EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Black Lives Matter UK – A National Force For Good?
DATE: 9 September 2020, 6:00pm – 7:00pm
SPEAKERS: Inaya Folarin Iman, Calvin Robinson, Esther Krakue
EVENT MODERATOR: Dr Rakib Ehsan
Dr Rakib Ehsan 03:01
Ladies and gentlemen, if we could make a start to tonight’s event. Thank you for joining us for this Henry Jackson Society event: “Black Lives Matter UK – a national force for good?”. This event is based on an anthology that the Henry Jackson Society has just published on Black Lives Matter UK, looking at the ideological messaging, social narratives, and maybe what we’re also missing from those narratives when we are looking to talk about facilitating social progress and economic empowerment within Britain’s black communities. And I’m delighted to be joined by three of the writers who kindly contributed to the anthology, which was edited by yours truly. We have Inaya Folarin Iman, Calvin Robinson, and Esther Krakue. Inaya is the founder and director of the newly established Equiano Project, which is what we can call a debating forum, which promotes the exchange of ideas, particularly on issues of race and ethnicity. We have Esther Krakue who is involved with the, how do you say, the transatlantic political initiative Turning Point and is also developing as a very prominent social commentator when it comes to issues of race in the British context. And last, but not least, we have Calvin Robinson, a secondary state school teacher and educational consultant.
So, if I could kindly start with what we’re going to be doing in terms of the event, I think it’d be good for our esteemed panellists to maybe talk a little bit about their personal contributions to the anthology. We’ll start in chronological order in terms of how their writings appear in the anthology. So, we’ll start with Inaya. Inaya, you talked a lot in your contribution about how, you could say, almost a normalization of left-wing racism to the extent where you will say that, if you deviate from a certain script, especially if you are from an ethnic minority background – so essentially, if you reject this wave of left-wing identitarianism that we’ve witnessed in the last few months – that you can expect to be abused, almost silenced through intimidation. So, in your view, having a background of being a free speech activist, how damaging do you think that is for more broadly British liberal democratic society, but especially in terms of making progress on race-related issues.
Inaya Folarin Iman 05:43
So, I think it’s incredibly damaging. I think we’re all very used to racial thinking, and that’s what we understand, generally speaking, to be racism: thinking various different groups are inferior or superior or discriminating against people. And what we’ve generally understood it coming from is particularly the extreme right, and that’s where it’s, generally speaking, continued to manifest – if not in incredibly small numbers in the UK – and I think because it’s historically been associated in particular with right-wing movements – at least, that’s what it’s been understood as – the left have been part of the movement to overcome racism. I think people have often ignored or trivialized it when it has come from other sections of society. I think particularly, many of these modern so-called anti-racist activists have exploited that sense of (what I would regard as misguided) moral superiority in order to impose ideological conformity. And so what we have right now is this very rigid, identarian notion based off of Critical Race Theory and intersectionality. This phrase that we hear very often is, “you’re either anti-racist, or you’re a racist”, but what is not frequently told is that the conception of anti-racism is a very narrow and specific form. So, if you’re a white person, and don’t necessarily believe that you, for example, benefited from so-called white privilege or that you’re experiencing white fragility then you’re a racist in this worldview. But if you are an ethnic minority – and this is what my particular contribution focuses on – and if you don’t think that your life is defined by racism, oppression, and victimhood, and don’t affirm that narrative, then somehow you are inauthentic or what is said to be ‘complicit’ in white supremacy. So, it’s basically a losing game. There’s no space for disagreement, there’s no space for debate, it’s either you believe this, or you don’t. And so, what we’ve seen – particularly since the Black Lives Matter movement – is a rise in highly racialized insults, from many sections of very prominent so-called anti-racist activists – particularly in the mainstream media – using racialized terms, like a racial gatekeeper, or, you know, “Uncle Tom”, and all of these things, trying to use things that they think would particularly hurt an ethnic minority. Those are some of the tactics that have been used to silence critics of this deeply ideological agenda.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 08:18
Thank you. I think that’s a fantastic summarization of the wonderful contribution that you made towards the anthology. If we could move on to Esther. So, Esther, maybe building on some of those points that Inaya has made, in your piece you looked at the importation of divisive culture or politics from the United States. You have perhaps a unique insight, being part of a transatlantic political initiative yourself. If you could just kindly talk a little bit about your piece. In particular, how divisive do you think that importation is? In your personal point of view, do you think that there’s a growing interconnectedness between what we would call left-wing political activists in the British context, developing connections with their ideological counterparts across the pond?
Esther Krakue 09:11
That’s definitely what I explored in my side of the piece because what I noticed with the Black Lives Matter movement here in the UK is that they were trying to import a lot of social realities – I’m not really sure of the extent of their realities in the US – and trying to transpose those realities onto the UK. So, at the protests you saw some people shouting “don’t shoot” at the policeman, but our policemen are carrying buttons, right? I mean, I don’t know how they took themselves seriously shouting “don’t shoot” at our policemen, who don’t routinely carry firearms. There were just a lot of issues that I believe were being transposed. Especially by Black Lives Matter UK, which is supposed to be a sister organization of the US, which I personally called “the plague” – because it is the plague – and since that organization came to the UK, it has not helped race relations at all. I think it made the country a lot more divisive. It’s made what could have been constructive conversations about race and what should have been largely about class into this weird, almost morphed version of what happens in the US, which I think was completely inappropriate, which is why a lot of the abuse that I received was from Americans who just really didn’t understand the context in which I was speaking and who really don’t understand why I hate the Black Lives Matter movement and organization in the UK – even though I rightly call it “the plague”.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 10:36
So, you think that essentially one of the big problems, from your personal perspective, is circumstances surrounding law enforcement in the United States. You feel that there is almost a misapplication of what’s going on there and the narratives which are being cultivated in the American context, and because there’s that growing interconnectedness between left-wing activists based in Britain and their ideological counterparts in the US, you feel that there’s almost a development of an anti-police sentiment in Britain, based on the importation of these narratives associated with law enforcement in the American context. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?
