Dear White People: Join Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality

As Membership Secretary for LDCRE, it’s my job to get you to join LDCRE. If you just needed that reminder then click here – and welcome to the campaign!

I should write something more.

As Roderick Lynch, first Chair of LDCRE and a key driver behind the campaign, is prone to saying – the clue is in the name. We are not simply an SAO for members from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds – we are the SAO for members that want to Campaign for Race Equality. Of ALL creeds and colours, and every background.

But I look at the membership of the party, and I look at the membership of the campaign – and I see a big gap. This is a problem: yes, people of all ethnicities should be able to find a home in the LDCRE community, but we need the white majority in the Liberal Democrats to join us in demanding racial justice – to signal to the party that this is a priority, that the membership cares about it, and that we want to see action.

As part of that, I ask if maybe a lot of white members are experiencing the same apprehension I did before clicking that button (this button here). Maybe we’re in the wrong place – is it right for me to join LDCRE? Isn’t it for BAME people (can I use BAME still?) – should I be signing up as a member, with voting rights and equal status with the people the campaign is “meant” to be for?

I remember, back from my very first conference in 2018, standing near the LDCRE booth – knowing I wanted to do something about racism (no clue what to do, mind) but feeling like I shouldn’t be.. bothering them? Surely LDCRE membership would be reserved for those with brown skin – right?

I raised this with Janice Turner, who has been a tireless campaigner for race equality in the party, the first time I spoke to her (after joining – I was brave). She was kind, but it was as if I’d told her I couldn’t add numbers together. “How could you justify leaving the fight for racial justice to just the victims of racism?” she said (well, I’m paraphrasing, I don’t remember exactly what she said).

But that was me told.

That’s one of the great things about LDCRE – if you don’t know what you should be doing, just muck in – and listen. For example, while helping with the website, Nadya Fadih-Phoenix’s article taught me about intersectionality and the importance of visibility; by doing some video editing of Cllr Rabina Khan’s radio interview I got to learn about the whitewashing of our history.

(oh, and if you have any skills to offer, please do!)

But none of this answers the question – why did I want to get involved, to join LDCRE? Okay, one last story.

One of my best friends growing up was also my neighbour; he had an NES, and I always wanted to play on it. We played “kerbie” in the street, and came up with mad schemes for things we were going to build when we were older.

I introduced him to one of my other best friends, who lived around the corner. He had a SNES, and I always wanted to play on it. But he never wanted to play with me and my neighbour – and he was clearly conflicted about me wanting to. Probably had something to do with video games.

It took me years to piece together the link between the racist jokes that second, white, friend often told me (apparently learned from his family), and the fact that my neighbour was black. That my white friend didn’t want to play with him because he was black. In my young naivety (and enabled by my white privilege) I didn’t put the two together at the time.

Racism is entwined in our everyday; it’s subtle, not something most white people notice unless they’re listening for it. But once you hear it, you notice it. Realisation by horrible realisation, you can piece together a crescendo of injustice – and you realise just how long it’s been going on for. You are awakened to it, and it’s deafening.

I’m no longer in touch with either of those friends – the latter moved away, and the former.. just drifted away. Probably mostly life stuff. But from that memory I know that racism isn’t innate – it’s taught, it’s passed around, it’s reinforced. It’s a horrendous heirloom. It must be eradicated.

Do you agree? Then join LDCRE today.

Welcome to the campaign.

* James Belchamber is Chair of South West Birmingham Liberal Democrats and runs the Lib Dem Digital forum.

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20 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 28th Jun '21 - 5:15pm

    I believe that there should be no racial discrimination and that no one should be disadvantaged or denied opportunities due to their race. Unfortunately, it appears that the BBC is allowed to offer positions for which white people are barred from applying. I do not believe we will ever succeed in achieving racial equality if we use racial discrimination as one of the tools in the attempt to achieve it.

  • Graham Jeffs 28th Jun '21 - 6:01pm

    Good article James.

    Sadly the point that Brad Barrows makes mirrors the injustice of allocating jobs based on the sex of the applicant rather than their ability.

    We should be campaigning to ensure that people, regardless of their colour, sex or creed are all treated equally. Anything less is replacing one injustice with another.

  • Rory Roberson 28th Jun '21 - 8:36pm

    It might be worth saying what LDCRE is at the top of the article. Having to follow a link to find out what you are talking about isn’t great.

  • Graham Jeff’s. Is your response to the century old problem of racism to say simply that we should all be non-racist or ‘colour blind’? Surely that would allow historical inequalities to continue into the future without attempting to rebalance the system and deny people there daily lived experiences of covert racism? To address racism you need anti-racist policies do you not?

