Jamaican calls on UK to drop diplomacy in dealing with racism, inequality
ONE of Britain’s recognised influential blacks — Jamaican Paulette Simpson — has called for a movement away from heavy reliance on diplomacy to treat with racism and inequality in Britain.
In a sharp debate with former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow; British Labour MP Tulip Siddiq and Grant Shapps, Conservative MP and Britain’s former secretary of state for transport, on the BBC Radio 4 current affairs programme Any Questions? Simpson, who is executive director at Britain’s leading black newspaper, The Voice, declared that in 2020 the United Kingdom remains sharply divided and skewed in favour of whites and unless these inequalities are addressed there will always be challenges.
“What I’m trying to articulate is that we have a society that is not equal and there is a certain group of people, namely the black people, who are not treated fairly; [and] are not having equal access that everybody should have,” Simpson, who is also an executive with The Jamaica National Group, pointed out that blacks and other ethnic minorities have continued to occupy key, but subservient jobs in the UK, where they neither collectively feel valued nor respected.
She underscored that the fact that in 2020 the message ‘Black Lives Matter’ is being touted, means there is still a deep-seated issue with race relations and inequality.
“It means that from the 60s and the 70s we haven’t really moved on. And what is this telling us? The fact that you really need to remind people that ‘black lives matter’, means that there is something fundamentally wrong with our society. When persons feel they are not a part of it (society); when persons feel everything is disproportionate— they are disproportionately affected by COVID; they are disproportionately affected by the education system and when they are constantly, for hundreds of years, having to fight for what they should naturally get as human beings, [there] will always [be] a problem,” she said emphasising that blacks have always had to fight for their rights.
Asked by host Chris Mason how racist Britain is in 2020, Simpson said: “Whatever is happening in the US, the parallel is [here] in the UK,” she said.
“We have had several deaths of young black men to excessive force by the police here. We have a problem with housing; we have a problem with education; we have a problem with equal opportunities in employment, progression, access to pay. We are providing key positions— which COVID has been shining a light on— which are lowly paid, not valued and not really respected,” Simpson said.
She called for a different approach to influencing change and creating awareness. She said if diplomacy had worked, Britain would not be having several of the racial issues it continues to battle.
“There is a role for diplomacy,” she cautioned, “But if diplomacy worked we wouldn’t have some of these issues that we [continue to] have. Not until we are jolted into action; not until people feel uncomfortable when they see a man dying or they see black people on the streets; not [until] when you go to school with your friend and you see your friend being attacked by the police and you’re doing the same thing [as your friend] and you are not [being attacked]. Not until we are confronted by the harsh realities of these things and white people begin to feel uncomfortable. That’s what it takes to change.”
Supporting Simpson’s comments, Labour MP Siddiq described as fantastical anyone who idealises the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, as an American problem.
“We need to do things to address what’s happening in our own country that BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) people are 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person; three times more likely to be arrested and twice as likely to die in custody. So there is a lot that we need to do in our country,” she underlined.
She called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call out US President Donald Trump on his behaviour.
“What he’s doing is threatening to suppress legitimate protest. People are angry. People want to go out there and express their feelings, because, as Paulette has said, this has been years and years of inequality for the black community,” Siddiq argued.
But supporting Prime Minister Johnson’s response to the racial tensions in the US, Conservative MP, Mr Sapps insisted that Britain “wants to build a diverse tolerant country, which absolutely makes sure everybody is equal under the law.” He said the country has a lot to say on the matter.
“Since the 60s or 70s things have started to move in the right direction, but not fast enough,” he said, but still insisting that it had advanced, as he named members of the Cabinet who were from the BAME community.
However, he was rebutted swiftly by Miss Simpson who pointed that the fact the he had to name members was an indication that Britain still has a far way to go.
“It (society) has changed, but it is stuck,” Miss Simpson argued.
“Britain has a history of coming to the party late. Even with apartheid, Britain was late in condemning apartheid; Britain was even late when it came to campaigning against slavery; Britain is late now in responding to COVID and how it affects black people,” as they sparred over a report by the Office of National Statistics in the UK, which shows that the disease disproportionately affects the BAME, as the risk of dying from COVID-19 was higher among BAME groups than among white groups.
“I would urge you to stop coming to the party late,” she told the Conservative MP.
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