Women of Colour to the Chakrabati Inquiry on Racism in the UK

We thought you might be interested in our statement which has been submitted to the Chakrabarti Inquiry“into antisemitism and other forms of racism including islamophobia, within the Labour party”. We would be glad for any feedback.

We are also circulating the highly recommended submission from International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK, titled “An anti-racist movement versus witch-hunting with antisemitism”.

Please feel free to share both widely.
Yours for anti-racism and justice,
Sara and Chrissie,
Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike

Submission to the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry into anti-semitism and other forms of racism including Islamophobia, within the Labour Party.
Women of Colour on behalf of Global Women Strike

We are a non-party political group of women of colour, some of whom joined the Labour Party in order to support Jeremy Corbyn. Soon after he was elected, we wrote and circulated a statement addressed to Black/people of colour aimed at explaining why we should all support Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, so it fully represents the whole community (see attached).

We are alarmed at the orchestrated attempts to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, which is anti-austerity and anti-racist, through false allegations that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-semitism.

The attack began during the run up to the May elections. The Labour candidate for London mayor was a Muslim man, now the first Muslim mayor of a European capital. His opponent, a white Jewish Tory millionaire, ran a campaign that dripped with racism. Allegations of anti-semitism fed into the genuine Islamophobia spewing from the Tories and UKIP. That the Tory was defeated tells us that Londoners were not taken in, and shows that they tend to be anti-racist and pro-Corbyn.

Some of the political reality for Black/people of colour is as follows:

  • Official reports showed a 65% increase in hate crime against Muslimsand a further 10% increase in 2014/15.
  • Violent attacks in the UK spiked by 300% the week after the Paris bombings; almost half the victims were Muslim women.
  • There have been over 100 racist killings in the UK since the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.
  • There have been 509 deaths of Black people in police custody and immigration detention, without one successful prosecution of officers involved.
  • Stop and search allows the police – who have been found to be institutionally racist — to target people of colour who are 17.5 times more likely than white people to be stopped. These stops are part of a biased criminal justice system in which black people are three times more likely than white people to be arrested, and more likely to be charged and receive custodial sentences. In one court Black defendants were 79% more likely to be jailed than white defendants.
  • Over 25% of the prison population is from a Black/ethnic background; more than 1 in 7 are Muslim.
  • The Prevent strategy targets Muslim children and their mothers especially, resulting in children being forcibly seized from their families and taken into care.
  • Black people are under-represented in Parliament but over represented in low waged jobs: 45% of employees of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin earn under the living wage, and 41% of employees of African origin.
    Women of colour and immigrant women get the lowest wages, The pay gap between white British men and Black women is: 14% for Black Caribbean women, 18% for Bangladeshi women, 21% for Black African women, and 26% for Pakistani women.
  • Many of us are refugees and asylum seekers who suffered or are suffering detention, including mothers separated from children and rape survivors, who have escaped wars and starvation foisted on us by imperialism, and are being refused entry into this country. Jewish people know well how many faced death because the doors were closed to most of those who tried to escape Hitler, the same way as they are now for hundreds of thousands crossing the Mediterranean. (Some Jewish people have drawn on their experience of Kindertransport, for example, to demand that Syrian children be allowed into Britain.)At this moment there is no evidence – and none is offered, of a comparable experience of discrimination against Jewish people now, unless they are people of colour. Yet we are being urged to elevate anti-semitism, thus overshadowing the most widespread forms of racism and discrimination today.Prioritising anti-semitism in this way is in itself racist, especially considering that most Jewish people in the UK are white. Some of the worst effects of this are:1) to divide antiracists by asking Jewish people to focus on anti-semitism at the expense of supporting the life-and-death struggles of people of colour/immigrant and refugee people;
    2) to discourage people of colour from participating in politics, precisely at a time when the Labour leadership is inviting grassroots people to be actively involved in making policy.Increasingly communities of colour include thousands of mixed race families. The white people of those families are often committed to anti-racism, so that many white people have direct experience of racism and the struggle against it.

    We are particularly concerned that so many of the known Labour Party suspensions are of people of colour, Muslims, committed anti-racists, some of whom are Jewish.

    One of those suspended (recently reinstated) is a Black Jewish woman, Jacqueline Walker. She had (privately) compared the genocide of Jewish people with the genocide of African people in the slave trade.

    At the same time, Malia Bouattia, the first Black and Muslim woman to be elected president of the NUS, has been under unprecedented attack by university Jewish societies, closely connected with Zionist bodies which oppose the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

    The allegations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party began by equating anti-semitism with opposition to Israel, separate from other forms of racism. In both the NUS and the Labour party, such attempts to conflate anti-semitism with anti-Zionism aim to stifle any discussion or protest about the genocide the Israeli state is perpetrating against Palestinians.

    People of colour know exactly what we think about apartheid and what is happening to people in Palestine, and many of us have been active against that genocide including demonstrating in front of the Israeli embassy, especially during the bombings of Gaza. We noticed that many of those arrested and given disproportionately long sentences were visibly Muslim. For example, one young man was given a year in jail for throwing a plastic bottle.

    Some of us were also in the movement against apartheid in South Africa, and take particular note of what Archbishop Desmond Tutu said about Israeli apartheid. He described Israel’s government as having created an “apartheid reality”. In supporting Palestinians’ call for BDS, he wrote: We learned in South Africa that the only way to end apartheid peacefully was to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure . . . It’s about naming an unjust system and refusing to participate in it.

    We totally oppose the Jewish Labour Movement’s proposed rule change that is being raised at some Constituency Labour party and other meetings. It seeks to monitor private conversations and even thoughts, in the name of fighting anti-semitism. Even if the rule change includes other forms of racism, it must be firmly rejected. Such a Big Brother strategy would destroy the Labour Party. It is the first step towards a dictatorial regime which people elected Jeremy Corbyn to refuse. We also know that it would be used first of all against people of colour and anti-racist and pro-Palestinian activists, as recent suspensions have already shown.

    For us anti-racism aims to lift the whole population out of discrimination and injustice. We have nothing in common with those few of any race who use anti-racism in any form to protect an apartheid state, or to undermine the new Corbyn-led movement, and/or for their own personal advancement.             10 June 2016

    Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike
    Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX
    E: womenofcolour@globalwomenstrike.net, T:0207482 2496