Tag Archives: BAME

The Independent View: Overcrowded housing, BAME groups and COVID-19

As the COVID-19 era has progressed, more and more data has pointed towards a deeply harrowing truth – the virus is having a disproportionate impact on BAME groups. According to research from ICNARC, approximately one-third of the COVID-19 patients admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) have been from BAME groups, despite the fact that just 14% of the UK population is BAME.

Added to this, black ethnic groups have experienced the highest diagnosis rates, and both black and Asian groups have experienced higher death rates than the white British majority. In order to understand this disparity, it is important to take a close look at one of the factors thought to play a part: overcrowded housing.

All minority ethnic groups are statistically more likely to live in overcrowded housing than the white British group. Taking the Bangladeshi ethnic group as an example, just short of 30% of households have more residents than rooms. For white British households, this figure stands at just 2%.

Overcrowded housing is of huge significance for two main reasons. Firstly, it dramatically increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission, as the virus can spread easily among those who live in close proximity to each other and share facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens. Secondly, it makes adhering to self-isolation guidelines essentially impossible, as a person cannot minimise their contact with others if their circumstances are such that they did not have enough personal space to begin with.

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We need to be uncomfortable… let’s talk about how we treat our BAME members

On the third time I went canvassing, at the age of just 13, I was sent to a complex of flats. These flats were mostly owned by people of Indian descent and I, as someone born in the UK but whose family originally came from Bangladesh, was confused as to why I was being sent there. At a meeting later that day, the senior figure who made me canvass that area, proudly declared how we had gone to an ‘Indian’ complex of flats and that I had performed very well in the role of connecting with this particular community. It was very clear from this speech that this was planned to use my race to win votes. I was embarrassed but, more so, confused at why he thought I was meant to be the one to do this, and why everyone else (who was white), including an approved PPC, all smiled and murmured a chorus of approval.

Not too long after the election, we bumped into another senior local party figure in our town centre with his family. As he walked away I heard him explain to his son I was the ‘new Indian boy’. This made me uncomfortable. My parents and I were born in this country. It was, in fact, my grandparents who came from Bangladesh (not even India). I should’ve put my foot down at the way I was made to feel, how I was tokenised and racially (mis)profiled. But I didn’t want to kick up a fuss as an individual.

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Policing and BAME communities

Those who forget their history …. and I am not talking about statues. I am talking about the history of black protest in the UK.

There have been repeated protests in the last forty years. Sometimes they have ended badly, sometimes they have led to significant inquiries and recommendations that seem not quite to have been implemented.

In the UK police are mostly unarmed and that means we do not have so many deaths at the hands of the police as in the USA – but the evidence is that black people die disproportionately at the hands of the police. The UK …

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19 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Cross-party group urge Govt to “right the wrong” done to Chagos Islanders and respect the ICJ
  • Debt response must be green recovery plan
  • Govt must do more to tackle disproportionate BAME Covid-19 deaths
  • Sir Simon McDonald’s premature departure raises serious questions
  • Challenge is for Govt, not teachers

Cross-party group urge Govt to “right the wrong” done to Chagos Islanders and respect the ICJ

The Liberal Democrats are leading cross-party calls for the Government to adhere to United Nations’ calls for the Chagos islands to be returned to Mauritian control and come good on the promise of a £40m package of support for the Chagossian community.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael, who has secured the support of 29 other MPs from across the political spectrum, criticised the Government’s “arrogant” rejection of the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Chagos and warned it is jeopardising the UK’s credibility on a world stage.

The intervention comes after the UK Government issued a response to the UN Secretary General’s report on implementing Resolution 73/295 – which advised it to end the unlawful occupation of the islands – earlier this week.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the cross-party group quote the Prime Minister of Mauritius who highlighted the connections between the Chagossian struggle and the Black Lives Matter movement by warning “the occupation of the Chagos Archipelago inscribes itself in these historic wrongs.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

I’m saddened but not surprised at the Government’s decision to reject the International Court of Justice’s ruling on the illegal British occupation of the Chagos archipelago.

