Anti-Racism in 2021

This weekend is UN Anti-Racism Day, and events are being held to mark the day right across the world.

You can join the online rally organised by Stand up to Racism and the TUC for free at 5pm on Saturday 20th March. Click here to register.

San Senik, Chair of ASLEF’s BAME Representative Committee (and its first woman member), has written about what anti-racism day means and how important it is to continue active anti-racism campaigning. 

Equality, diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be just words in the 21st century. These should and must be our way of life.

There shouldn’t be a need for minorities or women to feel they have to continuously fight for their rights to equality, to have a fair chance at opportunity and to be seen, heard and acknowledged. Sadly, the realities are not so.

The unequal distribution of wealth saw the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the BAME communities whose members are predominantly employed in low paid jobs with zero hours contracts and live in some of the most deprived places.

Government data produced in June 2020 confirmed that death rates from Covid in England especially, are higher amongst BAME. The data also highlighted that, on average, BAME patients were decades younger than white Britons. 

It is no secret that individuals from BAME backgrounds are also unfairly treated by the long arm of the law. For example, they are more likely to get stopped and searched by the police.

Government statistics for 2020 showed that between March 2019 and April 2020, there were 6 stop and searches per 1000 White people compared with 54 for every 1000 Black people.

While Black people account for only 3 percent of the population, they make up 8 percent of deaths in custody. 2020 saw the justified worldwide protests by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. However, many in our country as well as within our union complained, some very loudly, that this had nothing to do with us, it was an American problem.

Some even claimed we had no racism issue whilst criticising those taking the knee against racism and defending those that flew a banner and forgetting the current experiences the Windrush generation is being subjected to.

What many failed to do is acknowledge the years of unfair treatment of Black and minority communities, including in our own country, which finally led to a great majority taking to the streets.

When minority experiences are such, it is incomprehensible to claim there is no racism within our society. It is simply blind denial of the historical wrongs and a refusal to take lessons from history. 

In going forward, it is important to acknowledge, accept and deal with the atrocities of the empire, dismissing them simply as ‘nothing to do with me’ is ignorance that will prevent healing which is bitterly needed.

We must all work together to stand up to racism in all its forms including challenging our own hidden prejudices.

It is time we lay scourge of racism to rest. This is only possible if we work together.

San Senik, chair, aslef bame representative committee

ASLEF has attended anti-racism marches on UN Anti-Racism Day since 2015, with campaigners from the BAME Representative Committee, District Officers and members from across the country taking part and saying no to racism and fascism.

As in-person events cannot take place at the moment due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, everyone is encouraged to instead attend the online rally. You can register for the rally here.

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