacy of industrial oppression is alive and well and continuing to ignore it is to continue an injustice.
The article is a bit heat-of-the-moment and, while some of it is questionable, it is still a provocative read. At one point it says: "I want to wake up tomorrow in a country ... where we have dealt like adults with the embarrassing fact that we once conquered half the world, instead of yearning for a time when our glory was stolen from enslaved people a convenient ocean away and large parts of the map were the gentle pink of blood in the water."
The reference to Empire and enslaved people is intentional and interesting. Part of the legacy that MJR is seeking to address is the huge generation of wealth for some on the backs (literally) of the many who comprised the two human engines of the Industrial Revolution: the slaves, and the mill, mine and factory workers. That wealth and the inequality and cruelty behind how it was created became major building blocks of our modern economy and class-conscious society. It will take a lot of work for it to be recognised, let alone addressed, but maybe a window of opportunity has opened.
US lawyer and campaigner Bryan Stevenson contends that slavery in America did not end in 1865 but evolved into lynching, to segregation and to mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. Black men are more than six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men. Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative works on behalf of 3000 children as young as 13 who have been given life sentences without the possibility of parole, and thousands of adults given death sentences.
Are we in the UK much different? Here, despite being 2.8% of the population, 10% of prisoners are black.
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