The ICJ has very clearly instructed the UK to return the island chain to Mauritian control. The Government’s refusal to do so is arrogant and jeopardises our credibility on a world stage.

The Government must abide by the ICJ’s ruling and ensure the £40m package of support promised to the Chagossian community is paid out in full.

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Black Lives Matter; a new enlightenment?

In Lib Dem circles there has been much talk of the need for ‘better education’ as a necessary (but not sufficient) path to more enlightened social and governmental attitudes when it comes to race, perceptions of a colonial past, and ‘neo-colonial’ thinking.

This is very positive; but education enlightening students about what, precisely?

My proposition is that there are three areas where education will benefit from a bit of ‘light shedding’. Those are, in chronological order, the histories of BAME communities in the UK; colonial histories related to those parts of the world to which many communities in the UK are connected; and importantly, relevant global pre-colonial histories.

First, there are many surprising histories of BAME communities in the UK.

For example, in areas of East London such as Canning Town, there are many people descendant from Caribbean-origin soldiers and others returning from world wars on behalf of the British, that were given passage back to the UK but faced difficulties obtaining passage back to their home countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad.

The Windrush generation is another example, that should be better understood.

These histories, when explored, make the poor treatment of such communities by the British state all the more hard to accept.

Second, colonialism, theory and practice, has a special place in liberal-democratic thinking. Liberal-democratic ideas were forged hundreds of years ago in opposition to the European pro-colonial mercantilist view that the quantity of wealth in the world was fixed, and that one country could only become ‘rich’ at the expense of another. This gave a rationale for subjugation, war and slavery.

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16 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt spending £120m on Festival for Brexit instead of free school meals over the summer
  • PM’s decision to scrap DFID shows Govt turning its back on most in need
  • Govt must act to address disproportionate impact of pandemic on BAME communities
  • Govt must go beyond u-turn on free school meals to give every child best start
  • PM must think again on DFID in face of COVID-19 global health emergency

Govt spending £120m on Festival for Brexit instead of free school meals over the summer

The Liberal Democrats have accused the Government of being “callous and heartless” for spending £120m on a Festival For Brexit, when the same amount of money could be spent on extending free school meals over the summer.

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson, Layla Moran, made the intervention ahead of an opposition debate today on calls to extend free school meals during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Government recently confirmed that the Festival for Brexit will be going ahead in 2022, with £120 million of taxpayers’ money earmarked for the event. This is the exact same amount it would cost to extend free school meals to all eligible pupils over the six-week summer holiday.

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

Leaving children hungry while ploughing millions into Brexit propaganda is callous and heartless. This appalling waste of money shows where the government’s priorities lie.

It’s not rocket science. If the government can spend £120 million on a Brexit ‘festival’, they could easily spend the same on ensuring the most disadvantaged children have enough to eat over the summer holidays.

It is about time that the Education Secretary went to the training ground with Marcus Rashford to take some lessons on how best to support the most vulnerable pupils.

PM’s decision to scrap DFID shows Govt turning its back on most in need

Responding to reports that the Prime Minister will announce later today that the Foreign Office and Department for International Development are set to be merged, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for International Development Wendy Chamberlain said:

Not content with depriving disadvantaged kids of their free school meals, the Prime Minister is now choosing to abolish the department whose job is to support the most vulnerable people around the world.

UK aid prevents suffering. The Liberal Democrats have always made absolutely clear our unequivocal support for Britain’s role as a world leader in providing aid to those most in need. By working internationally we can achieve so much more than we can alone.

This decision shows the extent of the Prime Minister’s determination to see the UK turn its back on the world.

Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey added:

Boris Johnson has wanted to use the 0.7% for international aid for his own political projects ever since entering government. This news comes as the most vulnerable brace themselves for the Coronavirus, which has already torn through many countries.

