by Ben Warner / Deep Green Resistance UK
“The first thing you do is to forget that I’m Black. Second, you must never forget that I’m Black.”
Pat Parker, For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to be My Friend
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The UK has never stopped being a racist country, but the vote to leave the EU has given more confidence to many racists. Racist attacks are on the rise. Now more than ever, “white people” like me need to use our privileges to support groups like Black Lives Matter.
A friend of mine who was born in the UK and is of Pakistani origin, was surprised when the “nice” old white lady he had escorted out of the hospital where he works said “Ohh, you’re such a lovely boy, almost makes me wish I hadn’t voted out.” We laughed about it. Her comment displayed so much ignorance it was scarcely believable, but as you peel away one layer, another becomes visible. This casual comment helps to reveal the truth that racism is based on ignorance.
There is no scientific basis for a categorisation of humanity into races of any kind. The commonly used nomenclature of black and white is particularly troublesome and unfounded. It is physiologically unfounded because in the entire history of humanity no human has ever been born with black or white skin. It is troublesome because in the English language white has almost exclusively positive associations, whereas black has largely negative ones. Humans have been arbitrarily labeled by the lighter skinned males who have held power in our culture since its inception. This labeling has been done as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy, a trick which has served the powerful well for millennia. We cannot let this process continue.
For those who doubt that the UK remains an institutionally racist country, a quick look at the statistics may help to change your mind. In 2015, 3000 UK police were being investigated for alleged assault against members of the public. Only 2% of them were suspended for these actions. In the West Midlands, black and Asian police were four times more likely to be suspended than their white colleagues. In the same region, black and Asian people were 3.5 times more likely to report being assaulted. In London, 55% of the victims of police assault were people of colour.
Across the UK, people of colour are 3 times more likely to be tasered by police, at least 6 times more likely to be stopped and searched, and more likely to be strip searched. Since 1990, over 500 black and Asian people have died in police custody – over a third of the total – yet only 14% of the British population are people of colour. Not one police officer has been successfully prosecuted for any of these murders, though many of them were a result of excessive force or negligence. Police officers have said that little has changed in the mindset of the police force since 1999, when it was found to be institutionally racist by the white judge Sir William Macpherson.
People of colour are twice as likely to be unemployed than whites, and black people are almost 3 times more likely to be unemployed than any other population in the UK. Black people are also 44% more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than whites. Compared to their white counterparts, black people are 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a psychotic illness. Despite there being no evidence that black people are more aggressive than whites, mental health staff are more likely to perceive them as being potentially violent, more likely to prescribe drugs (and at higher doses) or other physical treatments, as opposed to psychotherapy or counseling. GPs are also more likely to put black people into the hands of the police rather than the hands of mental health service providers.
Additionally, black people are more likely to get cancer at a younger age and more likely to die of it than the rest of the population. Not enough research has been done to uncover the exact reasons for this which, is indicative of the lack of concern that our society has for black people. However, if we accept that the UK is institutionally racist, one reason becomes obvious. Why would a black person go to a GP if they know s/he is likely to refer them to the police and that the police are a racist institution? Is it better to ignore a symptom of cancer or risk being handed over to the police by a doctor who will most likely be a white middle class male? Bearing all this in mind, it should not surprise anyone that rates of depression are 60% higher for people in ethnic minority groups than for whites.
These statistics should be shocking for any sane person. However, being shocked is not enough. We also need to act. White people are not immune to the social programming that is a part of our culture. I want to end racism, but I have been taught to be racist by the white supremacist society I was raised in. White people should work through education and direct action to dismantle the racism, in themselves and in society. We should work to respect, listen, support and encourage the voices and leadership of people of colour.
We should work to counter the efforts of white supremacists and fascists groups, whether by challenging racist individuals whenever they make racist comments or by resisting racist organisations which continue to encourage or practice racism. We need to educate ourselves about the long history of the struggle against racism. We need to work to dismantle the racist institutions (housing, education, criminal in-justice, banking, culture, media, extraction, and so on) that help to maintain white supremacy. We must remember that when we choose to fight racism and imperialism, we are joining a protracted, centuries-old struggle, which indigenous people and people of color have always been on the front lines of. As white people, we must allow those who have experienced these histories first hand to inform our resistance.