Esther Krakue 11:21
Absolutely. And I think it’s a complete misunderstanding of the UK in general. It’s a complete misunderstanding of how race and class works in the UK, as opposed to how it works in the US. And I would even go as far as saying it’s building this “hegemony of blackness”, which is this move towards a black nationalism. But it’s not the black nationalism that you meet in the US, but black nationalism in the sense that all black people in the world should be under this banner of what we see as “progression” for black people, black culture, everything under that umbrella, which is why you would have people saying Adele shouldn’t be allowed to wear a Jamaica bikini or Bantu knots. Meanwhile, these people don’t know that she grew up in Tottenham, which has a large Caribbean diaspora. A lot of these people couldn’t even point to Jamaica on a map, right, but it’s become this “black hegemony” that we are all one, you must all agree with us, we’re going to get outraged on your behalf even though we don’t understand the circumstances in which things happen. It’s not just about, you know, conflating issues in the US with the UK, it’s about creating this narrative of a “black hegemony” where black American culture is king and everything they say, all the blacks around the world have to agree with it, because we’re all this oppressed, brainless people that are not white. And I really take offense to that, because it just shows a lack of understanding, and it shows a wider, more toxic political movement that’s going on that’s trying to weaponize minority groups – in particular black people – to reach ends that are not helping anyone.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan 12:48
Okay, thank you, Esther. So, we move on to Calvin. Calvin, in your contribution – based on your own professional background – is mainly focused on what you consider to be the growing influence of Critical Race Theory in the English education system. If you could just talk a little bit about what kind of effect you think that those sorts of ideological leanings, what kind of impact do you think that is having within the English education system?
Calvin Robinson 13:22
Well, I think CRT is infesting our education system in the way that we’re seeing what is often described as “the soft bigotry of low expectations”. I don’t think it is a “soft” bigotry, it is just typical bigotry, in that people who are non-white are perceived to have some kind of handicap or some kind of hurdle or barrier to get over. And it all comes down to the critical race theory that, you know, white people are privileged, and everyone else is oppressed or some kind of victim. The way we see this manifesting in schools is that the curriculum is being shaped in order to address what is a national issue or international issue in Black Lives Matter. We’re seeing the curriculum being altered and adapted in ways that are not critiqued. So, things like white privilege, and all these Critical Race Theory aspects are being put onto the curriculum, without any challenge. There’ll be, for example, book lists, where kids are taught Reni Eddo-Lodge or Robyn D’Angelo, without being given anything from the alternative perspective, such as Thomas Sewell or Booker T. Washington. So, there’s very much a one-sided perspective being shoved on schools here. And I think it all comes down to an element of racism really in that we have, I’ll use the words “metropolitan liberal elite”, who see minorities as some kind of demographic that needs help. And it is one homogenous demographic of BAME – you know, anyone that’s non-white – and they need help, and they need help from them. And that’s why they’re pushing their worldview pushing their narrative. I looked into the stats and thought, is this an issue? And actually, I don’t think that racism is an issue in our education system. I don’t think that race plays a significant role in English education. Because when I broke down this BAME category into different subsections, I saw that actually, black African kids are doing really well. They’re actually doing fairly well, exceeding white British kids and most other demographics. So that suggests to me that the system isn’t racist, and what’s racist is to perceive anyone that’s non-white as having some kind of handicap that needs to be overcome. We should be instead looking at ways of setting high expectations for all pupils, because then they’ll thrive, and then they’ll succeed.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 15:39
I think there are some interesting points that you made there, Calvin. If you just talk a little bit more about – well, there’s been a lot of talk about decolonizing the curriculum. People that are supportive of those movements of “curriculum decolonization”, their view is that historical black icons are not included in the curriculum, that in the curriculum provisions, these figures do not feature. How accurate is that?
Calvin Robinson 16:08
Well, first of all, we don’t know. So, people are saying, “we don’t have enough black figures on the curriculum”, or “we don’t have enough black history on the curriculum”. First of all, we don’t know what’s actually being taught in schools. So, they’re making that up off the spot. What we do know is what’s on the national curriculum. And if we look at the national curriculum, there’s a very good balance there. Of course, we don’t split history up by “black history” and “white history”, we teach current events and world events in British history as it occurred across the timeline. So it’s difficult to put it into their terminology of what is “black history”, but we do have key influential figures like Rosa Parks and Mary Seacole. We do cover a lot of African American civil rights movements, for example. We also cover the British Empire and the colonies, and India and Pakistan and the divide. All of this is on the national curriculum, so I’m not entirely sure what they want to add to it. But when they talk about decolonizing it, that’s when I worry, because then they’re talking about taking things off the curriculum. And the curriculum is shaped by subject matter experts, and it’s critiqued, and it is political, but we look at what is the best that has been, and we try to teach that rather than reacting to current events. When we’re looking at taking people off, because we find them offensive at the moment and just doing it in a rash decision, we need to take a step back and think: actually, what do we need to be teaching and why?
