I am not a person to be writing a blog about the issue of BAME involvement within politics. I am not expert enough in this particular area nor can I talk of experiences or belief and understanding as whilst I am from an ethnic minority with its own issues I am white . I am writing this from a white perspective to a white reader as this is the only authentic experience I can write from.
I was disappointed at the level of support that a recent BAME rally received recently where Jeremy Corbyn was a key speaker and I felt that I wanted to write about this.
You may or may not be aware but the number of people eligible to vote from Black and Minority Ethnic groups is estimated at 4 million but 30% are not registered to vote.
That is over a million voters.
These are not people who are not going to the polls these are people who have no vote. And to be totally honest I can see why. The last general election the turn out was low. Very low. I voted as I do in every election voting for labour out of loyalty and a deep rooted distrust and possibly hatred (a strong word but think it is right) for all that the Tory party stands for. I was not happy with the Labour Party as I really felt that the middle ground politics, the stereotypical leader, the general lack of real opposition they offered was not screaming to me that a labour government would really be that different. In the minds of so many the legacy of Tony Blair is not what he did that was good but his taking us into an illegal war. And in the minds of many there is no point to voting at all.
The fact that the turnout was so low should worry us. Why are people not involved or engaged? What can we do about it? Just using common sense sociology a quick survey of people around us at work , in our families and community it won’t be long before you will hear the phrase “ I don’t do politics” . My response to you is normally well it is certainly doing you right up the …… But I digress. A look on Facebook can tell you with the I don’t want to see any more political view memes and the I’m sick of politics comments would confirm a body of people who are totally disengaged and remote from anything that goes on in politics.
So what are the political parties doing to engage us?. Well very little. Those who turnout are those who are set in their ideas about their political stance. Those who are not are the disenfranchised and those who really have too much going on in their lives to worry themselves about voting. Those who are not voting are the ones who think that their voice is silent anyway. Those who feel they do not belong. They are the masses and its best they don’t get their say. We can continue to ignore them because they will not have an impact on us getting into power anyway.
Then along comes the referendum. And the turnout on that is huge. Why?
Again our common sense sociology comes into play. Firstly it was a first past the post yes or no vote about an issues that a lot of people felt passionate about. Secondly it was something where people felt that they could actually tell the government exactly what they wanted. It was a voice for those who felt voiceless. And they spoke. And for some reason it shocked the government it shocked the press and it shocked those who voted for change.
And it was a vote based for many on misinformation , misunderstandings , rhetoric , personality and lies. It has released the cork of those who kept their racism bottled up as we see the rise xenophobia and racism. It has left people in limbo as to their rights to stay here. It cause the resignation of one prime minister and the creation of Maggie 2. It caused people to question democracy because the result did not go their way. And it highlighted that given the right circumstances people will engage and will vote.
Now what has this got to do with BAME? Like I said earlier imagine another million votes in this referendum. Imagine another million votes in the general election. Imagine another million voices speaking for a very underrepresented community within politics?
Imagine if it was seen that the voices of the BAME communities in this country counted and meant something to the politicians of this country and that they would be listened to and not ignored? Then we would see issues properly addressed, a more representative government, a movement for change.
Now before you say that the same is true of the voices of every community neglected by successive governments I will say this. There are times in life when you have to narrow down a big problem in order to address what it actually means for each group involved. In society sometimes the reality of existence within it of issues and problems that affect all in different measure has to be highlighted as a separate campaign because to lump it into one group will mean that the problem will be solved to the agenda of one group over another. And in most cases of social issues it is the white issue that is focussed on and is seen as dominant. Solving the white issues however means that a lot of people continue to feel disenfranchised and the issues become their problems, the root cause of issues their behaviour and their attitudes. It ignores the background, the affect, the problems unique to their community which are unseen and unfelt by those outside. Then the very forces who think they are helping all are actually reinforcing the oppressions which they think they are lifting. Hence black lives matter is not saying only black lives matter but highlighting the very real experiences of the feeling, endorsed by society and condoned by law enforcement of the life of black males especially being of no worth. Saying all lives matter in answer to this hides this issues and again we ignore what is ongoing turning the issue onto the very community in fear of the police and loosing their men.
As I stated before I am not the person to speak on behalf of the BAME community. The people to do this are those who organise the rallies who run the campaigns and who understand what particular issues affect people’s engagement with politics. What we can do however is listen to them. Understand what we can do to help by becoming involved in theses causes but not to try and take them over. By advertising their existence and sharing their information. And most importantly we stand beside them. We fight with them. We use the privileges we have to make their voices heard.
My children are mixed ethnicity. I’m white Irish their father Black British. I have argued with them about racism I have disagreed with them about racism until finally I listened to them about racism. I have understood that through institutionalised racism and white privilege everyday behaviour , the things we take for granted, and the things we look at and think what’s your problem here are not imaginations or complaints and excuses. They are real and oppressing and at times very disturbing. It is hard to hear this when you yourself are not racist in your opinions and you hope your actions. But in order to change this we need to accept that there is a different world out there for BAME communities. They are the ones experiencing it every day and they are the ones we need to stand next to, listen to, support to ensure that every person has a voice they feel is valid.
So the next time you see something organised by BAME labour or the next time there is a petition regarding a BAME issue get involved. Stand and talk to people attending them to discover why we need these organisations and groups. Prepare to hear things that will be alien to you beliefs and even shakes your own identity but listen and understand. And show that you want everyone in this country to have a say, to feel empowered, to feel they belong.
And do your bit on social media. Share positive stories about the BAME communities as they get short shrift in the media. Highlight discrimination and stand against it. Learn about the true causes of poverty, homelessness, deprivation in this country and spread these to people you know so the blame is lifted from the immigrant to the feet of those it belongs to, the people who the lowest turnout in a very long time elected into power , possibly illegally.
Work against Islamaphobia, xenophobia, racism in every aspect of your life and do it not because it makes you look a better person but because it is what you want from your soul, the right of every human on this planet to be treated as such. Look inward before you look out and let’s make sure we are all working for each other in every community.
And we can all unite now behind a massive movement, that of supporting Jeremy Corbyn who stands for everyone In every community. To change landscape of politics so everyone can see that they have something to vote for. Someone who speaks at rallies who has supported the causes of those standing against racism who understand the politics of the oppressed and the oppressors and has done so all his life. We can reclaim the Labour Party so that it becomes the party who stands up for all who need support rather than those who pay the most money. Those fighting Jeremy are unaware of the social shift that has been brought about by the awakening of the masses to politics. Those who are are frightened as this will mean the end of their privilege. These masses need to include members of the BAME community who for so long have given so much and received so little. Their unique experiences need to be part of our new society and we need to stand beside them to ensure they are.