Don John Blog: July 2022: Race Advice Service : Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner!
Once upon a time there was a Race Equality Service, and it was called the Southampton Council for Race Equality and was based initially in Northbrook Rd and later Palmerston Rd.
The aim of the organisation was to provide a service where individuals and organisations who felt that they had been subjected to actions that may have been a consequence of their racial/ethnic background; were able to receive solace and advice in a trusted environment.
This facility was closed many years ago in the hope and anticipation that individuals, organisations and companies took responsibility to police themselves.
Of course….human nature kicked in and when those organisations realised that there was no external oversight over their activities, like naughty children, they slipped back into their bad old ways and spent much of their time drafting meaningless paper policies, declaring so called “zero-tolerance environments and celebrating special days for each so-called disadvantaged group.
The irony is that the race equality services had unwittingly provided these organisations with the skills to make it look like they were actually doing something.
The reality was that a considerable part of their work was mostly about research and fact finding with little result and when they had finished their investigations they moved on and new individuals took their place and repeated the same endless merry go round with new players.
Unfortunately, individual cases of racism that included, racist bullying, racist language in the workplace, racist practices in housing services and racism in the criminal justice system were left relatively unchallenged and internal systems for complaints were woefully inadequate in identifying these issues and resolving them to the satisfaction of those affected…..and of course the social and political environment was not conducive to challenging racism and does not appear to be getting any better.
Moreover, there were suspicions that some organisations offering public services were more committed to protecting the organisation rather than supporting individuals who may have experienced racism; and that sometimes the appointment of ethnic individuals, whose roles had very little to do with race equality, sometimes acted as gatekeepers and a means to deflect those organisations from criticism. Consequently, the organisation ultimately failed to formally address the systemic racism in their services.
Many of us have concluded that there have been and will be occasions when complainants may need support to help them navigate deliberately complex internal systems and an independent facility such as a Race Advice Service could be that option.
Many of you will recall that the Black Lives Matter Movement gained global significance after the murder of George Floyd and peoples all over the world rose up to register their support.
Homemade cardboard placards were designed, and the whole thing felt like a series of pop concerts that everyone got high on for 24 hours on a wave of moral indignation, but many of these new “revolutionaries” had the safety net to return to “normal” business afterwards…..and so they did! Sadly, we knew that those few days of civil rights expression were going to be short lived and the phrase “For every action, there’s going to be a reaction,” loomed into focus. We knew that the other shoe was going to drop….and it certainly did.
Suddenly it was “All Lives Matter” and it was Black people who were being racist demanding for the police to be defunded so that they could continue with their lawless pursuits such as challenging Racism. The social and political environment aided and abetted by the press empathised with this new “realisation”…. and it got so bad that many started to feel sorry for middle-aged white men, ignored for so many years LOL….whose capacity to exploit others was being challenged….the new dispossessed!
The Black Lives Matter issue seemed to give hope and there was a feeling that this would be a good time for Southampton to recognise that an independent Race Advice Service was required, but clearly there would need to be a recognition that existing internal services were inadequate….and this would not be easy.
The major public sector institutions such as the local authorities, health services, education services and police services were not comfortable about such an independent service as it would start to identify inadequacies in ther capabilities to identify and respond to racism. It is moments like these you really see where people stand; and in many cases they barely got up!
However, the idea for a Race Advice Service, two years down the road, is now being revived with the trade union UNITE offering rent free office space as a base of operations. Of all the parties that displayed their moral outrage at the time UNITE were the only ones who converted their outrage into action, and we must recognise that and be thankful.
We still have some way to go, and the plan is to set up some kind of service and to launch in October 2022 during Black History Month . The establishment of a Race Advice Service in the city can only be a good thing and the city will be morally enriched by its presence.
I therefore call upon Black and ethnic minority individuals and organisations to not be satisfied with just sitting at the table.
In the words of a certain person: “Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner.
You must be eating some of what's on that plate”……
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner!
Earlier Blogs can be found: www.donjohn.co.uk
Race & Diversity Consultant (Hon. Doctor of Arts)
Black History Month South founder
Thank you for sharing this informative article Don John - Yvonne YEW