Dr Rakib Ehsan 17:23
I think you’ve made some fantastic points there, Calvin. If we could just go back to Inaya for a moment. So, I think Calvin there is talking about how we have a curriculum which is more based on broader national inclusivity, you could say, as opposed to group-specific interests. Do you feel that much of the issue with – if we just look at the broader Black Lives Matter UK movement – do you think one of the main issues there is that it’s just simply not interested in national cohesion at all? It’s not interested in the slightest in terms of building bonds or social trust and mutual respect between Britain’s different communities? Do you think that’s a fundamental weakness?
Inaya Folarin Iman 18:13
I really do, and I think we can see it in the way in which Black Lives Matter has fragmented since its inception. So obviously, it started as Black Lives Matter, but now we’re hearing a lot about “Black Trans Lives Matter”. What we’re seeing is that it’s getting smaller, not actually getting broader. It’s not becoming a more universalist conception, bringing in a working-class or a more kind of cosmopolitan view or a wider conception of blackness that also includes people in Africa who might be suffering forms of subjection, or Afro-Brazilians. It’s actually narrowing. I think that that’s the very inevitable consequence of an ideology that’s based on a very fragmented view. It doesn’t have a broader vision for society, it’s not future-oriented as you mentioned, it is not about building bonds and solidarity and reaching across tribal lines. It’s actually seeking to fracture society and exploit those fractures in order to gain political or economic power. And so yeah, I would very much agree with that. It’s one that seeks to often institutionalize racial divisions and actually reify race as a meaningful category that must then define people’s everyday life. And, obviously, the liberal tradition of anti-racism is to make race as meaningful as someone’s hair colour or eye colour. Black Lives Matter does the exact opposite of that.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 19:42
Thank you. Moving to Esther, I think it’d be quite interesting to hear your thoughts. I think, alluding to some of the points you made earlier about this idea of trying to cultivate or create an imagined, global black family – I don’t think that’s an unfair sort of description to use – what do you feel – if you’re looking at Black Lives Matter UK but also just more broadly the Black Lives Matter movement – do you feel there are instances of very serious forms of anti-black discrimination which exists on a global scale, but perhaps because of maybe an anti-Western ideology? So, for example, I’m looking at perhaps anti-black discrimination in countries such as China. Do you feel, because of that, because of that anti-Western sort of sentiment, which may be contained within the movement, that those kinds of instances of anti-black discrimination, they’re almost side-lined, aren’t they?
Esther Krakue 20:49
Yeah. And I think that was something I highlighted as one of the biggest flaws of the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly here in the UK. And that just demonstrated what the organization was interested in, what the movement in general was interested in. I’m someone who grew up in Ghana, and my dad is an engineer – I’m very familiar with the CCP, I’m very familiar with their activities in Africa, I’m very familiar with how black people are treated in China. And for an organization that wants to create this idea that, “oh, yes, Black Lives Matter is for all black people”, but they don’t care that black people are being abused and kicked out of homes in China, and this COVID 19 outbreak is being blamed on black people living in China. That wasn’t something that interested them. They don’t care about, you know, the thousands of sub-Saharan Africans that are enslaved in parts of North Africa. They don’t care about millions of other black people around the world that are actually facing real crises. But they want to transpose issues that seem to be unique to the black American community and transpose those to the UK as an attempt to create this really weird, black family, where we’re all black people, who’ve had the same experience, and we all share the same fight to actually be recognized. It’s just ridiculous. And, you know, I always point out that black people in the US make up less than 5% of the black population on Planet Earth. To have an organization that says “black lives matter”, but completely ignores the problems of more than 80% of black people on Planet Earth is just ridiculous. It’s not something that I could have taken seriously from its inception.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 22:23
Thank you. Calvin, if I could just ask in terms of your personal experience. You’ve talked a great deal in terms of pushing back on left wing identitarianism, especially from people who are sympathetic to or indeed support the Black Lives Matter UK movement. When you’ve pushed back, what have you found to be the general response from those people who you’re pushing back against? But also, more broadly, when we’re looking at people who are members of London’s diverse black communities, do you feel that there is an emerging pushback – not just in the broader British society, but particularly within Britain’s black communities – as perhaps their knowledge of the Black Lives Matter UK movement has progressed or rather strengthened?
