Britain’s race commission unmutes the muted ! | By Qamar Rafiq, UK

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Britain’s race commission unmutes the muted !


I live in a small Georgian city in Britain which is known for its magnificent architecture history and stunning landscape. It has been a destination for the wealthy elite in the 18th and 19th centuries CE.

Such Georgian architecture and civilization are a profound source to contemplate the iconic heritage from different perspectives to celebrate diversity, cultural history and the character of such places around us.

Some years ago, when I migrated to this picturesque town, it was well-staged, except for my inability to navigate that I was jumping in a roofless pool of green algae-filled water which is no longer suitable for swimming.

There are, of course, a number of things wrong but the actual nightmare began when the perpetrators of my future gradually unleashed racial and economic inequalities which were flowing unimpeded in the foundations of my town.

Within days, such manmade racial and economic imbalances swallowed my future to mute me just for having a different ethnic brand. Now, I feel a major part of me is buried under a thick layer of ancient mud.

The faulty prophecies made by my family and friends about my future were revealed when the UK was hit hard by COVID-19. The spread left the national economy, communities and businesses counting the costs.

Faced with one of the highest death tolls from the first wave of the coronavirus many blame the UK government has failed at many fronts to act responsibly in the national crisis.

For all the difficulties that the pandemic has brought us, the volume of heartbreaking stories exposed the racial inequalities with alarming evidence showing that people from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic backgrounds are more severely impacted including the hardest economic shock.

This compels me to say, we cannot ignore the social, cultural and economic factors that have shaped the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities throughout the pandemic.

The analysis of data from Public Health England has highlighted the deaths from COVID-19 among people from minority ethnic groups were two to four times greater than those among the White population in England.

As the Covid tragedy was unfolding, the UK government decided to commission an inquiry to probe into racism and the disproportionate impact of Covid 19 on ethnic and minority groups.

The body, headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s friend and former charity boss Dr Tony Sewell, argued that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all impact life chances more than racism.

The Commission also notes, evidence of institutional racism was not found which caused both outrage and panic in the public domain.

The 264-page report issued in March 2021 calls on the government to fully fund the Equality and Human Rights Commission and improve training opportunities for police officers.

Furthermore, it highlighted the importance of establishing an independent office to curb health disparities, open up access to apprenticeships, teach an “inclusive curriculum”, and stop using the term BAME, as part of its 24 recommendations.

The report also called for improvements such as increasing diversity in the elite profession, shrinking the ethnicity pay gap but failed to offer any solace or hope.

The Director of British Future also stated that “Black and Asian Britons in our society today face less racism than their parents or grandparents; they may well far better than those in many other countries.

A graduate in Manchester with an ethnic-sounding surname still gets fewer job interviews than a white classmate with the same CV”.

Perhaps, this stark reality sheds, lights as well as my tears, that my crisis-ridden career is engendered by my brand name.

Would this claim be outrageous? Certainly. Would this claim have any truth? Yes only if you allow logic and reality to decide

Need a place to hide cannot find one nearby! The reality is that coloured communities are paid less, more likely to be working in high-risk jobs during the pandemic knowing that we are more likely to die from Covid.

Besides, we see young Black men more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, and twice as likely to die in police custody.

In addition, British Pakistanis are paid 15% less than their white British peers. Black British women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy than white British women.

And how can we forget the entire Windrush generation who were degraded, denied hospital treatment, benefits and many were deported by the Home Office because of their race.

Although Britain has made great progress towards racial equality in the last 50 years, there is still much more to be done.

While we endure life under this chaotic and cynical government, Covid-19 has turbocharged the engines of racism and inequalities in Britain, to testify, we are no longer an inclusive or cohesive society.

Each of these crises is a manifestation of underlying political, social, and economic problems that sound the alarm we must address these problems forthwith.

Reckoning with the Commission findings, I discover my role, as the legend of all time failures.

Especially, appearing in more than a dozen interviews for the same organisation and told off every time that another applicant was more suitable.

As a result of this immense harm, my exhausted heart tells me, the race commission has echoed some pieces of my silence.

In truth, anyone with a heart and dream is bound to be disappointed. However, I can neither erase my skin shade nor tear myself in pieces of skin and bone to fit in my picturesque Georgian town.

The scars of racism never heal and can only be mourned alone. Britain’s race commission has not only thrown a spotlight on the inequalities, but it has also placed a finger on my pulse to unmute the muted.

—The writer is senior columnist based in UK.

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