Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Monday, December 25, 2017

This Christmas is a good time to fight racism

As regular readers of this blog might expect, I got into something of a row in a pub in the run up to Christmas about whether or not black workers experience systematic racial disadvantage in the workplace. I know what I know from the evidence of my own eyes and my own intelligence over the past thirty years of working life, but I thought it worth setting out the evidence here.

in the last 3 months of 2016, the average hourly pay for White employees was £13.75, while the average hourly pay for employees from other ethnic groups was £13.18 (so on average white employees are earning 4.3% more than non-white employees). This single figure doesn’t quite capture the stark inequality in workplaces with significant black workforces where the senior management are overwhelmingly white, but it speaks to racial inequality in the world of work. 11% of white employees are in managerial positions (of any seniority) compared to 5% of black employees.

Access to the world of work itself is also subject to racial inequality however. White people are considerably more likely to be in paid employment since in 2016, the economic inactivity rate – the number of people who are economically inactive as a percentage of the total working age population – was 21% for White British people and 30% for people from all Other ethnic groups, a difference of nine percentage points.

Racial inequality in employment is a manifestation of the racism embedded structurally and institutionally within British (and Western) capitalism, and is therefore reflected also in the world outside work – for example in the criminal justice system.

Although in 2015/16, a higher proportion of the Mixed, Asian and Black adult populations were victims of crime than the White adult population, it was Black people who were over 3 times more likely to be arrested than White people  and ethnic minority groups in general who were over one and a half times more likely to be arrested than White people. (Perhaps because people from an ethnic minority background are 3 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the Police than White people and Black people are over 6 times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people).

The state disproportionately polices the Black population, even though that population is disproportionately in need of protection.

All these statistics are drawn from official sources and published by the Government. They are hardly likely to exaggerate this stain upon our society – and yet many people (including workers who work in organisations where this evidence is manifest around them) are capable of denying them.

Racism is resurgent. The Presidency of the United States is in the hands of reaction, a far-right Party is in Government in Austria and this country is careering wildly on a path set by a referendum result dictated by anti-immigrant prejudice (never forget that a Labour MP was murdered by a racist during the referendum campaign and that the result was that sought by the assailant and not the victim).

The obvious failure of the contemporary capitalist system to offer decent lives to the majority of the population does offer hope that a socialist leadership of the Labour Party could give us a socialist Government – but the lessons of the 1930s surely teach us that times such as these also offer the possibility of far worse outcomes.

Socialists here and now need to be the most determined anti-racists – and we need to assert the truth of the fact of institutional racism in the face of the denial of our fellow citizens and fellow workers.

For long years I fought this fight as a union activist  - now, as a Labour Party representative I know how important it is that we ensure that we select black and ethnic minority candidates for public office – and that every candidate we select is committed to the fight against racism. 

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