Calvin Robinson 23:18
Yeah, there’s a lot to the question. I think it’s been interesting to see the progression. So, everyone jumped on that bandwagon of Black Lives Matter UK straight away – just because, obviously, everyone thinks that black lives matter – but then they started to realize that this was a movement, this was an organization that had socially Marxist views against Western society against the family unit, against capitalism. So, I have seen a few people starting to drift away from saying that black lives matter because they don’t want to be associated with that organization. But at the same time, the majority of backlash is after speaking out against CRT – which, let’s be honest, is, it is the hard left taking an ideology from the hard right, it is all about racial superiority, it is essentially saying that white people have a natural given privilege because of the pigmentation of their skin, it’s all about systemic racism based on our appearance, right? A lot of black voices and a lot of white voices supporting Black Lives Matter have been upset by anyone speaking out against it. And every time I’ve spoken out against critical race theory in particular, but also sometimes Black Lives Matter for using critical race theory, I’ve had the obvious insults of – I don’t know if I can say these on air – I’m called a “coon”, “race traitor”. I’ve even had people say “you’re using your white privilege, Calvin”, and I’ll say “well, but I’m not white”, but they’ll say, “oh, you’ve got temporary white privilege”. Like, what does that even mean? You know, it all comes down to their “unconscious bias syndrome” where everyone is racist by default, unless you subscribe to their ideology or their theory of CRT. I find it very disturbing, actually, that they can’t accept any reasoned debate, that there’s no way around it. And what I’m seeing as well is that these hard left activists of Black Lives Matter and people like The Black Curriculum, who want to change what we’re teaching in schools, they’re supported by quite a lot of parliamentarians. I think there were about 30 MPs that signed the pledge to “decolonize the curriculum”, or to add more black history or whatever to the curriculum. So, they’re getting Members of Parliament on board with their extremist ideology. That’s what disturbs me most of all, I think, more than the insults that they throw at me.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 25:35
That’s interesting. Inaya, building on a few key points that Calvin’s made, there was almost a bandwagon effect when there was the emergence of Black Lives Matter UK. I guess in a way, it does show that in a marketing sense, the movement has been quite successful, part of that is because the reality of the matter is, with the messaging, some people will say, “of course, yes, black lives matter”. But would you say that in a sense, had there been certain organizations – Calvin talked about parliamentarians – do you feel that there’s been a range of sectors who’ve just been too willing to buy into it without actually doing a bit of research or just trying to understand the main objectives of the movement?
Inaya Folarin Iman 26:23
Yeah, I definitely think there has been a massive bandwagoning effect, and I think that there are very interesting reasons for that. I mean, the whole thing emerged after everybody was stuck in doors during the lockdown; it was this burst of energy that really threw itself and catapulted to the forefront of public consciousness, and all of our attention was essentially on that. And so I think, from a marketing perspective that was what almost universally everyone’s attention was on. So, I think if you are a smart marketer, you want to be at the very front of that. I think particularly in the culture of social media, we have a culture very much where that’s how you signal your virtue, that’s how you signal your authenticity, by adding your social capital to whatever fad or movement is at the forefront. But I also think that Black Lives Matter as an organization is very in line with what I would regard as a very elitist ideology, where you never have to actually propose meaningful solutions that get to the very root of issues. It’s all about being seen. It’s all about very one dimensional, binary superficial narratives that supposedly explain all of the nuances and complexities of ethnic socio-economic phenomena. So, it’s great for corporations that that don’t actually have to deal with some of the things that Esther was talking about, which is the continued suffering of many people that are racialized as black all around the world. You can actually be seen as anti-racist by essentially putting a black square. And so I think I think many of those things go hand in hand. But also, one final point on that. I think it’s very interesting how quick corporations have jumped on it, because I think it just simply goes hand in hand. I think it’s very elitist. I think it erodes solidarity between people across various cultural, or ethnic lines. And I think that’s very – not in a conspiratorial way – but definitely in the interest of distracting away from anything very meaningful.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 28:39
If I could just move on and ask Esther this question. Being very familiar with Black Lives Matter narratives, the prevailing narratives, do you feel all too often the emphasis is not so much on equality, but almost positive discrimination. In the sense that, because of all these decades and centuries worth of perceived injustice, there needs to be very serious forms of positive discrimination in order to overturn those effects? So, in a sense, this isn’t really a matter of equality here, this is almost about what you could call “reverse discrimination”, or “positive discrimination”. And that in itself could potentially lead to a cultural backlash couldn’t it, in countries such as the UK?
Esther Krakue 29:26
Yeah, well, first of all, there’s no such thing as positive discrimination: it’s just discrimination. I find it very funny that you can talk about white privilege and, in the same breath, support policies that actively discriminate against white people. I think with organizations like Black Lives Matter, when you see a black CEO of a company, being published in the newspaper, they will make the point of saying “black CEO” and so on as opposed to just “CEO”, because it’s so shocking to them that black people can actually make it to positions of prominence in companies. And so, for me, that’s not progress. It’s actually very insulting, I feel, to black people. For instance, there was this movement where people were boycotting businesses that didn’t publish how many black people they had in, I don’t know, the top 20% of positions. Ridiculous. Just ridiculous. I mean, how is that helping anyone black? It’s making it seem as if black people are so incapable of achieving anything that you need bootleg organizations like Black Lives Matter to make it seem like we’re all just downtrodden and oppressed, and we have nothing better to do and we can’t make it on our own. To me it’s just pathetic. I don’t think positive discrimination works. I think it’s just discrimination. I think it goes a long way to actually embedding this view in society that black people are just incapable. For instance, if I was having surgery, I don’t care what the race of my surgeon is. But you have people that want to actively support measures that put black people – not to try and seek proportional representation in all fields, just visible fields – in media, top finance level top corporate level positions. You don’t want a quota for black people as sewage drainers – no, no, no, no, no you can’t have that. You can’t have a quota of black people as hairdressers, you need them in visible positions, because that’s how you virtue signal and that’s how you tell people, “yes, we’re doing good” and “yes, we’re helping those poor black people that can’t do anything for themselves”. For me, I find it very offensive. And it also makes us question whether black people can actually get somewhere without the help of what usually tends to be idle white liberals.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 31:36
Calvin, if I could just ask you to build on some of the points that Esther’s raised. You’ve talked about the socially divisive impact of critical race theory – more broadly, you could call it hard left identitarianism. I think it’s quite important that you do need to counter ideologies. In a sense, if you want to neutralize the threat of hard left ideology, then counter ideologies – compelling, more socially cohesive, counter narratives – are important. What do you think those kinds of counter narratives should be? And what kind of values should they be based on? Because the reality of the matter is okay, there’s general consensus here in this event: “Black Lives Matter UK movement – socially divisive, not very good for national cohesion”, but the interesting thing is we have to move the debate forwards, don’t we? So, what do you feel is the best way, when we’re talking about hard left ideology? Because some people are just immersed in it, they’re just completely embedded in what you could call that way of thinking. I think you can almost say the key there is trying to create compelling counter narratives to ensure that people reject those ideologies, including those who may be flirting with them. What are your thoughts on that in terms of the kind of values and principles that should underpin those contrary to other narratives, rather?
