Phelim Mac Cafferty: Black History Month is about our future as much as our past

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the Green candidate for Hove SUS-170405-101701001
Phelim Mac Cafferty is the Green candidate for Hove SUS-170405-101701001

While we live in a city steeped in history, much less, sadly, is known about the black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities who have shaped Brighton’s past and present, and whose lives have all too often been overlooked and ignored.

All the more reason to commemorate Black History Month which recognises the contribution BAME communities have made to our city and country: 12,000 Indian soldiers treated inside the Brighton Pavilion during the First World War; George Bridgetower, the violinist who played with Beethoven; and Sake Dean Mohamed, ‘Dr Brighton’, physio to two British monarchs.

Black History Month embraces this overlooked history – but reminds us of the role we all play in understanding the world through the eyes of minority communities.

This week the Government published the results of their race disparity audit. The results show our ethnic minorities still suffer discrimination. In Brighton and Hove, racist hate crime continues to rise, with a sharp spike in incidents recorded after the Brexit referendum.

But there are basic issues that we have to overcome to ensure lasting equality – unemployment is double in BAME communities, while much higher proportions of BAME school pupils are eligible for free school meals.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the life chances of young minority ethnic people have significantly worsened in the past five years. With almost 40 per cent of black people employed in public services, the black community face the burden of public sector cuts. While a recent study shows that Universal Credit will leave BAME families disproportionately worse off. None of these can come as a surprise to the Conservative Government, whose failed, punitive austerity policies have plunged our society into even deeper inequality.

As we explore Black History Month, it’s clear that our history is the history of acknowledged difference and diversity. Those in power have much to do. But to push for lasting, genuine equality all of us must root out racism where we find it.

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Greens on Brighton & Hove City Council.