There could perhaps be no more sobering a reminder of the importance of Black History Month than looking at the treatment of the UK’s Windrush Generation.
Invited here to rebuild Britain after WWII as citizens of the British Commonwealth, yet as long standing residents they’ve been deported from the UK, lost their livelihoods, and worse.
People such as Sarah O’Connor, who died last month. She faced bankruptcy after suddenly being classified an illegal immigrant, despite living in the UK for 51 years. The Government recently pledged funding for a ‘Windrush Day’ event– however as Black History Month reminds us, a commemoration of the past must go hand in hand with undoing the injustices black and minority ethnic communities face in the present day.
Windrush has sadly not been an isolated incident. Earlier this year, the United Nations issued a damning report on institutional racism in the UK, with data from the Metropolitan Police showing that there is an ‘over-policing and criminalisation of people of African descent and other minorities.’
Following this, a UN special envoy reported that racism and religious intolerance has become more acceptable since the Brexit vote. Whatever the rhetoric from Conservative Party Conference, £1.3billion will be cut from frontline council services in the next 12 months- cuts which have disproportionately hit black and minority ethnic communities - who form 40 per cent of staff in public services.
The Women’s Budget Group found benefits and tax changes have hit the poorest black and Asian households the hardest.
In the face of such stubborn inequality there is still much to do - whether that’s community relations, policing or housing.
Last year the Green Party launched a manifesto calling for an end to the scapegoating of migrants, reform of the asylum process, as well as anonymous CVs, to break down exclusion of BME people from the workforce.
Brighton and Hove and our country’s diversity is one of the very strengths of our society but to push for lasting, genuine equality we all must continue to root out racism where we find it.
Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty Mac Cafferty is the Convener of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council