Increased Focus On Equalities And Social Justice Now

10/10/2016 16:52

Presence of Asian and Black people in Britain and their alienation from the main British institutions opened up the contradictions in class and gender, leading to race, gender and disability specific anti-discrimination legislations and supporting structures in 1960s/ 1970s.

In early 1980s, public awareness and concerns about inequalities, more so in the immigrant communities, were heightened by the premise and use of the controversial Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 funding, granted to local authorities who in the opinion of Secretary of State were required to make special provisions in the exercise of any of their functions in consequence of the presence within their areas of substantial numbers of immigrants. The conflict was because of the ad hoc use of the S11 funding without involving its beneficiaries or achieving a consensus about their needs.

A problematic view of immigrants, that "immigration is the great social problem of this century and of the next. It is only right that local authorities which have to incur unusually large expenditure in respect of it should receive some help" (Sir David Renton MP - Hansard 1966/67: Volume 29 p1308), led to anti-racist thinking and initiatives as well as the drive for social justice, though with expected backlash like the right-wing press, led by the Daily Mail, recycling that Labour councils in London are spending a fortune to eradicate racism and sexism. Brent took the direct hit!

Struggle to confront racism, including the institutional racism, inequalities and injustice peaked in mid-1990 and then gradually fizzled out due to the 'divide and rule' tactics by the institutions, including the political parties, which rewarded those who colluded with the unjust institutional policies/practices and penalised those who opposed and confronted these.

Twenty five years on, once again there are circumstance which has resulted in solidarity to confront racism, inequalities, oppression and social injustice.

While Bexit scaremongering, lies and immigration/ refugee specific vile language has certain success in cultivating an atmosphere of racism and harassment, the overriding reaction is a process to confront racism and injustice, solidarity with refugees and quickly challenging the socio-political contradictions.

For example, the inconsistencies in what Theresa May said at the Conservative Party Conference 2016, were quickly challenged: May pleads for Tories to be on 'centre ground' but prescribes a number of rightwing policies, grammar schools and companies to reveal how many foreign workers they employ.

The social media was quick to comment, "Media that hounded Corbyn over anti-semitism (when he is doing all he can do) is very quiet about Tory Islamophobia and xenophobia, SHAMEFUL".

The Stand Up to Racism major London conference on 8 October 2016 where Jeremy Corbyn spoke, contextualised the government's wave of anti-immigrant measures designed to pander to the post-referendum wave of racism, including rules to deny international students access to non-elite universities, reduce the proportion of migrant doctors in the NHS, introduce mandatory immigration checks for taxi licence applicants, restrict immigration and blame migrants for the effects of austerity.

Some key massages from the packed house conference included, "you never stand back when there's racism", "We have today the birth of a new movement against racism" and "We need Stand up to Racism in every town to show we are not divided & will fight back".

Furthermore, Jeremy Corbyn witch-hunting, challenges to his leadership and implicit attempts to derail his social justice/ equalities stand for the Labour party, have resulted in massive support for Corbyn, his enhanced mandate and increased Labour Party membership.

The return of equalities in response to the recent racist circumstances, could, for example, be well sensed by the initiatives like the composition of the shadow cabinet under Corbyn leadership that represents the diversity, including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott MP, shadow attorney general Baroness Shami Chakrabarti and shadow leader of the house Valerie Vaz MP.

"We know Jeremy's new shadow cabinet will take the Tories to task and effectively hold them to account. Well done to all those appointed" - this Twitter comment summarises the feelings well!

Like the Section 11 in 1980s, the pre and post Bexit racism situations and ongoing attacks on Corbyn have mobilised masses to confront and oppose racism and inequalities.

It would be professionally sound to acknowledge that we are in a new era of equalities and social justice because of Jeremy Corbyn.

Note: As far as I know, there is no legal definition of racism, with the implication that whatever is not illegal, is legal. I agree with the general definition of racism being the overt/ covert power to define/ redefine the dominant norms, values with supporting institutions, policies and practices, and then measuring others in the proximity of these.