Calvin Robinson 32:52
So, I think when we’re countering CRT and BLM, liberalism helps us because we’re looking at individualism, we’re looking at everyone being a person, a human being an end of the day, doesn’t matter what colour of skin you are. And then when we get to that point of the conversation, we can look at bringing those individuals back together and uniting them. And I think that comes under the British flag; that comes under British unity. So, in our school, you know, we say, “it doesn’t matter where you come from, where your parents are from, what your race is, what your religion is, you’re all here, you’re all British. And that’s the thing that unites us”. And then we can talk about British values, whether that’s the government-prescribed ones of rule of law, democracy, and tolerance, an inclusivity of other people of different faiths or non, or if we’re talking about British values and Christian values, and the moral ethics that shaped this country. But at the same time, it’s difficult to even get to those stages in the conversation to counter the arguments of CRT and BLM, because what they’re doing is very crafty. They’re redefining language. So, it’s difficult to debate with someone when the word you’re using means different things on each side of the argument. For example, to me, racism has always meant prejudice or discrimination against someone based on their race on the colour of their skin or their ethnicity. But they’ve redefined racism to mean a power struggle between white people and BAMEs, for example. And again, that comes back down to that homogenous demographic of anyone that’s not white. But what we’re seeing here is the recreation of meaning. So, these hard left groups are, like Black Lives Matter portraying something as fact, when it’s at best a theory in CRT and that is the epitome of propaganda. And that’s what they’re doing and they’re pushing this propaganda into our schools. It’s difficult to debate with because they’re redefining the language that we use.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 34:33
Inaya, would you say – just building on some of those points that Calvin has raised – with some of the social developments which are taking place in the British context, would you say that free speech in the domains of race, ethnicity, discrimination, inequality, do you feel personally that free speech is very much under assault?
Inaya Folarin Iman 34:59
So, to kind of build on what Calvin said, I very much agree with him that universal liberalism is the way forward. And this is not just this kind of fluffy theory, this is something that has actually been the very kind of consumption that has enabled us to make the massive progress that we have made over the last 100 and also 50 years – in particular post the civil rights movement in America. So, this is something that has worked. I think you’ve mentioned free speech. I think part of the increase in many of these identitarian views, is a reaction against many of these enlightenment values, such as universal liberalism, such as freedom of speech, and there’s been an exhaustion with the belief that democracy and many of these values can actually bring about the kind of progress that we’d like to see, even though it has done. And so, I think all of these things are very much intertwined. We’ve had an exhaustion with democracy, a very degraded view of human agency. So, if you have a very low view of human agency, then you’re not going to believe in the capacity of the individual, whether you’re black or white, to be able to act responsibly and move the world in a positive direction, in the way that Esther was describing about the way that they view black people as victims. So, I think we’re facing a wider challenge societally. And many of these movements are many different manifestations of this breakdown of faith in many of these achievements from the Enlightenment. But if we don’t have freedom of speech, obviously, then we leave the territory up to authoritarianism, which is people rigidly defining the parameters to which we can converse. And we can never then solve difficult issues like what we’re talking about unless we’re able to have difficult conversations. And unfortunately, this is the consequence of that.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 37:02
Thank you. And Esther, if I can just ask the question quickly, what do you think is the most effective way to push back on this aggressive and – in your view – socially divisive, hard left identity politics? What do you feel is the most effective way of neutralizing its impact in the British context?