In the last 24 hours this Government has refused to offer the poorest children in the UK free school meals. They have now turned to cutting funding away from some of the worlds poorest. Boris Johnson is playing culture war games and some of the most vulnerable people here at home and abroad are paying the price.

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Liberal Democrats must engage with ethnic minority communities

Why are Liberal Democrats, despite having the ultimate political ideology, unable to achieve targeted success in the General Elections?

Of course, there are many factors why we did not achieve desirable results – as we have seen recently in our 2019 Election Review.

But here I am going to pinpoint only one issue which, as a party, we have ignored repeatedly. And I learned this from successful candidates from the two big parties at the last three general elections in 2015, 2017 and 2019, when this was a strategy to reach ethnic minorities. As I am a multilingual person and can speak, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali and Urdu, it was easy for me to interact with the voters, from ethnic minority backgrounds. And what I noticed was that in a few places, when I was trying to campaign and introduce myself to the BAME voters, so many times I was told that they would have loved to vote for me, but that their votes were already committed to another party’s candidate, because the candidate had been a regular visitor to their community events. And sometimes, though this was not during election campaign, I myself noticed the presence of Conservative or Labour party candidates or well-known party members.

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Isabelle Parasram on how she’s working with the English Party to improve diversity

Over on the party website, the Party’s Vice President BAME, Isabelle Parasram, writes about how she is working with the English Party to improve diversity and our party’s engagement with diverse communities.

For example, when I attend high profile events, wherever possible I also invite BAME members and supporters to attend with me.  One such event was the launch of the Commonwealth 8.7 Network at the Australian High Commission.

Through the Commonwealth 8.7 Network, over 60 civil society organisations will work together to push for greater action across the Commonwealth in eradicating modern slavery and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7.

At my invitation, Michael Bukola, one of our London Assembly candidates, and Dr Victoria Shownmi, an academic specialising in race relations who has been supportive of the work that I am doing, both attended with me.

Not only did they support me that evening, but they built connections and represented the Liberal Democrat brand in a way that I could not achieve on my own.

In terms of community outreach, I met the outgoing Cypriot High Commissioner at an event hosted by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK.  Stemming from the discussions I had that evening, I will be arranging an event that will build further links between the Cypriot community and our Party.  Recognising the unique needs of our fellow EU citizens and seeking to meet those needs through political policy is part of my broader goal of ensuring that our Party adequately reflects the communities we serve.

She described a visit to Hackney after the murder of a teenager:

I also work with key figures within the Party to raise issues, seek their help in pursuing the cause of race equality and ensure that diversity remains at the top of the agenda for our Party.

Jo Swinson, Pauline Pearce and I went to Hackney following the tragic murder of 15-year-old Tashaun Aird and met with some of his schoolfriends who were on study leave preparing for their GCSEs.  We also visited the local community, observing for ourselves the knife amnesty bin – inaccessible due to building work – the community buildings – either run down or closed down – and the high-rise buildings, with few open spaces or facilities for young people.

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Isabelle Parasram writes…How proud am I?

How proud am I of being Vice President of a party that’s sending no less than 16 MEPs to Brussels!

I look forward to working with them all on increasing the diversity of our Party.

We now have 2 BAME MEPs – Dinesh Dhamija and Shaffaq Mohammed – brilliant role models for all and particularly for the candidates who’ll benefit from the new Racial Diversity Campaign mentoring and training currently being set up by Sarah Yong, Arfan Bhatti and Anood Al-Samerai.

I have no doubt that Roderick Lynch, Chair of the LDCRE (Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality) will also soon be in touch about how our new MEPs can support its work.

Women also make up over 50% of our MEPs – something that the Chair of the Campaign for Gender Balance, Candy Piercy and the Chair of Lib Dem Women, Flo Clucas, will, no doubt, be thrilled with.

In the meantime, many congratulations to:

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WATCH: Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality Chair Roderick Lynch review 2018 and set out plans for next year

The new Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality has hit the ground running these past few months.

