We care about diversity and, I assume, equality. That’s why we are on this site is it not?
With an election looming we need to be on our toes. We need to be ready to challenge the lies and stereotypes that will unfortunately start to flow as the parties sink to the lowest common denominator.
It is useful to see that in areas like London, where a great many locally run state schools have embraced and celebrated diversity, there is little support for parties that seek to demonise immigrants. Though London can be said to be multi-cultural, employment is also high and schools constantly outperform their counterparts in other areas. Immigrants are not a problem, yet the media and the mainstream political parties keep them at the front of the agenda.
In the Essex seaside town of Clacton, however, the immigrant population is less than half the national average – yet wages are 20% below the national average, while the proportion of people dependent on benefits is higher.
In Kent – and Buckinghamshire – grammar schools and secondary moderns still exist and children are selected at 11. Kent’s local authority held on to section 28 for some years after it was repealed. It is there that we see prejudice and stereotypes abound and a growing support for political parties that want to blame immigrants for local joblessness. It was telling that recently a TV news programme asked residents of Ramsgate what percentage of immigrants were resident in the area and what the problems were. One woman was adamant that it was in the 80’s; whereas it is between 8 and 9%. One may wonder what has fed this erroneous estimate.
My guess is ignorance of the facts and a perpetual diet of misinformation. Because people seek scapegoats; they want to blame someone for their misfortunes – or perceived misfortunes – and political parties have down the centuries used ethnicity, sexual orientation religion, gender and/or disability.
The 2014 winter floods were blamed on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people; disabled people claim too much benefit and are not ‘worth’ the minimum wage; it was not that long ago that equal pay for equal work was disputed and the reality is we still do not have it!
So we see politicians shifting the blame, making up stories such as one about ‘tourist benefit scroungers’ which they were unable to prove when challenged. They focus on the people who have less power and squeeze them; so we see disabled people being deprived of their benefits by inappropriate tests that have resulted in many deaths.
32 die a week after failing test for new incapacity benefit
More than a thousand sickness benefit claimants died last year after being told to get a job, we can reveal.
We’ve highlighted worries about the controversial medical tests for people claiming Employment Support Allowance which are being used to slash the country’s welfare bill.
The Government has boasted that more than half of new claimants are found “fit to work” – failing to mention that over 300,000 have appealed the decision and almost 40% have won.”
So we have seen the present Government’s policies have already cost lives. The policies being talked about: reducing the power of the Public Duty of the Equality Act; scrapping the Humans Rights Act and reducing immigration, which would mean leaving the EU and thereby the Human Rights Court as well.
The Stephen Lawrence Report of 1999 raised awareness of institutional prejudice and instigated much needed work in the criminal justice system, which meant that hate crime was taken more seriously. However, under the concept of ‘austerity’ we see the structures, training and culture that supported this work massively diluted.
We see the appalling result in an atrocious homophobic attack and totally inadequate response from both the CJS and NHS here http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/homophobia-in-microcosm-how-a-savage-gang-attack-tore-one-mans-whole-life-apart-9780443.html
We know what will happen if we do nothing.
Gordon Allport produced a really useful diagram explaining what happens if we do nothing (see below). It starts by enabling people to see the danger of using banter and inappropriate labels, which all too often people ignore or trivialise. This perpetual labelling feeds a culture of negativity and prejudice which quickly builds to social withdrawal from the target of that abuse. Once that is done the target is less known, so they can be demonised and seen as less human. This encourages discrimination, which further feeds the targeted group’s lack of worth in the perpetrators’ eyes and it is even seen as acceptable to attack members of the group physically. Dealing with that level of abuse often renders the target unable to go on; so they suicide or the dominant group feels justified or confident or enough to kill them.
It is our job as citizens to dispel the lies, challenge the prejudice, and educate OUT prejudice.
Sue Sanders chair LGBT History Month www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk
In employment, education,
access to housing, health
care, services, goods etc.
Ignoring, excluding, invisilbilising, physical
withdrawal, not patronising businesses etc.
Bad-mouthing, spiteful gossiping, creating
negative myths about people, anti-jokes, verbal