Esther Krakue 37:27
I think two things. First, we should probably get “Black Lives Matter is a plague” trending on Twitter. And secondly, we need more people to push back. I get a lot of messages from people that say “oh, I’m scared to speak out, because you know, I have twenty kids and a chicken or something”. And they’re just terrified of actually making their opinions and their voices heard because of the backlash that they face. And I just say to them, “look, there are loads of people that are standing up. that are parting the Red Sea and walking through all the rubbish, and saying ‘this is what’s going on’. These are people that are trying to weaponize a minority group to its own detriment to the detriment of society. And if you don’t agree with it, you need to speak out.” It’s just important to get people to be vocal and to actually highlight how destructive not only the movement is, but the organization is to everyone, not just black people. I mean, on the Black Lives Matter UK website, they talk about dismantling capitalism, defunding the police, abolish the traditional family, just ridiculous things that no one signed up for when they actually agreed with the statement that, yes, Black Lives Matter in the way that all lives matter. You can’t even say “all lives matter” now. And you know, people need to keep speaking back. And you know, making the point. I mean, look at the Premier League players wearing Black Lives Matter on the jerseys. What if a player didn’t want to wear that? What would happen to them? I’m sure there were players in the Premier League that probably didn’t want to wear that on their jerseys, but they can’t say anything because the backlash is ridiculous. But it’s just about pushing back and actually just making your voice heard – and making “Black Lives Matters is a plague” trend on Twitter!
Dr Rakib Ehsan 38:57
I think on that note, in terms of also moving forward the debate, I think it’s also important to discuss – when we’re looking at racial and ethnic inequalities in the UK, which is at the forefront of the national political agenda at the moment – to what extent are those inequalities? Or rather, what kind of role do internal cultural factors play? What are the problems within communities? And really, we have to talk about the fact that the British black population is extremely diverse. If I just take one example, if you’re looking at trust in the local police force, 56% of people of black Caribbean origin have trust in the local police force. That corresponding figures shoots up to 76% for people of black African origin. Yet, if you merge the whole black population England and Wales together, you get 70%. But that masks over very important differences between different ethnicities. All too often in my view, that’s missed quite a lot to be honest. I mean, you have the useless BAME acronym, but also in a sense the term “black” in a way, it does mask very important differences based on ethnicity and also class. For example, when looking at trust in the local police force, it’s 65% amongst black full time students, it goes up to 75% for black working class people. So, you have those important class dynamics there as well. I think it’d be quite interesting – and if I could just go to Inaya first – in terms of looking at racial and ethnic inequalities, if we’re looking to talk about social progress, economic empowerment, and building bonds between young British black people in particular and their public institutions, firstly, what are the problems that need to be identified and talked about? And, then, how can we move the whole situation forwards in a positive sense?
Inaya Folarin Iman 40:59
I guess this is the million-dollar question. I think that some of the things that you described are really important. The racial concept of blackness is a really, really unhelpful one. Actually, the so-called black population in Britain is generally one of heterogeneity. And actually, when we break down many of these statistics that are being used to paint a very negative picture, we find that the reality is much, much more complex. So, for example, when we hear black boys are more likely to be excluded from school, that’s false. Actually, black African boys are less likely to be excluded than the general population, but black Caribbean boys are more likely. What’s really interesting is that, according to the Office of National Statistics, for the 16 to 30 age brackets, for black, African, Caribbean, and British as a whole there’s actually income parity with their white counterparts. That’s very different from the generation before. So we are actually seeing significant levels of upward social mobility, but particularly for black African young people. So, it’s really, really interesting. The picture is much more mixed. But of course, there are definitely specific issues that persist. So, for example, black people in general are more likely to be from single-parent households, particularly black Caribbean families. I think that this is an issue that we know is linked, at least to behavioural issues in boys, and kind of all sorts of behaviours going forward, particularly for young boys. And I think that we need to have important conversations about fostering an ethic of a strong family unit, particularly in the black community. But also, I think, a wider cultural question about how we represent black people in popular culture. I think it’s very interesting when we talk about representation. Again, as Esther alluded to, we talk about black people on boards, or black people as CEOs. But actually, what’s very interesting is there’s huge cultural capital – and in Britain – for black people being represented very much in music in deeply nihilistic in negative ways. There’s pretty much no other ethnic group where it’s profitable to talk about killing one another. I’m not saying that this is the root cause of criminality or violence, but I think it’s very interesting, the normalization of certain what I would regard as toxic forms of gangster glamorization that is predominant amongst, particularly, young black youths in the inner city. So, I think that there are definitely ethnic specific patterns of cultural behaviours that need to be examined. But as I said in the beginning, it’s very difficult to look at it solely through the lens of race. There’s so many different factors at play there.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 44:02
Absolutely. Thank you for that, Inaya. I’m just going to ask Esther: when we talk about those internal cultural norms, which may be problematic, do you feel that they are almost stalling the social progress and holding back British black communities? Especially, as Inaya states there, in the inner city areas? Do you feel that that is hugely problematic? Do you feel that actually, if you’re looking at the mainstream discussion, do you feel that that’s not talked about enough?