  • Simon Frankau 29th Jun '21 - 12:35am

    As a white man who sees racism, and would like to help stop it, but doesn’t know how to help, this message is helpful to me. It’s good to hear that I can sign up to CRE and have the opportunity to respectfully listen and learn, and that my action will be interpreted in the spirit it’s intended.

    Whether well-founded or not, there’s a fear that joining as a non-minority will stomp on minority voices, or be seen as such. The risk is that this denies building allies – surely I should be using my privilege for some good? This message helps counter that fear of getting involved.

    Anyway, now that I’ve said “thank you” for the post, I’ll be signing up for CRE and hopefully start listening and learning.

  • David Evershed 29th Jun '21 - 1:44am

    Is it racist to assume that racism only exists in white people?

  • Simon McGrath 29th Jun '21 - 9:00am

    James is absolutely right to encourage all Party members to back LDCRE. It is doing a good job.

  • Helen Dudden 29th Jun '21 - 9:25am

    Hello I’m a white woman, not strictly white but my skin is sort of a pink colour, disabled, and I practise the Jewish religion.

    My main issue is the disability, not well received in most needs.

  • Alexandrine Kantor 29th Jun '21 - 9:26am

    All diverse groups are essential, but tribalism is not a great look. I also, as a White person, think diverse groups need to be led by Diverse voices with the support of White allies. Not the other way around.
    Us, Whites, need to sit back and listen.

  • William Wallace 29th Jun '21 - 10:07am

    If you’re interested in reading about underlying bias in English/British history, Sathnam Sanghera’s recent book, ‘Empireland’, is excellent: a British-born Sikh, discovering how little he has taught in school about the Indian dimension (and other imperial aspects) of our history, and how wee need to include these.

  • As a member (directly elected) of the Federal Board as well as (ex officio) of the English Candidates Committee I have been ploughing what felt like a lonely furrow attempting to get the Federal and English Parties to implement the Rooney Rule. So far the controversy has been mainly behind the scenes with claim and counterclaim about what the law allows and what the law actually is. Undoubtedly a wing of the party does not want the Rooney Rule implemented. LDCRE can hardly claim to have noisily championed the Rooney Rule cause: if it has actively supported implementation it is a well kept secret. By contrast the grassroots Black Lives Action Committee (BLAC) has been enthusiastic: it has organised an appeal on the issue by no fewer than 18 appellants. So I am intrigued by Roderick Lynch’s claim that LDCRE “are currently looking at how the Rooney Rule can be implemented by the party” and “we can only do the above in partnership with the party and the federal apparatus”. What is LDCRE doing in partnership with the party and Federal apparatus about the Rooney Rule? Why can’t it act as an independent body?

  • Julliet Makhapila 29th Jun '21 - 3:54pm

    @James Perharps you ought to reflect why issues of inclusion have had poor performance in our Party. In doing so you will be able to understand many issues.

    Our work in Blac Lib dem voice should never be mixed up with what our focus is or your focus. Help understand our work and you will soon realise what our focus draws us upon.

    In other areas , on diversity and inclusion issues your work is well captured within the process we have in Lib Dems and as the Lead diversity and inclusion champion for London efforts are being made within London Region Executive to support every area of development needed.

    The issues are known and identified upon John Alderdice reports and Dorothy Thornhill and Lib -dems want good solutions. Lack of working with any groups because of any kind of Biasness is unacceptable and needs good training and even for leaders elected. If speaking on issues of inclusion and diversity that responsibility needs to reflect on any Microagression that any ethnic minorities Communities and anyone has had over the years and lived experiences stories. As we reflect on way forward and narture solutions for the Party , help to support all the party groups and understand the issues. Am sure ethnic minorities can account for there experiences and your focus should be on helping etc . Within the Blac Group we will highlight barriers faced by Africans and Caribeans. Can we also again thank any support that comes forward to enhance the issues of inclusion and diversity.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 29th Jun '21 - 10:20pm

    EDITORIAL NOTE – it is seldom that I have to “read the Riot Act” to a number of participants in a thread, but I am afraid to note that I just have. It seems that a simple article seeking to recruit members to an SAO has become a substitute venue for behaviour that is wholly in breach of our comments policy.

    I have, as a result, been obliged to take a hatchet to the comments thread and apologise to readers who may find what is left somewhat disjointed.

    Accordingly, I am closing the comments thread with immediate effect, as the effort required to moderate it simply isn’t worthwhile.

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