Open letter to Ed Davey from BLAC Lib Dems

Dear Ed,

As you would expect, BLAC (Black Lives Action Committee) Liberal Democrats strongly rejects the findings of The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report published in March 2021, which has dismissed the concerns of ethnic minorities in relation to institutional racism in Britain. Wera Hobhouse, as the spokesperson for Justice, Women, and Equalities, has spoken on this issue and we welcome her statements. However, Wera responded on behalf of the Party without consulting with Black members, which is all too common in the Party.

The marginalization of Black voices within our Party is a serious concern among our membership. For example, the Party wants to reach Black voters, yet four times BLAC Liberal Democrats have sent its comprehensive pro-Black policy agenda to each of our members of parliament asking for help in transforming its strategic aims into Party Policy. Having had no response to emails, BLAC Liberal Democrats posted the document on a USB to the constituency offices. Still, our policy agenda has been ignored by the Parliamentary Party. In another example, BLAC Liberal Democrats made you aware that earlier this year a White investigator into a complaint of racism allowed White people alone to determine what was, and wasn’t, racist behaviour. This colonial approach is not acceptable within a modern Liberal Democrat Party, and you had promised to investigate. We are anxiously awaiting your response.

There is a willingness by some of the Party leadership to appease Black Liberal Democrats over a brief meet and greet, or to use us in campaigns, yet little is done to engage meaningfully with us and about the issues that matter to Black communities. Black people face this type of marginalization and gaslighting every day, it is the frustration that leads to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

BLAC Liberal Democrats ask the Liberal Democrat Party to publicly acknowledge that for all Britain’s forward movement in promoting racial equality, Black people in Britain today are still disproportionately excluded from social protection systems, economic uplift, and representative democracy while facing shorter lifespans, lower educational attainment in universities, and dramatic over-criminalisation and imprisonment compared to their white counterparts.

BLAC Liberal Democrats further request that the Liberal Democrats promote policies that dismantle old systems and structures that inhibit prosperity and build new ones that will unlock the collective potential of Black people in Britain. This includes reforming broken criminal justice and health systems; increasing access to better-quality education and improving educational outcomes; strengthening access to credit and injecting capital into the Black community; improving both access to housing and the quality of housing; and bold steps toward fulfilling long-broken promises of true equity – as set out here BLAC Policy Agenda

Below is a press statement that we would like the Liberal Democrats press office to put out on behalf of BLAC Liberal Democrats.

Finally, we request that the umbrella categorisation of BAME or BME when writing about ethnic minorities be phased out from all literature produced by the Party. Different minority groups face different challenges and this ‘catch-all’ expression hides many of the issues facing Black communities in particular.

We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Yours,

Cllr. Avril Coelho, Cllr. Alexandrine Kantor, Cllr. Dr. Tumi Hawkins, Cllr. Dr. Y Kumar, Cllr. Rabi Martins, Cllr. William Houngbo, Dr. Pramod Subbaraman, Dr. Tamara Dragadze, Dr. Yeow Poon, Dr. Ian Hopkinson, Oluwaseun Afilaka (Afy), Alhaji Gibrill, Flossy MacDonald, Jacquie Gammon, Julliet Makhapila, Lisa Brett, Marisha Ray, Nancy Jirira, Steven Mather, Stuart Kellett.


Text of Press proposed press release


Freedom, Justice, and Opportunity

PRESS RELEASE 

BLAC Liberal Democrats strongly reject the findings of The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report published in March 2021, which largely dismisses the concerns of minorities in relation to institutional racism in Britain.

BLAC Liberal Democrats ask the government to acknowledge that for all Britain’s forward movement in promoting racial equality, Black people in Britain today are still disproportionately excluded from social protection systems, economic uplift, and representative democracy while facing shorter lifespans, lower educational attainment, and dramatic over-criminalisation and imprisonment compared to their white counterparts.

BLAC Liberal Democrats further call on the government to dismantle old systems and structures that inhibit prosperity and build new ones that will unlock the collective potential of Black people in Britain. This includes reforming broken criminal justice and health systems; increasing access to better-quality education and improving educational outcomes; strengthening access to credit and injecting capital into the Black community; improving both access to housing and the quality of housing; and bold steps toward fulfilling long-broken promises of true equity.

END

 

* Liberal Democrats Black Lives Action Committee (BLAC) aims to support the Liberal Democrat Party to be representative of modern Britain.

