Saturday, 25 June 2016

Bracist Britain A British Black Perspective.




The UK’s black and ethnic minorities  and immigrant communities will be waking up to the profound reality of an explosion of racism in Britain. In shock and blinking, staring into the strong glare of undiluted racism, Islamophobia and xenophobic mainstream sentiment. We are living in climate of fear in Britain.

I never thought I'd say those words. For over 30 years I have campaigned, alongside many individuals and organisations, to ensure the toxic legacy of racism was not passed onto to the next generation. 

That we halted gross racism on our streets is an undoubted fact, but to our disappointment and horror, we now have to come to terms with the bitter fact that  white working class communities have chosen hate over hope. The often heard, counter-intuitive defence to this accusation "It's not you, it's them' simply serves  to further reinforce our perspective.

We know, when the swivelled spivs have finished pointing over there, they'll turn their attention to us.  All over the country racists have become emboldened and vicious. "Your next" is the Bracist favorite new racist invective.

Racism, the very thing that underpinned the imperial expansion and growth of the British colonial empire saw the rape of African, Indian and Latin American, countries, this evil produced vast unimaginable profits that funded the British Industrial Revolution, the growth of British technology, industry, and infrastructure.

Today, that crude, ugly white supremacist racism  has violently re-emerged, resurrected by austerity from the dustbin of history.

In post-war Britain, immigration was an absolutely necessary for the rebuilding a nation, shattered and broken after the devastation of the Second World War. The defeat of racism and fascism and the coming together of European nations was a moment of great optimism and hope throughout the world. Since that day, to this, the British birth rate have continuously fallen, leaving huge job vacancies rates in the labour market.  It's the economy that determines immigration rates, not some notional politically driven 'immigration quota' Whatever the sentiment of the British that reality will never change.

The fact that the Leave campaign leading lights have begun to abandon their position on immigrations is a scandal. They have left the country divided to further their own political ambitions.  

Today, we see the legacy of British ' tolerance' smashed under the jack-heeled boots of British ignorance, prejudice, and a resurgent racism and the unique promise of peace in Europe now lies dead and an uncertain future faces our young people. 

Let me be clear here, I certainly don't think all Brexiters are racist. However, I have never met a racist who wasn't Brexit supporter. 

The broader Leave campaign did nothing to effectively distance themselves from the obvious racists in their camp or the vicious xenophobia apparent in some Leave campaigns . The legacy of that campaign can be seen in the assumed triumph of racist sentiment in Britain.  Micheal Gove said ' He shuddered" when he saw the recreation of Nazi propaganda in UKIP form.



I found his statement a day late and a dollar short. I can tell him the blood of ethnic minorities ran cold when we saw that poster with its deep Nazi resonance . The message that poster sent was well understood by us. 

Bracist Britain for that is our new name. we will no doubt now be known as the sick, racist and the entirely insane man of Europe



The demographic split in the EU referendum vote has resulted in an older generation, that has quite literally eviscerated the futures of our young people. This spiteful decision made with a large degree of malice, saw our children futures sacrificed, on the deeply regressive alter of little Englander nationalism. 

For that, you the young deserve a profound apology. Pre Brexit you had passports, resident rights to live, work in 28 countries, today you are entitled to live in one.

The reality today is we're suffering is the biggest political hangover of the post-war generation. The crisis is profound, its strikes at the heart of the question of whether we as Black people, Asian's, ethnic minorities and immigrants can ever really be considered British by huge numbers of British people 

We simply can't escape the fact, that  a significant number of British people decided that immigrants were the primary cause of the countries economic misfortunes, the reasons why their libraries were closed, why they couldn't get their child into their preferred school and their failure to get a doctor or dentists.

They eagerly concluded, after being indoctrinated by spineless politicians and a deeply racist press,  that all these cuts and economic chaos, was all the fault of those immigrants.

Why? Well, notwithstanding the press and scurrilous politicians, there is another reason.

I believe that many British white men of a certain age, are having a collective 'nervous breakdown' as a result of a 'mid-life crisis' that is a result of a loss of esteem, status, and their white privileged place in the world and is in response to the economic rise of the former European colonial nations of the world.

This loss of assumed privilege has lead to a crisis of confidence the remedy for which is not looking forward but looking back to the glory day of Empire when the Great Britain bestrode the earth and ruled the Commonwealth.