In this video, their chair, Roderick Lynch, outlines all they have achieved from Conference motions to Black History Month and looks forward to the issues they will be campaigning on in 2019.

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Lib Dem Lauren Pemberton-Nelson explains why ethnic minority women need a People’s Vote

A couple of years ago, Lauren Pemberton-Nelson, then just 18 years old, stood for us in a by-election in the ward of Faraday in Southwark. She did well – getting an 8.2% rise in our vote share.

This week, she’s written for the Gal-Dem site outlining why women of colour really need a People’s Vote to stop Brexit.

I thought her piece deserved a bit more exposure. Here’s an extract:

Discussions about Brexit at state policy level, as with much political discourse in the UK, has so far been dominated by the perspectives of white men. The Brexit Secretary and his predecessor are both white men and the majority of the current cabinet is made up of white men. Women, meanwhile, have been critically underrepresented in the Brexit debate as well as politics more broadly, and our lack of representation has not been recognised. Only two UK members of the European Parliament and less than 4% of MPs are black and minority ethnic (BME) women. Furthermore, there are no women of colour in the cabinet: there simply are not enough BME women politicians to represent us in the Brexit debate.

As the Brexit negotiations reach a crucial point, it becomes ever more apparent that Brexit will have a major impact on our lives. However, it is also increasingly evident that marginalised people have been neglected from having a say in the process. A minority of politicians have been vocal about the impact of Brexit on ethnic minorities and women, such as Layla Moran and Chuka Umunna who said that the “price” of Brexit has been normalised hatred against BME communities. As it becomes clearer that Brexit could be accompanied with further increasing hate crime whilst reducing the rights and freedoms that ethnic minority women have, it’s more important than ever that all voices are represented in a vote on the final Brexit deal.

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Being LGBT+ and BAME: my story

The short article I had planned to write after attending Stonewall’s Diaspora Showcase on Thursday 6 September was going to focus on the issues affecting black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT+ people and what the Liberal Democrats, specifically the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality (LDCRE), can do to address those issues.

I was going to go through the findings outlined in Stonewall’s Home in the Community report, and talk about the discrimination BAME LGBT+ people have encountered within their own communities, and double discrimination in the workplace. However, my intended focus is not the right starting point.

The Diaspora Showcase was not about the bad associated with being BAME LGBT+, it was about all the good. As Stonewall advertised, it was a celebration of the beautiful diverse BAME and LGBT+ community. It was quite poignant that this celebration took place on the same day that the gay sex ban in India was struck down. This was of course referenced and applauded on several occasions during the showcase.

I cried when a series of short documentaries were shown, in particular the moment that an African man of religion stated that gay means “God Adores You”. I cried when Khakan Qureshi, the founder of Birmingham South Asians LGBT, told his story about coming up and out. I cried because this event has been a long time in the making. It is 2018 after all.

I have wasted a lot of my time regretting how I’ve not lived an authentic life. I often find myself wishing for a do-over. I wish I could go back in time and tell 15-year-old me to stop trying to convince herself that her infatuation with a high school friend was just jealousy. I wish I could tell 18-year-old me that my sexual attraction to a Muslim sister I used to attend mosque with did not make me a wrong’un. I wish I could celebrate with 21-year-old me about being with a woman for the first time, instead of leaving her alone and stewing in displaced guilt and shame. I wish the me of three months ago, RSVP’d to Ramadan celebrations, wouldn’t have been so tied up in worry about her response if asked: “Do you have a husband or boyfriend?”. Science has not yet produced time travel technology so I can’t do any of that.

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Inaugural meeting of the Race Equality Policy Working Group

On 13 February, eve of Valentine’s Day, members of the Race Equality Policy Working Group met for the first time at LDHQ. I mention Valentine’s Day because this is very much a labour of love for those of us who have volunteered to assist the Party in its policy making on this important subject.

