Together We ‘Minorities’ CAN beat the Uphill Struggle for Equality

A new report from the uni of Sheffield has found Welfare reform reinforces growing class prejudice reminiscent of Victorian era –

” many people now attribute unemployment and poverty to the failings of individuals, rather than to structural weaknesses in the British economy and entrenched socio-economic inequalities. Worryingly, negative views around welfare were also extended to the physically disabled and mentally ill. The research therefore suggests that, in the aftermath of the recession, there has been a decline in empathy and understanding for some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised groups in our society

Today the Guardian have turned over comment is free to black contributors, this is fantastic and exactly what we need more of as according to FleetStreetFox  “it’s 2014 and we’re speaking about foreigners in much the same way we did 100 years ago, with just as much nastiness, stupidity and flawed logic“. Other reports have arrived at similar conclusions, both the British Social Attitude survey and the Archbishop of Canterbury have shared concerns about the rise in racism. As a white woman I can’t speak on what this means in everyday day, but I empathise from the perspective of being disabled; I also accept it is my responsibility to challenge any racist attitudes wherever I find them.

I can’t help thinking this decline in empathy and understanding has something to do with the lack of challenge from the Country’s’ leaders towards prejudice, instead the current Political discussion is full of ‘blame culture’. When comments such as “we’re like under siege’ from ‘huge numbers’ of migrants“,  “some” disabled people are “not worth the full wage”, “Women ‘to blame’ for being raped” or  ‘people getting really good benefits are going to charity food banks; not only go with out challenge but are also regularly justified by skewed statistics pulled from the ether, we as a nation, are  in trouble.

The ease with which we can find comments like the above, and blogs and posts from people experiencing not only an increase in prejudice, but also discrimination, is terrifying;  further it is hard evidence of the reality of life in Britain for many of us from the ‘minority’ sectors of society. Continuing to to accept our problems are the fault of other minority group members, and, or choosing to believe the bigoted hype of the elite ran main stream media, can only result in the continuing collapse of the society we’ve grown up with. Acknowledging our own prejudices and electing to view them from the other side  is the way we individually fight back.

The really crazy thing about this, is we the ‘minorities’ actually  form a ‘majority’, and the only thing holding us back, are our individual fears of difference and of change. As a long time community activist I believe in people, not in a notion that all people are good, but in the belief we are better when we come together. As a collective sharing our strengths, skills knowledge and experiences we individually grow more powerful; but together we become formidable and through utilising the diversity, we can create change.

It is only by using our collective strengths we can challenge the structural weaknesses and demand the changes to the existing socio-economic inequalities that encourages prejudice to grow, thus ensuring our children and grandchildren benefit from a fairer and more equal society.

Together We Are STARS shining in the  dark and fighting against the Capitalist Light Pollution

 

 

Let’s Talk – Challenging Oppression through Honesty

When was the last time you actually engaged in dialogue – I don’t mean chatting I’m referring to a real debate, a discussion that involved sharing opinions without fear of offending?

It’s very difficult to challenge oppression when you don’t have the words to say what you mean, or are concerned with upsetting the very person(s) you’re talking with, and about. Recently I found myself  (as a disabled white woman) having a discussion about prejudice with what I would usually refer to as a Black man and a mixed-race woman;  I became very aware that whilst I was comfortable using derogatory words to describe disabled people, I was struggling to find the correct language to articulate my thoughts on race/racism, my fear of offending was a barrier to the conversation.

Another reason for my concern was I had met these people for the first time only that morning meaning I could not judge a likely reaction, I decided the only way to overcome my problem was to own it and so I admitted my fear; both the others immediately shared similar views, and we quickly agreed, unless we open topics around the ‘isms’ and begin to talk about things in regular words these barriers grow. We continued, with each of us talking openly about how we dealt with these problems and discussing what do you do when someone else decides what you can say?  We each had experienced discriminatory behaviour but generally it was implicit, rarely did people use language we could openly challenge; instead prejudicial attitudes were now subtle and insidious, making it difficult, it not impossible to challenge.

The three of us all voiced how we had found it easier to address issues of race, gender, disability etc when someone had used language that was openly prejudicial, how although it was deeply unpleasant to be called ‘Spag’ or ‘Nigger’ those and similar words allowed us to respond immediately, calling for the rationale behind the abuse and opening up a dialogue; whereas we all found it far more difficult to do this when the prejudice was clandestine.

Prejudice being a natural fear of the unknown exists in all of us, and unfortunately during times of  recession it re-emerges and grows, maybe as a default position to make ourselves feel better?This statement I’m sure will cause most people to shudder and perhaps deny it but the associated rise in discrimination through hate crime makes it impossible it ignore.

Owen Jones entered this debate yesterday in The Observer discussing how the overt racism of UKIP is met with outrage on Twitter claiming ” it is relatively easy to take a stand against overt racism; only outright bigots will quibble with you” and this is true;  the real problem comes when the more adept bigots ‘hide’  behind pernicious announcements, that disguise very real prejudice.

Even a cursory examination of language used by the Government to justify Austerity is full of such pernicious testimony, the focus on ‘scrounging’  ‘lazy’  ‘cheating’  promoted through much of the mainstream media, has engendered a distrust against the most vulnerable groups in society.

This distrust has in my opinion, supported the recorded increase in prejudice against most minority groups, and aside from such aforementioned ‘outrage on Twitter’ it is difficult to find any real dialogue around growth in prejudice and discrimination. For many years I’ve witnessed national and local organisations refusing to debate this issue, using claims of diversity and cohesion, to purport a lack of prejudice on any count; usually without any recognition of the paradoxic in this statement, the simple denial of  racism, sexism, ableism or any other form of prejudice, actually perpetuates it.

I’m not suggesting that engaging in conversation will prevent anyone determined to cause harm to desist but…unless we’re prepared to participate  in an honest exchange  of views, with regard for feelings, but also willing for our own opinions to be challenged; this situation will continue to grow. Jones in the article above recognises,  failure to do anything more than Tweet our indignation is dangerous “if we are just patting ourselves on our backs as a means of self-congratulation, flaunting our credentials as decent human beings and failing to tackle the more subtle, pernicious forms of racism that scar our society.”

Jones ends the article stating ” when minority voices speak out and demand change, all of us – whatever our backgrounds – should listen, and act“; I agree and on order to listen we need to one thing thing – Let’s Talk.