Esther Krakue 44:36
Yeah, definitely, I completely agree with her point. I think we’re just normalizing a certain kind of black people. This is my criticism of movements like Black Lives Matter, because they’re pushing a narrative that effectively says “it’s okay for black people to rap about killing other black people”. It’s okay for us to say, “oh, look, this is the first CEO of a company” – because, apparently, black people are not intelligent enough to make it to that position. We need to point out the colour of their skin. And, you know, there’s a certain narrative that’s being created. I don’t even know if the people that are doing this are aware of that, but off the back of all these movements, they think are doing social good. Even more so, it’s trying to create this homogenous black experience, which really infuriates me, because this just doesn’t exist. I think one conversation that’s a very uncomfortable one to have is the overlap between race and class. So, for instance, people assume that most black people in this country have some sort of inherent disadvantage. But I’m more privileged than an unemployed white British guy that lives in a council estate in Essex. We don’t talk about that. There’s a whole swath of the society that’s completely left out of the conversation because they have the wrong skin colour, right? A lot of issues in this country that are associated with lower levels of wealth and lower job opportunities and all of that come down to class as opposed to race. I mean, what happens to Eastern Europeans living in the UK that may not be living the most glamorous lifestyle but, because they’re white, they’re completely cut out of the conversation? You know, they’re technically not an Anglo Saxon or whatever. And it’s a very layered discussion that needs to be had that we just don’t have room for, because it’s now become a black or non-white versus white or white versus everyone else. And it’s really infuriating.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 46:16
I think you make an interesting point there. I had a conversation – I won’t name the individual – but who asked me “are Polish people living in the UK a minority?”. Well, yes. I mean, if you are a Polish origin, yes. You may have white skin, but you are very much an ethnic minority in the UK. And Calvin if I could come to you. Inaya’s discussed a little bit about, you could say, problematic family dynamics – that there’s a relatively high proportion of lone parents households within British black communities. Do you feel almost that the centrality of a stable family unit, that that’s simply not discussed enough, in terms of the positive benefits they can reap?
Calvin Robinson 47:05
Yeah, absolutely. And we can see the statistics clearly show that – I’m speaking from an educational perspective here – kids do better in school if they have a two-parent household, and they have that support of a family unit. That’s not to prescribe any particular set of two parents or anything like that. It’s just to say that that’s a better situation for kids to be in. But I did want to come back to what you guys were talking about with the statistics, about the subgroups and breaking away from using BAME as a category. Because I see that, you know, if we talk about school stats, for example, Attainment 8 is a way that we measure kids – how they’ve done throughout school, across eight different core subjects. We can see consistently – if you look at my report, you’ll see what we’ve gone back over the years – and we can see that black African kids outperform pretty much every other subgroup. So, we’re talking about white kids – from British white kids, British, European kids, black Caribbean, kids, Asian, Pakistani, Asian, Indian doesn’t matter, whatever subgroups – black African kids tend to outperform them all the way across school. So that’s in their Attainment 8. At secondary school, if we look at the results that they’re getting, black African kids reach 47.5%, whereas white British kids will get 46.1% and black Caribbean kids get 39.6% of passing grades. And then if we look at primary schools as well, the same situation is happening. And then we’re seeing black African kids reaching 67%, white British pupils at 65%, and black Caribbean pupils at 56%. So there clearly is a problem there, in that there’s some issue that needs to be addressed with black Caribbean children not getting the support they need. But while we look at black kids as a whole, that blanket BAME category kind of disguises the issues that are at play. And we’re also seeing an education that white working class boys are the most disadvantaged, they’re at the bottom of those ladders we were just talking about, and they can’t get any support, they can’t get any address, because it’s taboo to discuss supporting white kids, especially white working-class kids. And Rak, you mentioned Polish children. In our schools, actually, the biggest influx of new students come from Poland and I don’t hear any of these campaign groups like The Black Curriculum or Black Lives Matter talking about needing more Polish history on our curriculum. And I suspect that’s probably because their president Andrzej Duda is not aligned with their moral values. That just highlights that it’s political, isn’t it? It’s not about representation.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 49:33
As we’re nearing the end of the event, I think it’d be quite nice to end on a positive note. You know, we’ve made our fair share of criticisms of the Black Lives Matter UK movement, but do you think, in a sense, are there any positives to be had in the fact that perhaps race-related issues are at the forefront of national politics? I think in any diverse society, there is going to be a degree of racism, there’s going to be negative intergroup contact. I think that’s inevitable. But do you feel there’s definitely improvements to be had in terms of reducing racial discrimination? This may not be only towards black British people, but we’ve also talked about in a way, the normalization of anti-white bigotry in a sense. Do you feel at least it’s good that we are talking a little bit more about forms of discrimination that are being faced by various groups? Or do you feel rather that the tone of it is more that it’s being weaponized, that there’s not enough people out there looking in terms of having a solution-oriented approach to the discussions, but it’s more about point scoring. Or rather, they’re not very productive discussions? And if you feel at the moment that prevailing discussions are not productive, what kind of changes can be made? Or rather, what should we really be focusing on to make those conversations more productive? And in terms of helping broader national progress? So, I’ll start with Inaya there.