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23 Comments

  • BLAC would like to clarify that they are referring to the educational attainment of students at university. At GCSE level there was no longer an attainment gap between Black African students and White British pupils. Nonetheless, Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean continued to be less likely to reach the same level of attainment as White British pupils

  • Brad Barrows 7th Apr '21 - 8:58pm

    There is no doubt that race can also have a significant influence on a person’s life chances but a person’s social class is a larger factor. This does not mean that there is no institutional racism, but it does mean that the effects of the institutional racism are less significant than social class disadvantages in determining a person’s life chances.

  • Simon McGrath 8th Apr '21 - 9:31am

    Given that our MPs have all had huge increases in casework due to the pandemic its hardly surprising they haven’t been able to answer all the e mails they get from members. It would be more concerning if they were ignoring issues raised by the Party’s recognised body – the LDCRE.

    Its not clear why the authors think the HQ Press office should issue press releases for them any more than they would for anyone else. What is stopping the BLAC LDs doing this themselves ?

    The point about how we should phase our references to BAME/BME is an interesting one – surely thought its one where we should be guided by LDCRE and members from those communities ?

  • Some sensible points in this. In particular:

    “the umbrella categorisation of BAME or BME when writing about ethnic minorities be phased out from all literature produced by the Party. Different minority groups face different challenges and this ‘catch-all’ expression hides many of the issues facing Black communities in particular.”

    Too often people are unwilling to drill down in to the detail of a problem and creating categories that are too wide is unhelpful.

    However, it is hard to access the relative merits of any policies when presented on mass (I can’t access the link as well). So is the plan to perhaps post future pieces on particular areas? It would be interesting to hear them set out for discussion individually.

  • Not for the first time, Simon McGrath questions the legitimacy of BLAC Lib Dem. Like Chinese Lib Dems and Muslims Lib Dems, BLAC Lib Dems sit under the Umbrella of LDCRE, complementary to, and supportive of, the work being undertaken by LDCRE.

    Why is a group for Black Lib Dem’s is needed in the Party? Having different groups from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests in the Party brings many benefits. They can identify and help develop internal leaders. They can lead to higher retention rates. They educate the Party through internal events, panels, and more. Importantly they help the Party recruit underrepresented individuals and develop a talent pipeline by highlighting issues that are unique to Black communities.

  • Glad to see class mentioned too here and the lib dem reach to working class is very poor AFAIK.

    But I am also in favour of the idea of instead of using broad catch all’s to really zero in on particular problems in particular areas. Poor black people in London have different needs to poor white people in the North for example but they all need help

  • Tumi Hawkins 8th Apr '21 - 12:40pm

    BlacLibDems have made some very good points here. Thanks Joe Otten for your considered and well thought out comment.

    Many do consider the Sewell report a whitewash. An attempt at gaslighting the minority communities in the country, completely diminishing their lived experiences. The Sewell report in my view was designed to change the narrative on race issues to be more positive-or shall I say palatable, which is exactly what the Prime Minister wants to do.

    Moreover when you look at the summary of the responses to the call for sites, as recorded on the government website, we have to wonder how the conclusion was derived from the evidence presented to the commission.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/ethnic-disparities-and-inequality-in-the-uk-call-for-evidence/public-feedback/summary-of-responses-to-the-call-for-evidence?

    FSPeople, good idea – we would be happy to post future pieces on specific areas discussed in the BLAC Policy Agenda.

    Simon McGrath, I presume you are unaware that BlacLD operates under the umbrella of LDCRE? I am a member of both groups. I would have thought that hearing directly from all minority groups within the party was a good thing. And the fact that BlacLD actually delves deeper into issues pertaining to Black people specifically should help come up with actions to address those issues. Time for action is now.

  • Simon McGrath 8th Apr '21 - 1:41pm

    @lisa – i don’t think i have ever questioned the legitimacy of Blac Lib Dems.

  • As an ally, I would welcome guidance from fellow Lib Dems in the relevant communities on an acceptable alternative to BME and BAME. As someone who co-ordinates the recruitment, approval and selection of Council candidates I want to ensure that they represent the area where we all live, but I also want to make sure that my language is inclusive and welcoming.