It's a form of postcolonial, mid-life crisis of the British nation, a deep colonial melancholia, a suicidal longing for the day when white Britain ruled the world.

The fact that large parts of the British working class were so easily convinced that immigrants were the cause of their woes, not the bankers, is a result of the reservoir of latent racism in Britain, left unaddressed and  festering under the poisonous weight of austerity.

It is also in part the result of the failure of the Brtish white left and labour movements to connect, educate and decolonise, white working class communities. This is the stark, uncomfortable reality that is exemplified by the fact that Brexit sentiment was stronger in those areas of the country that have very few Black, Asian or ethnic minority communities or immigrants among them.

This failure of the white left, labour movement, trade unions, and anti-racist groups was as a result of the domination of a left class perspective that saw prominent members of the anti-racist left, seeking to minimise the extent of racism in poor communities and rather resulted inexplicably in many arguing for Brexit.

This serious error, consequences of the failure to engage with black communities and organisations in establishing the poriorties of the anti-racist movement. Ant racist needs black organisational leadership, not token black leadership. We needed to ensure that poor communities were educated to the fact that immigration had built this country and made it what it is today.

Confronting the British National party, chasing the English Defence League organising opposition to Pediga,  pro-migrant demonstrations, are all necessary, but not sufficient responses to tackling,  systemic institutionalised racism and a deeply ingrained culture of racism among the poor.

In examining this issue we can't fail to mention the institutional practices of the Labour movement and trade unions that inform's their deep reluctance to allow black leadership in the Trade Union movement and the marginalisation of their Black Trade unions structures. As Chair of Black Activist Against the Cuts (BARAC UK) I can tell you that we spend inordinate amounts of time seeking to convince Trade Unions to represent black workers facing racism.

We find, in general, they are ill-equipped to do so and they're understanding the reality of racism is so crude as to undermine black workers fight against racism. Overwhelmingly, our work demonstrates clearly that black workers struggle to secure representation from Trade Unions when facing racism in the workplace.

Further, we have evidence that Black public sector workers, trade unionists, enduring terrible racism at work and employed by Labour local authorities find  their Trade Union representatives in deep conclusion with their Labour local authority colleagues leaving Black workers to the mercy of their racist managers and employers.

Black perspectives on racism are largely ignored by many on the white left. The  simple fact is this is not a real priority for Trade Unions. We are being critically failed by Trade Unions in representing black workers who face racism in the workplace. White shop stewards and local branch secretaries  are unable, unwilling and sometimes openly hostile to race grievances and sometimes black workers, often siding with management agreeing with management that such incidents 'do not constitute racism'.

The fact that BARAC UK, then picks these cases up, fights these cases and wins demonstrates our point. We are overwhelmed with such cases'

The broader and strategic point I am making is Labour movements approaches to tackling racism are largely cosmetic, white liberal approaches dominate this agenda. These priorities don't reflect black organisations/communities priorities in tackling racism

So whether it's the Trade Union movement or left anti-racist campaigns, the reality is we're losing the war on racism. Real anti-racism has to be led by black organisations, not individuals, it has to be done consistently in white majority areas and white people have to take responsibility for their own racism.

One has to ask the serious questions why has the left failed to get its message across that identifies the bankers as the real reason the country is now bankrupt and in an economic mess?

Given the backdrop of a failure by the white left to accept black organisational leadership preferring their own lightweight version of anti-racism, some elements of the left Lexit tendency gave credence to those views that targeted immigrants as the problem.

Having failed to secure its own core constituency, the left has virtually abandoned white working class communities, leaving UKIP to fill the vacuum.

No doubt there will be those today, who will say the labour movement should have been "tougher on immigration" in an effort to secure more votes. It is this left concession to racism has seen hatred consume the body politic.even those who disagree with this analysis are not robust anti-racists working in partnership and under the leadership of  black community organisations or black trade unions structures.  

Left anti-racism in the UK is nothing more that a white liberal anti-racism and tokenistic black representation of left anti-racist movements doesn't change that.  Let's be clear, anti-racism in the UK is dominated by the Socialist Worker Party through Stand Up To Racism, Unite Against Fascism or the deeply problematic Hope Not Hate that pathologise's Black communities an organisation with no credibility, traction or support from Black organisations or communities.

