Labour councillor urges tougher stance on race equality after Abbott Twitter row

Ockendon councillor, Aaron Kiely has continued to take a strong stand on race equality as the Diane Abbott twitter row rumbles on.

Following his staunch defence of the Hackney MP, the young councillor has written in The Voice, a passionate article imploring the government to take a stronger stand on race equality.

Cllr Kiely says:

“The Government should be taking a stronger stance on race equality. Instead they’re allowing the Diane Abbott race row to deflect attention from the real issues

I WAS four years old when student Stephen Lawrence was cut down in his prime by racist thugs and it has taken 18 years for some justice.

Growing up with the background of such a tragedy has compelled me to become active in the fight against racism and ultimately lead me to become an activist in the NUS Black Students’ Campaign.

The struggle for a properly resourced Black Students’ Campaign came off the back of the inquiry in to the death of Stephen Lawrence. The campaign would not be here today if not for the determined support of people like the Lawrence family.

For almost two decades the world saw the Lawrence family subjected to two counts of racism. Firstly, at the hands of racist thugs who brutally murdered in an innocent black teen. Secondly, at the hands of the Metropolitan Police, whose abject failure led to the public inquiry chaired by Lord Macpherson, that concluded the police and other institutions were “institutionally racist”.

Given the Lawrence family’s long hard road to some justice – although other killers still remain at large – it is disgusting and disgraceful that less than 24 hours after the sentencing, the discussion has moved on to whether Diane Abbott, Britain’s first black woman MP who has actively campaigned against racism all her political life, is indeed racist herself.

Not only is a “tweet” being discussed in equal measure to a racist murder and the struggle that came with it, but this has been allowed to eclipse the more important discussion of how to prevent further racist attacks and ensure justice is served where racist crimes are committed. This could only happen in a country that has a long way to go in eradicating racism.

Only a week earlier, Anuj Bidve, an Indian student was shot dead in Salford, Greater Manchester. According to research by the Institute if Race Relations, since 1993 – when Stephen was killed – 96 people have lost their lives in the UK in apparent racist attacks – a rate of over five each year.

The only way to prevent violent racist hate crimes is to create a society where the enormous contribution of black people, all faiths and cultures is celebrated not ignored. Race Relations legislation makes it statutory and obligatory for councils to promote strong anti-racist policies. Enforcing this makes a huge difference on the ground.

During Ken Livingstone’s mayoralty, racist attacks in London fell by over 50 percent, which is a testament to his administration’s emphasis on supporting and celebrating the capital’s diversity.

When racist attacks occur, all black people ask for is equal treatment before the law. However, it is institutional racism that prevents black people from not only accessing justice, but also being wrongly targeted. According to official statistics, in 1999-2000, a black person was five times more likely than a white person to be stopped by police. A decade later, they were seven times more likely. Also, in 2011 alone, between January and August, 8 Black detainees died in police custody.

The Macpherson report also acknowledged racism in other areas of public life such as education and health. Oxford University has accepted only 32 Black undergraduates this year. Between 2005 and 2009-10, Black patients formally detained under the Mental Health Act rocketed from 2,700 to 4,600, which represent around a 70 percent increase.

The recommendations of the report are as relevant today as they were 13 years ago. The Government should be taking action to implement these and map a national strategy for preventing racist violence, instead of allowing a Tory blogger to distract and deflect attention from this.

Racism has devastated the world, in forms of slavery, partition, colonialism, genocide and institutional and systematic discrimination. Racism still thrives in Britain today. A serious discussion, with perspective, would not allow a tweet to dominate it and would focus how to seriously confront this hatred.

We can no longer wait around for more black students to be harmed and killed in racist attacks. We can never have another Anthony Walker, who was killed by racists in 2005, or Stephen Lawrence.

“Now is the time to make sure the voices of Black people are heard – from Students’ Unions to Parliament – to make sure that the issue of eradicating racism is always on the agenda.”

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