IRR News (8 – 22 April 2020)
Institute of Race Relations weekly digest - Against Racism, for Social Justice
Dear IRR News subscriber,
The pandemic – and governments’ responses – may have changed the world as we know it, but it is also revealing what is already there – the inequality and structural racism that underpins society. On this week’s IRR News, Wayne Farah, who has had twenty years’ experience working with NHS Trusts, gives voice to the anger of Black and other ethnic minority health professionals and explains why they are so wary of a government inquiry into the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on BAME communities which has the NHS and Public Health England at its lead. ‘While the government must certainly be held to account, the NHS must not be allowed to shirk responsibility as they did over the deaths and forced destitution of staff and patients in the Windrush scandal’, Farah concludes.
Last week, IRR director Liz Fekete spoke to Suresh Grover and Dorothea Jones of The Monitoring Group, asking them if race hate crimes have become the collateral damage of Covid-19. Grover blames a combination of Covid-19 linked racism, the ‘Blame China’ narrative and lockdown social distancing measures for the fact that the number of referrals to TMG has escalated, reaching an unprecedented level, surpassing even the Brexit campaign. But he also voices criticisms of police and hate crime networks who, he believes are unable to meet the challenges of this crisis, with his colleague Dorothea Jones describing as soul destroying her everyday experience of witnessing the failure of police and other agencies to assist her clients.
That Covid 19 – and the way states are responding, whether in the UK or Europe – is fundamentally changing the very terms on which we discuss racism and poverty, is beyond doubt. But for IRR News staff and volunteers who compile our regular calendar of race and resistance (incorporating the Covid-19 roundup), it’s become clear how important it is that we challenge the vocabulary that states use to describe lockdown. What is happening in Roma settlements and refugee camps in countries like Bulgaria, Slovakia, Greece and Italy is not the lockdown, however severe, that other populations are experiencing, and should not be described as such. When the military build separation walls and guard checkpoint with guns, when drones with thermal sensors are used to remotely take temperatures of residents in Roma settlements, we are not talking about proportionate coronavirus-related restrictions but about targeted quarantine and militarised confinement. Such measures build on processes of cultural stereotyping and collective stigmatisation, something that is highly corrosive for community relations. We saw this once again over the last two weeks in terms of the outrage expressed by Gypsy Traveller and Roma organisations, infuriated by the Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘The Truth About Traveller Crime’. You can read the IRR’s complaint to Ofcom here.
IRR News Team