Other anti-racist movements, such as Show The Racism The Red Card (SRTC) are equally out of touch and  have determined their own anti-racist priorities in the absence of organised black communities. Their campaigning priorities are not informed by strong black perspectives. SRTC for example bizarrely believes "Black people can be racist too" a fundamental error of analysis. 




Hope Not Hate is even worse. It has no real credibility, accountability or traction in most black communities and whose political orientation is one that identifies Muslim communities as problematic demonstrating again that white perspectives on racism almost always come to the wrong conclusion on race.

This white left failure of political analysis in large part explains why we are, where we are today. 

Over the last 20 or so years, elements of the Labour Party have played footsie with racist sentiments for electoral gain and in doing so, legitimised such sentiment. Since 2010 racism became hugely amplified by Tory austerity.

The country gave the Bankers a free pass and began blaming the migrants. They conceded to racism and some  believe that anti-immigrant rhetoric is their route to power despite the huge Black support for Labour.   

The result of these fundamental errors of understanding, political analysis and campaigning tactics has seen British racism become both rampant and resurgent. During the next period of Brexit self-inflicted recession, its black communities already suffering 55% black youth unemployment will be disproportionately affected.

The silence of the Trade Union and the Labour Party on this scandal and the hugely disproportionately redundancies faced by black women in the public sector illustrates the deep reticence of the some on the left, to challenge anything other than most obvious and crudest form of racism.

We can support the Greek left facing austerity and rightly so, but the fact that black youth suffers comparable rates of unemployment to those of Greek, Spanish, Italian and even Palestinian youths in Gazza, seems to have passed the labour movement by.  Poverty is killing us and the rise in Black community violence and the tragic costs for our communities feature now where on the labour movement and left agendas. 

There are trade unions who are exceptions to this analysis, PCS being just one worthy of mention, but the large Unions are where the real problem lies. In the broader labour movement let me ask how many all white anti-austerity platforms have you seen over the last 6 years? Far too many, even in majority Black or Asian areas.

Whilst there have been commendable moves to ensure women's representations, with left activists refusing to take part in all male debates. These same activists will jump on an all white platforms, majority white platforms, at majority white meetings, in strong multicultural areas and won't even bat an eyelid and certainly have consistently refused to raise the issue. 

Yet when we organise we win together. Look at the work of the National Union Students Black Students Campaign that has totally transformed the NUS work on anti-racism. Further, we must back progressive black leadership. The recent election of Malia Bouattia of the NUS, is a fabulous victory but we all know what happens to progressive black leaders, don't we ? Look at the genuine partnership between the black communities, the  Stephen Lawrence campaign, the trade union and labour movements.

Malia is  not even in office and already the vicious racist attacks have begun It is vital that Black and Muslim organisations support Malia I will be writing more about this shortly. 

Back to the issue of Bracist Britain and societal racism. What is now under real threat post the vote, is the entire human rights, race equality legislative framework, which decoupled from the European Convention on Human Rights and Strasberg, will now require new interpretation within a solely British context.

We will have to fight or we see the end of Britain’s adherence to the EU’s Social Chapter leading to a fundamental weakening of workers rights and the rights of black and ethnic minority peoples to be protected from unlawful discrimination.

The very same people, who fought for an exit from Europe, are the very same people who called for an end to "political correctness" and will be the very same people who will now demand an end to, or a weakening off race specific legal protection from discrimination. Let's recall, leading Brexiters, Boris Johnson’s utter ambivalence and failure to deliver race equality during his time as Mayor of London and Nigel Farage’s public comments that he thought “ the British Race Relations Act should be abolished in a post racist Britain”

Having worked for 30 years to ensure that our children and access to strong laws protecting them from the worst excesses of British racism and its effects, we are now facing the prospect of seeing all that legislation being wiped away in Bracist Britain on the bonfire of "political correctness".

The on going collapse of the British economy has already seen the pound fall in value against international trading currencies. In short, we will see millions of pounds being wiped off British economy and many of our parents retired to the Caribbean, Africa, Asia awoke to see the value of their pensions slashed as a result. I expect these economic consequences will disproportionally affect poor white and Black and ethnic communities. 

Ironically those significant few Black and ethnic minorities who voted to leave the EU will now be sending home much more of their hard earned money to support their elderly parents in their retirement. They will be few in number however as Lord Ashcroft voting analysis shows the vast majority of British non-whites voted for remain. 

