Racism, tokenism and totemism: the disturbing case of Doreen Lawrence

August 4, 2013 in Blog

Print screen from the BBC's website (URL: http://bbc.in/19LxEAn)

Print screen from the BBC’s website (URL: http://bbc.in/19LxEAn)

In April this year I wrote a blog which I titled ‘To Iconize and Canonize – the State We’re In 20 Years after the Murder of Stephen Lawrence‘. In that article, I examined the process of iconizing Stephen as the victim of a racist murder and canonizing his mother, Doreen. That canonization is now pretty much complete with Doreen being made a Life Peer of the realm in the last week.

In one sense, if one is disposed to be especially generous, this mother of all gongs could be seen as the expression of a ‘Big Ben’ of a ‘mea culpa’ on the part of the British establishment. I fear, however, that is much more sinister than that.

In the last few days, I have had many people from the Global African Diaspora, women especially, express their delight that ‘Doreen is now the Right Honourable Baroness Lawrence’ and that ‘there is one more of us in the Lords’. They all thought I was being churlish and as one put it ‘typically anti-establishment’ when I made the same arguments I was prompted to write in April, not least the following: Read the rest of this entry →

When Stephen met Trayvon

July 23, 2013 in Blog

Credits: "Stephen Lawrence memorial", by Darryl_SE7 (Flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0)

Credits: “Stephen Lawrence memorial”, by Darryl_SE7 (Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0)

Stephen Lawrence – 1993 to 2013 and continuing… Trayvon Martin – 2012 to 2013 and continuing… So, who will guard and police the guards? Who and what are those guards protecting and on whose behalf?

When does ‘neighbourhood watch’ morph into vigilantism, with vigilantes exercising what they see as their moral and God-given right to determine who is acceptable in a neighbourhood and who is not; who could go visit residents without fear of challenge and who should just know that, if they do, they are eligible to be challenged by those who appoint themselves as gatekeepers to exclude people like them?

Who has the inalienable right to walk the street and go wherever they like, irrespective of their dress code and who does not? Who are immediately identified with those of their ethnic or social group who commit crime and engage in anti-social behaviour and from whom the same could be expected automatically and who are not?

Who can presume to have the protection of the law and the services of the police when their rights have been infringed and their person or/and property violated and who cannot?

Why should any society presume that it is held together by liberal democratic values and principles and can export those to, if not impose them upon, others when from childhood every African heritage person born in that country learns that they carry an ethnic penalty that restricts their freedom of movement and access to opportunity and that they forget that fundamental fact at their peril? Read the rest of this entry →

SRA report shows small improvement in staff diversity

June 21, 2013 in Blog, Gus in the Media, Print

This article was edited and published by LawCareers.Net

The Solicitors Regulation Authority‘s (SRA) annual equality report has this year shown a small improvement in the diversity of its own employees. Black and minority ethnic (BME) staff now comprise 15% of the SRA’s workforce, up slightly from 13% last year, and the percentage of male staff has also increased from 29% to 33%.

Gus John_Broken Britain

However, the SRA’s separate diversity monitoring report for 2012 revealed bad news. The report, which examined diversity across the legal profession, shows that BME lawyers are still disproportionately represented in what the SRA has called its “regulatory decisions”, which means that BME lawyers are disproportionately subjected to more complaints and disciplinary procedures than their white colleagues. An independent comparative case review, led by Professor Gus John (pictured, right), has been commissioned to find out why and suggest remedies. Read the rest of this entry →

Defining the ‘African family’ – your comments

May 25, 2013 in Blog

Following the publication of “Defining the ‘African family’ in the Global African Diaspora“,  many of you have been e-mailing me to share your comments on some of the points I raised. One of the most significant contributions came from Delroy Washburn, chairman of the Federation of Reggae Music (FORM). Read the rest of this entry →

“To the barricades!”

May 20, 2013 in Blog, Gus talks, Open letters

On 13th May 2013, Diane Abbott MP put out a call to the 10th London Schools and the Black Child (LSBC) Conference: “Black Children & Education: After Gove, where next?”.

"Michael Gove at Chantry High School" by Regional Cabinet (Flickr - CC BY 2.0)

“Michael Gove at Chantry High School” by Regional Cabinet (Flickr – CC BY 2.0)

For the past 13 years, the Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) has been campaigning for equality and justice in schooling and education and against the practice of excluding a disproportionate number of African heritage children.

Diane Abbott has demonstrated a passion for schooling and education over very many years, especially on account of the schooling experiences of children of African heritage.  In 1999, she held two conferences in her constituency the London Borough of Hackney on ‘Hackney Schools and the Black Child’.  In 2000, the third of these was held which, like the previous two, attracted some 400-500 people.  In 2002, Abbott joined forces with the newly elected London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and started the London Schools and the Black Child conferences which ran annually until 2009.

Those conferences proved very popular with African parents, teachers and community activists, some 2000-2,500 of whom attended most years.  However, although the focus of the conference was schooling and the ‘black child’, fewer than 50 black school children attended in any one year.  The conferences generated a great deal of heat and excitement, but typically very little action.  They allowed for no resolutions or demands to be put to government and each succeeding conference failed to focus upon whatever action those who attended in the preceding year may have taken in their communities in response to the issues debated.

Meanwhile, the Labour government of the day continued to pass laws, whittle away rights and allow schooling practices which were as detrimental to ‘the Black child’ as anything the Conservative administration had done prior to the Labour victory at the polls in 1997.  Yet, year on year, the Education (or Schools) Minister would attend Diane’s conference to tell ‘the black community’ what the government was doing to raise standards and tackle the endemic underachievement of African Caribbean children in the schooling system.

Diane Abbott intends that this conference would address the question: “Black Children & Education: After Gove, where next?”.  Some of us might think it even more pertinent to ask the question: “‘Before Gove, what?“.  Read the rest of this entry →