The first meeting was also timely for another reason: it follows the issue last week of Lord Alderdice’s report on Race, Ethnic Minorities and the culture of the Liberal Democrats and an email from our leader, Vince Cable MP, calling on each and every member to …

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Vince Cable calls for all BAME shortlists to tackle Parliament’s lack of diversity

Speaking to an audience of 4000 people at the Grand Mawlid Conference in Birmingham today, Vince Cable called for all BAME shortlists to tackle the lack of diversity in Parliament.  Currently, the law only allows exclusive shortlists for women and disabled people and the party elected MPs in both categories this year. Stephen Lloyd was selected from an all disabled shortlist in Eastbourne and Christine Jardine was selected on an all-women shortlist in Edinburgh West.

Vince said:

There remains a serious lack of diversity in Parliament.

There are just 51 BAME MPs. Despite being a record total, they represent only 7.9% of all

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Call for Evidence: independent inquiry into improving process and culture within the Liberal Democrats – focusing on race and ethnicity

At the request of the Party President and the Federal Executive I am undertaking an independent inquiry into improving process and culture within the Liberal Democrats, focusing specifically on race and ethnicity.   I have not been asked to address particular individual cases but as part of the party’s commitment to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society this inquiry has been commissioned to focus on issues and/or barriers faced by BAME members and supporters of the Liberal Democrats.

Among the questions I am asking are –

  1. Are there barriers to participation for BAME members? If so, what and where are they?
  2. Do barriers differ in different parts of the party?
  3. How effective are existing mechanisms/procedures in addressing the issue?
  4. Does the Party do enough to engage with BAME voters and ensure accessibility for potential BAME members?
  5. What further steps should, or could, be taken by the Party to address the issues identified in this review

Having embarked on the process of gathering evidence I am keen to hear from all those who have relevant experiences and views to help me form an accurate picture.  All the submissions I receive, whether written or oral, will be treated in confidence, and in respect of written submissions, I may well need to follow up on specific aspects in a face to face conversation.

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BME or BAME LibDems?

I presented this question to peers, fellow Liberal Democrats and members of EMLD (Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats), after seeing the launch of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Manifesto in 2015, and I continue to raise this debate while holding office as London Region Vice Chair – because sometimes an acronym is important.

BAME is the acronym for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, whereas BME is the acronym for Black and Minority Ethnic.

The intellectual argument that ‘Black’ is a socially constructed political identity – a way to challenge the racism in England – became absorbed into ethnic and cultural identity politics.  Caribbean people felt their skin was not black but shades of brown.  Their post colonial ‘classification’ had evolved through a range of terms that included ‘coloured’, arriving at the destination term ‘Black’ at a similar time as ‘Afro-Americans’, or ‘African Americans’, or ‘Black Americans’.  The battle to maintain a dual identity, such as Barbados Brits, was less successful and the internalized dislikes of our Africanness during this time made ‘Black’ the compromise that most people could sign up to: one term – serving two purposes.

‘Ethnic Minority’ is used because white-on-white hating is actually xenophobia, but that could not fit neatly into our Race Relations Act because the Act was for the protection of victims against racism.  In order to protect cultural groups like the Irish and Jewish communities from hate, we needed a noun that encapsulated the common experience of all ethnic groups and we arrived at ‘Ethnic Minority’ and with our European countries (Germany), we also arrived at ‘Hate Crime’ to define the offending behaviours.

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Ethnic minority pupils outclass white British pupils

 

There are some interesting nuggets of information in CentreForum’s Annual Report on Education which was published today.  Amongst other things, it identifies a north/south divide in attainment at secondary school and notes that there is still a significant gap between the achievements of disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

I am particularly pleased to see how well London pupils are doing. It wasn’t that long ago that London secondary schools were seen as failures. The London Challenge was an ambitious programme set up in 2003 to combat this and as a result some inner London local authorities went from being amongst the worst performing to the best performing nationally.

But the finding that has been picked up by the media relates to the performance of white British children. It seems that when they start school these children are ahead of their fellow pupils, but by the time they reach 16 they are well below average compared with other ethnic groups.

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