I can also see those with racist sentiments, now buoyant after this vote, whether in the police force, private public sectors, local regional central government being unrestrained in the extent to which they are happy to articulate and practice their racism utterly unrestrained.

The slogan "We want our country back" is not just aimed at Eastern European migrants, it is also a message directed to black and ethnic minority communities, I think for many the subtext was “We want our white Christian country back”

At difficult times such as these, race hate crimes can and do rise.  The streets are unsafe for us. Black, Asian and ethnic minority organisations need to come together and demand that the Home secretary and the police ensure that they protect communities. However such is the pervasiveness of racism today we will need to ensure that they don't send us UKIP members in blue uniforms to tackle racist attack and hate crimes. 

I would strongly advise Black Asian and ethnic minority communities, particularly those in isolated areas, to begin to take precautions against the potential rise in racist or religious abuse, offensive graffiti and racist attack. Again we should be collective demanding urgent action on the explosion of racist abuse on our streets. Self-defence should be an option that we may have to seriously consider given the police enjoy little credibility and lack the confidence of our communities.

We are fully aware, and history teaches us, that when the rhetoric of racism bleeds into the mainstream society, our people are attacked on British streets. That's what's happening right now. For years I have  pointed out that racism is getting worse and have been consistently shouted down by the right and left wingers. I have been accused of being a ' race card scaremongering racist' of  'splitting the working class struggle' for pointing our working class racism'  Today I stand vindicated.

I would hope the Home Secretary and the police service would urgently meet with Black.Asian and ethnic minority organisations and faith groups to reassure communities and hear our concerns.  This EU referendum has produced the most profound crisis in British race relations ever seen since the civil disturbances of the 1980's.

Black, Asian and minority leadership in the United Kingdom must abandon the softly, softly, accommodationist, servile approach to confronting racism in wider society, the white left and trade union movements, because when they fail to focus on racism the cost to us all is enormous .  Post-austerity anti-racism in the UK is a failed project.  

We, black organisations, faith groups and communities must now meet to determine a new course of action focused on doing whatever it takes to secure rights to protection against racism and discrimination. in Bracist Britain There is no way we can allow racism to win.

That's why a number of national blacks and minority organisations and networks will be calling a meeting to discuss these grave and urgent matters in an effort to begin the complex process of analysis examining and exploring where black self-organisation, anti-racism and race equality are now.
This is absolutely vital if we are to prevent the mistakes of the past and ensure that the broad labour movement, here in Britain does not simply concede on the issue of racism for electoral gain, the maintenance of white privilege and economic advantage and resist capitulating in the face of racism and xenophobia.

Neither can we  continue to afford the ‘cosmetic anti-racism’ of the recent past.  Black, Asian and ethnic minority organisations must determine the new radical priorities for action. 
We will need to agree our own radical agenda for change and ensure that is adopted by the  white left movements as a priority for action and they are held to fierce account for their actions in defending us.
We need greater solidarity amongst our organisations, we need to liberate young people and allow them to lead our movements, we need to promote black women into leadership positions and we need to discard the poisonous competitiveness that has seen black organisations vie for resources and political influence.

This is more serious and critical challenge based in our lifetime. This article is the ringing alarm. Our children's future is in dire jeopardy. We must unite now in order to avoid our children suffering the type of racism and fascism that we thought we'd consign to the dustbin of history. To do that we must reassert black leadership of the ant-racist struggle and force the left to go do the real work ints own communities. 

There is simply no more important a priority.

















Sunday, 12 June 2016

Brixton says goodbye to the Champ #MuhammadAli

I was happy to help organise this Brixton tribute to #MuhammadAli at the Black Cultural Archives, Brixton, South London. He's gone but will never be forgotten. One of the greatest black men to have ever lived.






Saturday, 4 June 2016

My time with Muhammad Ali.

I’ve lost the man whom as a child, I considerd my father when my biological wasn’t around.

Ali’s militant humanity and uncompromising blackness shone for me like a bright shining star, in a dark brooding ferment.

Racism at school was made easier because of Ali. White bullies supporting the latest white hope would be forced to concede Ali was the greatest.

Black men and women walked with their chests out and heads held high, literally beaming pride because of the example set by this conscious, fully awoke, black superstar.

I wasn’t just inspired, it’s too weak a word for what the man did for black people. I was literally transformed, infected by his supreme confidence and pride in his African self.  As a child this black man set the bar for black men of his day and beyond.

