By Amanda Thorley
Throughout 2022 and 2023, the racial inequalities and injustices in our society have been starkly laid bare. Institutional police racism has reared its ugly head time and time again, with the killing of unarmed black man Chris Kaba by a Met Police officer being one particularly shocking and tragic example. Thanks to the tireless campaigning efforts of Kaba’s family and their supporters, the Met officer responsible for his death will now potentially face criminal charges.
Meanwhile, a recent two-year research project found that more than a third of people from ethnic minority backgrounds had experienced racially motivated attacks. They were also far more likely to face discrimination and inequality in housing, education and the workplace. This is not by chance, but a direct result of successive Tory governments’ racist and anti- worker policies. Yet, the recent period has seen Sunak and co go even further as they ramp up their reactionary ‘culture wars.’
Far from being motivated by a genuine concern for children’s welfare, the government’s plans to tackle child sexual abuse is a cynical attempt to sow division through poisonous rhetoric. When announcing the plans, Rishi Sunak deployed racist dog whistles, claiming victims had previously been ignored due to “cultural sensitivity and political correctness”. In a Daily Mail article, Suella Braverman went further, alleging that the perpetrators of this abuse and exploitation of girls were “groups of men, almost all British Pakistani.”
Such nakedly bigoted (and blatantly false) statements have seen Braverman come under fire from a number of prominent Muslim organisations. Not only are Braverman’s comments racist and inflammatory, they also fly in the face of the facts of her own department, as a 2020 Home Office report found that a majority of perpetrators of child sexual abuse were actually white men. By latching on to the right-wing myth that child abuse rings are a threat posed mainly to white girls by Muslim men, Braverman’s racist scapegoating serves only to divide workers along racial and ethnic lines.
The Tory government have also continued to escalate their anti-refugee agenda. Far from being a sign of strength, these ‘culture wars’ are a cynical strategy used by a weak and divided Tory Party presiding over a historic crisis of British capitalism and confronting a strike wave that has placed them on the back foot.
Most recently, in response to the right-wing furore surrounding claims that migrants were being housed in five star hotels, the government unveiled plans to house 500 asylum seekers in a barge off the Dorset coast. The Tories have insisted that the “basic” accommodation would act as a deterrent to asylum seekers, and would be cheaper than housing them in hotels.
Unsurprisingly, the blatantly cruel move has triggered outrage from the local community. One local condemned the idea as “morally bankrupt”, and Enver Solomon, the Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, stated that the barge would be “completely inadequate” to house “vulnerable people who have come to our country in search of safety having fled beatings and death threats in countries such as Afghanistan and Iran.” Yet the government is obstinately pressing ahead, expanding its plans, currently “in discussion with other ports and vessels” as well as considering using disused army bases to house other refugees.
In the face of a government that is determined to stoke racism and prejudice through its escalating reactionary rhetoric and policies, it is vital that we build a mass anti-racist movement that draws into its ranks all the exploited and oppressed.
Labour’s recent promises to be ‘tough on crime’ – policies that would only strengthen the racist capitalist state – are a timely reminder that such a movement must be independent from Starmer’s party.
The full force of the trade unions needs to be mobilised in this struggle, as part of a united movement of the multiracial, multiethnic working class. Armed with a socialist programme such a movement could kick out the Tories and the capitalist system they loyally defend – one which has racism, sexism and discrimination stitched into its DNA.