  • Joseph Bourke 8th Apr '21 - 3:26pm

    I think FS people makes a good point when he says “Different minority groups face different challenges and this ‘catch-all’ expression hides many of the issues facing Black communities in particular. Too often people are unwilling to drill down in to the detail of a problem and creating categories that are too wide is unhelpful.”
    The main minority groups on the UK by racial/ethinic origin are British Black, British Asian, British Chinese, and Non-British White minorities including Irish, Italian, Greek Cypriots, Polish and other Europeans.
    In general, even among the Black community, Black Africans have a different experience and outcomes to many of those of Caribbean origin. So too in the Asian community, those of Indian origin have generally fared better than those from Pakistan and Bangladesh as have Hong Kong Chinese.
    In terms of educational attainment, it is Black Caribbean and white working class boys that appear to be the tough nuts to crack and have been for a long time. As FSPeople says, we do need to be able to drill down in to the detail of the problems to come up with solutions that can actually turn this around. Perhaps this is an area where Blac Libdems can usefully point out the institutional obstacles faced by both Black Caribbean and white working class schoolboys and emphasise those that are specific to the black community.

  • Alexandrine Kantor 8th Apr '21 - 4:20pm

    @Mary Reid Hello, you can mention Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities. Or be specific when you need to be. We just need to ditch the acronym and use plain words and acknowledge that it is not a homogenous group and each communities have their individual stories and struggles.

  • @Alexandrine Kantor. Fair enough, happy to avoid using the acronym in general. But when I am setting up a spreadsheet to show how we are recruiting candidates with protected characteristics the abbreviation is quite useful, just as LGBT+ is.

  • Simon McGrath 8th Apr '21 - 4:50pm

    @james – thanks for the clarification

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Apr '21 - 5:39pm

    The issue is essential for everyone, Liberal democrat or not, in the UK and world as a whole.

    Is the report one to dismiss, or disagree with? Is it thoughtful, to do the former, complacent surely to do neither, though it might be.

    It contains much to like, bits for example that are good news, and everyone who is in tune, with our society might welcome.

    The tone though and its conclusions are not to be praised, agreed. It smacks of a typical, Johnson, “reasons to be cheerful…”

    I argue that is true of everything in public discourse, including this party on covid, Labour for example, more so, on vaccination and ending so called lockdown.

    I think Blac Lib Dems have put out a terrific agenda. But can it not also sit with celebration of massive black and British achievement in these years? Why, as the agenda herin alludes to, celebrate, as called for, great past figures who did much, in Africa, or the US or Uk, if we cannot, welcome, in the report or beyond, the great success, and talent and efforts of modern black and British, in this country?

    If to say that class and region is more disadvantageous than race, is to say race is not an issue, the report is wrong. Does that conclusion appear in the report? My reading is that it does not.

    I think we can embrace this Blac policy agenda, and agree with some of the report and say that.

    But, as on the virus, and vaccination, take the tone of everything from the government with much, yes, more, of a pinch of salt!

  • BLAC very much look to LDCRE as the parent organization for all Lib Dem minority groups. LDCRE has always been encouraging to smaller grassroots groups. This supportive relationship is something BLAC Lib Dems have greatly valued. We don’t need to agree on every issue to be allies in the fight against racism. I hope BLAC Lib Dems will continue to respectfully regard LDCRE as a mentor and ally.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 8th Apr '21 - 11:50pm

    And then there are those of us who are mixed race, who traditionally get the “benefits” of not entirely fitting in anywhere – perhaps passing as white but having a non-traditionally English name.

    I do find myself wondering where we fit into this and, usually, the answer is that we don’t.

    That said, I’m generally minded to support anything which leads to equalising access to opportunity and, having read the BLAC Policy Agenda, much of what is there seems both obvious and reasonable.

    If I have a concern, it is that some of the recommendations for action are in the form of exhortations without much detail as to the practical steps in terms of how they might be best delivered. I also sense that the fraction of the school curriculum dedicated to history is insufficient to allow inclusion of all of the material suggested – and what about the history of South Asia and its diaspora?

  • Antony Watts 9th Apr '21 - 11:46am

    You know, the more we debate these things the more we lose the essential issues. Freedom and equality.

    We do not need individualistic pressure groups about these issues, we have to face them straight on for all. Not just any selected grouping of people. We are all people, we all suffer from lack of openness, freedom (take Brexit as the worst example of this) and equality (in respect for each other and thebalance of richand poor in our society).

    These are the issues t debate and solve, not BLAC

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 10th Apr '21 - 10:52pm

    Following receipt of concerns about some of the statements made regarding the relationship between LDCRE and BLAC Liberal Democrats, it has been decided to suspend comments on this article pending clarification.

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