Inaya Folarin Iman 51:11
Yeah, a lot of questions hopefully I’ll remember. So I think as much as I have profound criticisms of Black Lives Matter, I think that what it has done at the very least, is cause or necessitate a response, or what it has done is essentially force a lot of contrary voices, contrarian voices to the fore, to provide an alternative perspective. That has actually – almost paradoxically – increased the level of debate and broadened it. So now it’s enabled us to have conversations like this, to provide a different perspective to the one that’s being pushed forward. So ,I think that that’s one of the problems, a lot of it isn’t solution-oriented, it’s very reactionary and it’s often it’s also very rooted in historical events. There’s this kind of conception that you censor or alter the past in order to solve solutions in the present day, which is obviously a false one. And so, I think we have to have a very forward-facing future-oriented vision, and that encompasses many of the things that we have been talking about. So, I think we have to re-articulate the values championed in the Enlightenment again. I think that this has actually exposed the kind of very degraded conception of the freedoms that we have and what we’ve worked so hard for. And I hope that it is a massive wake up call for a lot of people that perhaps what is happening in Portland in America might be the potential future unless we really grab a hold of what we value and what we hold dear. And therefore I think that means re-articulating the content of your character, not the colour of your skin, and the importance of respectful dispassionate discussion and debate. And I think, yeah, hopefully inspiring more political authority. I think this only come from the bottom up. Yes, I really agree that ordinary people in their workplaces, in their schools, with their friends, do have a massive role to play in and stepping up and challenging this, this has to come from the grassroots, I also think we have to put massive pressure from the top down. I mean, we had Winston Churchill boarded up. That didn’t have to happen, we’re not even having kind of basic law and order at this point. So, I think that we’ve got to have a lot more pressure put on people in positions of authority to basically defend the very basic standard of our civilized society. So, I think it’s a top-level thing and a bottom-up thing.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 53:51
Okay. Thank you for that Inaya. And Esther, I think maybe building on some of the points that Inaya made, do you feel that in a sense – we say more broadly, in the political classes – do you feel that there’s not enough, there’s not enough action when it comes to this rise of hard left identitarianism? Do you feel that – Inaya talks about the bottom up, a grass roots challenge to these kinds of divisive narratives which are being cultivated in British society -, do you feel there’s almost a lack of moral political leadership on this front when it comes to pushing against what some people would consider to be divisive, radical ideologies?
Esther Krakue 54:36
I think a lot of people in our political class, a lot of leaders in our political class and positions of power, and in our public services – like our police chief-, they’re spineless. I think what this has demonstrated is that a lot of people leading this country actually don’t know what they’re doing. They’re spineless. They can’t even enforce basic sense of order in society, right? I mean, we can see that being reflected in the reaction to the protests and the fact that there was virtually no government leadership. I’m pretty sure Boris Johnson was stuck in his basement or something the entire time. But really there was no leadership at the top, there was no direction. You have a movement like Black Lives Matter, and everyone’s so scared to say anything about it that you leave the country effectively in disarray, because one, you’re not showing any sense of leadership, you’re not showing any sense of direction. But you’re also leaving, the vast majority of people who are actually concerned that this movement – which is largely reactionary, and largely very racist, as well – is getting a hold of this country and is infiltrating aspects of our lives in ways that we don’t even expect. I mean, we can’t even watch a football game for goodness’ sake, without these overpaid young men shoving this ideology and this movement down our throats. There is no direction. Everyone is too scared to say anything. There was an email that was being circulated amongst employees of Her Majesty’s Land Registry that was saying, you know, “don’t actively criticize Black Lives Matter, because you will upset our BAME staff”. I mean, just ridiculous. What does that have to do with Her Majesty’s Land Registry? There is no leadership anywhere. This country has been infiltrated by these left-wing thugs and nobody’s saying anything because everyone is too scared of being called racist. And people need to realize that being called racist, is not a) necessarily true and b) not the worst thing that could ever happen to you.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 56:38
Thank you, Esther, for that typically explosive analysis. Calvin, if you could kindly finish off. I think really, I don’t think it’s a controversial view to say that there’s been a good number of MPs within the Labour Party – the opposition party in particular – who have entertained and expressed support for the Black Lives Matter UK movement. We have a Conservative government, 80 seat majority. When we’re talking about pushing back, but also providing a vision for the country, which is inclusive, it’s a big question to us but where do you feel at the moment that government hasn’t done so well, and how it can improve in terms of cultivating an inclusive national identity which not only challenges hard, neutralizes the threat of hard left identitarianism, but also challenges the threat of hard right, ethno-nationalism? It’s a big challenge, but can the Conservative government be doing more on that front? Or at least talking about these kinds of narratives, which can almost try to defeat the extremes?
Calvin Robinson 57:52
I think this is a cultural issue, not necessarily a political issue. I think we as people need to be doing more and you know, Esther said that being called racist isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. But sometimes it can be because people are getting cancelled as part of this “cancel culture”. And what we need to do is stop doing that. We need to start listening to people, having reason to debates. And you said earlier, one of your questions was, “has this helped has this helped raise the conversation around race relations?”. I don’t think it has helped. I think it stoked racial tensions where they were none to begin with. And it’s difficult to stamp that out. In my sector in education, I’m seeing white kids going home crying, upset, because they’ve been taught that they’re racist, and black kids being a bit hesitant about being friends with white kids now, because they don’t want to be oppressed. And that didn’t happen before. People stopped seeing colour for a long time. I think this is one of the most tolerant, diverse, inclusive nations on the planet and we’re kind of going backwards at this point. We need to stop seeing colour. And to say that is even against CRT is against the BLM method, because that will be unconscious bias. We need to go back to what Martin Luther King said. He said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character” and I live by those words.
Dr Rakib Ehsan 59:05
Okay. Thank you, Calvin. I think that was a wonderful way of rounding off the event. I’d like to thank the three of you – Inaya, Calvin, and Esther – for being such wonderful panellists for tonight’s event “Black Lives Matter UK – a national force for good?” and I’d like to thank our online audience for joining us for tonight’s event. I hope you found it to be an intellectually stimulating con