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Post-Christmas musings on the R word

December 29, 2017 4:37 PM
By Merlene Emerson in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by South Lincolnshire Liberal Democrats

Merlene Emerson London BridgeThe Queen has in her Christmas speech welcomed new members into the royal family in 2018.

Prince Harry will soon have a mother-in-law who is African American and the young couple's future children will be of mixed race heritage. The society pages lap up the fairy-tale love story and we all cheer ourselves on how liberal we have become as a nation.

Vogue Magazine has a new editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, and we can't help but notice the change in the complexion of many of the supermodels that grace the glossy pages. Sir Mo Farrah has not only been knighted but has also been named BBC's Sports Personality of the Year! The list goes on.

But does that mean that there is now no longer any race discrimination in the UK?

Hold on, what do we make of the less savoury reports, such as yet another death of a black youth in custody? Deaths in police custody need to be investigated with as much urgency as murder enquiries, says a recent Home Office report.

In another news report, three judges of BAME background sue the Ministry of Justice for race discrimination. MoJ has however rejected diversity targets for the judiciary.

People from BAME backgrounds still make up 25% of the prison population and 41% of the youth justice system (despite making up only 14% of the general population).

Whether in areas of education or employment, in the criminal justice system or in political representation, by simply drilling deeper into the statistics, we can easily find disproportionate representation (or under-representation) of different ethnic groups.

And then there is the question of intersectionality. Are Asian women doubly discriminated against in cases of job promotions? Or are those who are, say, LGBT+ or disabled and from a BAME background at a disadvantage when accessing public services?

As Liberal Democrats we believe in individual rights, freedoms and equal opportunity. Every card-carrying member would no doubt have the following from the foreword to the party Constitution emblazoned in their conscience:

"to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity".

How we marry the above with the reality of the society in which we live is of course another matter. Fortunately, the Federal Policy Committee has set up a new policy working group on Race Equality and I have been appointed by FPC to chair this. The remit of the group can be found here and membership of the policy working group is open for any interested applicants - deadline 1pm on 2 January 2018.

I look forward to engaging with the wider membership in the year ahead to help formulate policy recommendations for adoption at Federal Conference.

* Merlene Emerson is is Vice-Chair of the Federal International Relations Committee and an executive member of Liberal International British Group. She is Co-founder of Chinese Liberal Democrats.