Why Politics Needs More Black People

We live in interesting times as the old adage goes and never has the need been greater for more diversity of voices on our political sphere.

We know that bad policies will invariably impact us in a negative way, as black people we are more prone to unemployment, poor housing, discrimination and poorer health outcomes. Therefore our involvement in politics is even more essential and here’s why.

Our media, institutions and politics are full of the same type of person majority white, private school then Oxbridge educated and very middle class. This lack of variety at the top can as we have seen lead to a case of group think which does lead to better decision making, and the same sort of narrative around culture, societal norms and political discourse being perpetuated time and again.

If we look at the Windrush scandal and the callous decisions making that created the hostile environment and led to the removal of British citizenship from people who had every right to live, work and prosper in Britain. Then we can see that had those in positions of power been from a black background we may not have seen the mistreatment of hundreds if not thousands of British people who’s only crime was the colour of their skin and which (commonwealth) country they came from. We saw that even when it was identified that there would be a negative impact on the Windrush generation many of whom were in their 60s and older there was still a decision made to destroy Home Office records that would have proved they had every right to be here.

If the lack of black voices is missing in our top institutions and decision making bodies it is certainly missing on the political front. There are many high profile black figures in the public eye from Diane Abbott, Helen Grant, David Lammy, Chuka Umunna, Kwasi Kwarteng Kate Osamor and Dawn Butler. Each has had to traverse the often tricky terrain of paying their dues as activists, getting selected, elected and building their political careers in a society where black success is often critiqued more closely.

Each of the people named have used their platforms to raise the issues and injustices they have encountered throughout their lives and careers.

If we look at the debate around Brexit, it is often a subject debated by the same old faces yet Chuka Umunna and Kwasi Kwarteng are on opposing sides of the debate yet offer a diversity of opinion that is often not heard or seen in the mainstream media. Here you have two high profile black men debating the future of our country in or out of Europe and whatever your opinion is on this subject it is refreshing to see.

But the individuals above cannot be alone. They are the figures head of what can be achieved. Yes it is not easy and the odds of success can be daunting especially when compared to the type of person described above who will find certain doors open to them with little effort but we must still try.

 

“We owe it to ourselves as individuals and as communities to be involved at every level of the political spectrum”

We are not a single issue community in fact we are a group of communities with many differing goals, aspirations and life challenges. But this is what makes our contribution unique. We understand injustice and we understand overcoming what can be insurmountable odds. These skills are what is called for in politics. Whether at a local, regional or national level we have a part to play and issues to raise. We will find allies along the way as well as detractors but as we have seen those in decision making positions can influence and change the narrative, put forward alternative views and where in power implement policies that will have a wider impact.

We owe it to ourselves as individuals and as communities to be involved at every level of the political spectrum as activists, campaigners, candidates, councillors, assembly members and MPs.

Party politics may not be for everyone, and I admit I am biased as I am a political party member, but it’s the entry level seat at the table where your contribution and votes at local level make a difference. From there it allows you to build your knowledge and experience of operating in a political dimension, critically analysing the impact and effect of motions and policies. More importantly it is the first step in building a political career where you can potentially influence others and put the issues that concern you and our community at the forefront.

James Beckles
London Borough of Newham Councillor

@James_Beckles

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