‘We cannot erase the past, but we can build a better future for all’ – BME London
BME London – Addressing Structural Inequalities Statement
14 BME London Registered Social Landlords CEO’s, known as BME London, publish this statement of intent in response to the growing momentum in the call for race equality from the Black Lives Matter protests as a result of the sickening injustice of the murder of George Floyd by a police oﬃcer witnessed by the whole world.
We condemn this heinous act and stand in solidarity with all those who have come together to peacefully protest, and demand a change in how UK society seeks to challenge itself and change to build a better future for all people. In particular those from Black and Minority Ethnic communities in the London, whom we seek to serve and represent as community facing organisations.
We recognise that we are not doing enough. As BME London Social Landlords, we have an even greater leadership responsibility as the foremost sustainable BME led non profit community organisations in London to speak up, campaign and work with others to address the dynamics of prejudice and power, that feeds the systemic and structural inequality that exists in our society.
First we had the deaths due to the Coronavirus disproportionately affecting those from BME communities (showing that they were twice as likely to die than white people) as a result of serious underlying inequalities based on race. Then we saw the groundswell of ‘Black Lives Matters’ George Floyd protests taking place all over the UK during the COVID 19 lockdown, that have now been followed by the dismantling of statues of former slave owners. These crises have conﬂated issues of race, national identity and race equality, bringing back into focus the treatment of BME communities in the UK over decades and centuries with the profiteering legacy of chattel slavery, highlighting the link of Britain’s colonial empire to the race disparities that exist today. BME London welcomes the constructive debate on race and racial discrimination, and are keen to work with others to facilitate greater understanding of racism and how it impacts, individuals, groups, communities and organisations from BME communities.
As institutions we are part of society’s structure. As BME led housing organisations, within our leadership we have CEO’s who have their own personal narratives, on BME London’s board who have experienced having to navigating systemic racism within and outside the housing sector. We would fail the communities we work with if we failed to make public some of our own individual experiences. Our proximity to BME communities gives us that responsibility to set out and make the case for appropriate solutions moving forward.
We are 20 years in from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, we have just passed the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower ﬁre tragedy, followed by the Windrush Scandal. Historically what we have seen through a critical lens of reviews dealing with race, are well resourced expensive administrative processes of enquiry with a high degree of scrutiny, with thorough and robust findings; only for a familiar pattern to follow, characterised by subsequent official apologies, reviews, reports with recommendations, many of which are not implemented or translated into meaningful changes in policy. If we are to be honest with ourselves and learn from this recent past, we must be sincere and use this opportunity to reset and raise our ambition to create the lasting change that our society needs to prosper and thrive.
George Floyd’s death and the mobilisation call that “Black Lives Matters”, made by a new generation alongside peers and parents of all backgrounds in this new technological age, has fundamentally changed the nature of the discourse. We have a duty not to fail the next generation. What this experience has shown is how powerful transparency can be and act as the cornerstone for change. Not only are we committed to operate our businesses in an open and transparent manner, going forward, we will demand the same from our partners, stakeholders and service deliverers and providers. We believe this is a small, but a significant step against discrimination and prejudice.
The disparities that affect BME communities in poverty, housing, homelessness, education, employment, health, criminal justice, social mobility are real and stark. These social determinants as related to BME communities, in themselves ask the question of society do ‘Black Lives Matter’ and, as a society, makes us all accountable to demonstrate we can answer in the positive by ensuring robust measures are in place to reduce inequality in every single indicator. We are committed to advocating for and working in partnership to support work that addresses disparities and inequalities that face BME communities in London.
Young people are our future – our future health professionals, teachers, school Governors, entrepreneurs, parents, and carers. A society that cannot offer hope and belief, simply cannot prosper. We, as individuals, and CEO’s of BME Led Housing Organisations, together with London’s community must commit to working towards making London the kind of city and economy that our young people from BME communities and in particular our young Black people deserve and have a stake in. This means we must ensure that young members of BME communities are given genuine hope for the future, to allow them to believe that they will have an equal chance of fulfilling their dreams and potential.
Our commitment extends to working in partnership with other agencies, organisations and government in working towards the following:-
1. Giving young people from Black and BME communities hope and confidence, that their future matters. We will work to bridge the gap between the young generation from BME communities and our organisations, by advocating for more resources and support to grassroots BME community enterprises already making progress in engaging young people and delivering positive results; and through mentoring/internships programmes we run and our day to day work with residents.
2. Contributing to keeping young people safe, by maintaining a focus on the causes of serious youth violence and knife crime, and give help to those who need a second chance to get their lives on a better track. The evidence shows that there is disproportionate representation of Black and BAME young people among both victims and offenders. We commit ourselves to work with grass-roots BME communities to shine the light on this issue.
3. Making the case for opening up workforces at all levels to people of all backgrounds where the conclusive evidence is that businesses with more diverse workforces at all levels of seniority do better. The evidence is very clear – people from Black and BME backgrounds with equivalent education level do not get into the same well paid jobs with good prospects as those from more advantaged backgrounds and are more likely to be unemployed, or under-employed. It’s time to follow the evidence. We are committed to re-examining our internal practices and change processes or attitudes that would deny opportunity to members of the Black and BME minorities and we will demand the same from partners and stakeholders. We will campaign to ensure that diversity at senior levels becomes a reality and not just a discussion, by making our organisations safe spaces for colleagues to talk about issues of race and discrimination and pay inequality, and seeking to tackle the daily small acts which make one set of colleagues perpetually feel they are not seen as equals.
4. Advocate for a national conversation on “homes that are fit for frontline workers” and work with BME National and other social housing trade bodies, to have an important role in making this happen.
5. Demonstrate leadership by proactively working with local, regional and central government to ensure that there are clear goals, targets and measures to track the improvement in race disparity indicators. As such BME London welcomes the UK government in its recently announced cross governmental commission looking at discrimination towards BAME people in education, health and criminal justice system, and will make ourselves available and believe we have an important contribution to make in providing socially innovative solutions to move the agenda forward.
Given the response of solidarity by so many organisations and institutions to create a more just society in the wake of the George Floyd “Black Lives Matter” protest, we must call on the UK Government to seize this opportunity to demonstrate its sincerity to address race disparities as highlighted in the statistics from its own Race Disparity Unit and commit to further work on the implementation of existing recommendations (outlined below) from previous reviews. Enter relevant discussions with community facing organisations and groups such as BME London to create an environment where real movement towards a more equal and just society may materialise.
We suggest that a new focus on previous reviews provides a useful baseline for discussions to take forward a new agenda which can shape the basis for moving forward. So we ask that the government considers the following :-
- Update its own BME 2020 Plan and further extend the targets and initiatives started
- Update its responses to The MacGregor Smith Review 2017, by setting clear targets and incentives to businesses to take positive action on diversity
- Implement the recommendations to Increase the ethnic diversity of UK Boards The Parker Review 2017
- Implement the recommendations in the The Lammy Review 2017 into the justice system
- Implement the recommendations in the Public Health England report Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19
- Utilise the recent Windrush Lessons Learned Review report to contextualise as a lens to view how people from Black and BME communities have been treated by Government institutions in order to drive improvements in our systems and structures moving forward.
We cannot erase the past, but we can build a better future for all. The business case for unlocking the full potential of all Londoners is to act on addressing the structural inequalities. BME London is committed to being proactive to play its part. We invite others on this journey to make lasting change.
BME London Landlords – 19th June 2020
For more details regarding BME London
Khalid Mair – Advocacy Lead BME London