Trevor Phillips doesn’t speak for Black Britain – Lee Jasper

Submitted by Lee Jasper 20 Mar 2015 4:28pm & Posted on Operation Black Vote

Phillips once said,

Campaigners like me sincerely believed that if we could prevent people expressing prejudiced thoughts, they’d stop thinking them.”

Now, he’s “utterly wrong” in holding such views.

The far-right movement continues to gain momentum in the UK and across Europe, with a framework lacking reluctance towards articulating and accommodating racism. As Phillips suggests, multiculturalism and anti-racism campaigns are the root of the right’s rise.

For years, Phillips has been against these types of campaigns. Whilst a member of the Greater London Assembly, Phillip called for the then Labour government to reject its support for multiculturalism, claiming it was out of date, legitimised “separateness” between communities, and should instead “assert a core of Britishness” during an interview for the Times.

In 2004, his decision to close down the CRE and merge with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission led to consequences we still suffer from today. During the aftermath of the 2005 terrorist attacks in London, he claimed Britain was “sleepwalking into segregation,” as some areas could become “fully-fledged ghettos…into which no one goes without fear or trepidation and from which no one ever escapes undamaged.” He apologised after it was noted he misinterpreted research data. In 2006, Phillips criticised the description of Notting Hill Carnival as “a celebration of multiculturalism.”

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However, any objective analysis of the state of racism in the UK and Europe may easily recognize Black, Muslim, migrant and minority communities as ‘under siege.’ We have become the convenient scapegoats for politics with xenophobia, racism, and Islamaphobia dominating political discourse and UK media as racist and religious attacks increase alongside the politics of fear and hatred.

Part of the struggle against racism is the unsavory tradition within minority communities to allow ourselves to be used to articulate the things racists think and would like to, but dare not say themselves. It is an ignoble tradition with deep roots in our communities and can be discerned in modern day politics through discussions about race.

The notion of Britain being a ‘post-racist society’ can be traced back to Phillips’ tenure at the now defunct Commission for Race Equality; yet, racism in modern-day Britain made a comeback in recent years.

In May 2014, a black pastor and his sons were brutally beaten by a racist mob in front of his 14-year-old daughter. In July 2014, seventeen-year-old, Alex Peguero Sosa, a young black boy, was brutally murdered in Plymouth. He was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle whilst waiting at a taxi rank. His killer, 42-year-old white male Lee Dent, is reported as saying, “The n****r deserved it.”

Racism is not only affecting the black community. A Chinese woman and baby luckly escaped a racist firebombing in a loyalist area of Belfast. Both were racially targeted. In January of this year, an Asian man was chased and stabbed in the neck by a white youth, while shouting “white power.” This month, Turkish shopkeeper, Hilmi Uludag, was attacked by 52-year-old Andrew Jefferson. Jefferson is said to have been screaming, “f*****g foreigners, coming to the UK to poison the British people,” before thrusting a blade into Uludag’s neck.

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It does not end there. As Islamophobia reaches unprecedented heights, attacks on Mosques and harassment of Muslim women-particularly those in Hijab-have increased. Nahid Almanea, a 31-year-old student wearing a Hijab, was knifed to death in Colchester last year.

Incredibly, despite the rise in racist hate crimes, such murders rarely make national news in ‘post racist Britain.’

From the economy, to stop and search, the rancid debate on immigration exposes Phillips’ political perspective on race and racism as deeply flawed. His perspective reinforces racist stereotypes and lays the blame for the effects of racism at the victim’s door. So no, Trevor, these are not imagined slights, or self-inflicted wounds nor is the rise of the right a consequence of “political correctness or anti racism campaigners.” The rise in racism is attributed to the amplification of racism and racist scapegoating refracted through the lens of austerity. By claiming these stereotypes as “true,” we are only damning ourselves.

Today, as we witness Phillips be lauded for his “brave stance” by the Sun, the Daily Telegraph and the Mail, no doubt exists to his credentials as a black apologist for racism. This is why it is now crucial and vital that we make our voices heard and ensure a huge turnout at the Stand Up to Racism March on Saturday, the 21st of March 2015.

Lee Jasper
Co Chair, BARAC UK

Lee Jasper

Lee Jasper can be followed at @LeeJasper

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