I mean when’s the last time you heard a black superstar speak out so uncompromisingly against the racism our people face?

I guess it’s going to be so hard, so hard to grasp the real historical significance off its what it meant of Ali in a time of mealy mouthed dusty negroes cow towing to Massa. In this a time of untrammelled white  supremacy and South African apartheid, this black Prince took command and shook up the entire world, through the sheer fiorce of his own personality and the most exquisite athletics skill we’ve ever seen in a human being.

I’ve been so very blessed. I had the unique opportunity to spend four days with Mohammed Ali and is family during the 2003 Brits Awards in the year.

Can you imagine? Me, a poor black boy from Manchester, who’d failed school, been to to jail, come out got a degree and 15 years on from sitting on my prison bunk in Strangeway’s Prison I was having breakfast with Ali!

Another few years later I would share breakfast with the Mandela’s. It’s almost a fairy tale come true. From where I came from on ‘road’ to meeting Ali was a huge journey of self discovery. If I’d self actualised through self belief, it was because of the template set by Ali, Malcolm X, Tommy Smith, Martin Luther Kin. and others like them, but Ali he was a prince among them.

It’s with great humility and honour, that I tell you that I was up close and personal with Ali, literally collecting him each morning for four days straight and I stayed with him thoughout.

I’d accompany him and his family to all his appointments. Other days his family would go shopping and it was just he and I.

When I met him and he shook my hand and in that most magical moment I was instantly transported ‘ this is the right hand that took down Joe Louis, Patterson, Fraser and Norton’ I literally did not want to let go ever. I felt it’s power even then, his massive hands generated warmth and phenomenal strength. It was alchemy to me, it lasted no more than 15 seconds but time stood still for me that day.

His genius, common humanity, his razor sharp humour, his generosity of spirit were even more impressive. Ali was a real joker.

We really connected and kicked off with my Mancunian back chat and his razor sharp wit.

On the second morning I’d picked up Ali from his hotel.

After the first day I felt so at ease with him. I had quickly developed a rapport and relationship with him. A man I felt  I’d known all my life.

We both kicked off with my Mancunian back chat and his razor sharp Lousiana  wit.

On the second day I’d arrived to pick him up at his hotel. Like an eager puppy I greeted him that morning, asking him,

‘Champ did you sleep well last night?’ Ali looked at me and said ‘Yeah I slept real good son’

I said chirped back, ‘I  bet you were dreaming about knocking out Joel Fraser.’

Ali looked at me quizzically. A wicked smile tickled his lips and a twinkle in his eye sparkled as he said, quick as flash,

‘Chump, I was dreaming about knocking you out!

I hit back ‘ Champ you too ugly to knock me out’ and with that we both chuckled embraced and headed for breakfast.

I watched him hard. I saw him tire due today di illustrating unless, but despite my constant  interventions to protect him from adoring fans, he always, always made time for them.

On one particular very long day, interviews, pictures, ect we eventually arrived home after 11pm.  I was worried because I’d seen him push himself through his illness that day and wanted to get him to his suite. I was shattered and I was only 40 at the time. He was completely exhausted.

We finally got to the hotel and as we waited for the lift Ali was barely able to keep awake. A young family approached us and asked for a picture. I politely declined saying the Champ was exhausted.

Who tell me too say that! Ali reviewed said ‘ Lee I will do the pictures’ He told me later in the lift ‘These people made me what I am today. I will always have time for those who love me’

It was lesson in humility and grace I’d never forget.

The #BritAwards was fantastic and again sitting with Ali where he received a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ was unreal. I was responsible for vetting who could approach Ali and get a picture. There we were with queues of celebrities begging like little children to get a picture with the champ.

I’ve never see anything like it in my life. We sat as the entire A list world, and then some made its way to Ali’s table.

I’d thought I’d share this with you as a small tribute to a giant of a man. I’m looking at my hand now, the hand that shook his.

Goodbye Papa. A conscious black man who conquered the world. May the ancestors and Allah embrace you as one of the finest sons of Islam and humanity. Rest in perfect power.

NB. Im currently on the road organising  PAC45 Foundation  with others in Manchester so don’t have access to my older picture file. If you have pictures of me with Ali I’d love to have them. Feel free to post. I’ll post some of mine when I get home.

May he be blessed for all eternity #Inshalla