TUC Black workers — Putting Race Back on the Agenda

(April 17, 2013)

TUC Black workers — Putting Race Back on the Agenda


THE 20th ANNUAL TUC Black Workers’ Conference, took place this weekend, April 12 – 14, 2013, at it's London HQ in Great Russell St. with a theme: ‘Putting Race Back On The Agenda’ (watch my video report). The theme was conceived by the TUC Race Committee because the ConDem government has excluded race equality from its political agenda, and the ripple effect of the decision has hit in the workplace, and wider community. When this government talks about race equality, it's really talking about ‘community cohesion’… It's really talking about the policing of black people, The control of black people, Immigration, Assimilation… The language the ConDems use to talk about black people, depicts us as a virus that has to be dealt with.

As a member of the TUC Race Committee, I made a number of observations at the Conference. One of them is that as each year goes by, an increasing number of unions feel confident to send white delegates. Not only do they send white workers as part of the delegation, but those white workers ACTUALLY SPEAK ON OUR BEHALF! I bet those same unions wouldn’t dare send black men as part of a delegation to the TUC Women’s Conference to speak on behalf of women! Since trade unions are behaving in this manner, shouldn't very loud alarm bells be ringing for us as black workers?

Up to 70 percent of the Conference agenda this year represented motions that have appeared in different forms over the last 10 years, and 30 percent of the items on the agenda suggested to me that we have lost ground instead of gained in terms of race equality over the same period. Around 270 delegates from 27 unions attended. Speakers made some really good speeches identifying some of the problems and some solutions. The problem as I see it, is that progress and outcomes of most of the motions are dependent on the agents of white supremacy conceding power, and being 'nice' to their black employees. I can’t see that happening, which is why the motions keep reappearing year after year!

The way the system works, is to ensure that the white workers are very clear about where, and how, white privilege works… and they know they are the benefactors of that privilege. White privilege is a special club that whites have given themselves, it represents a package of benefits, privileges where they are the architects and gatekeepers. My experience in the workplace in terms of fairness and equity, is that white workers generally say one thing, and then go and do something very different. Some dysfunctional black workers actually support their oppressors, and have no qualms about stabbing other black workers in the back, so long as they believe their oppressors will reward them in some way. Generally speaking, those black workers are left in the ludicrous position of trying to access white privilege… fail!

As long as we keep occupying white sites of oppression, the balance of power is always going to favour the white man. White supremacists will never concede that power willingly, or unwillingly. Something of equal force must threaten and overpower it. I use the analogy of the black communities, participating in what we believe to be a winnable relay race, where the baton of privilege and progress is being passed fairly from generation to generation. However, on closer inspection, the white runners are running in comfortable trainers, and handing on the baton of privilege to the next white generation… And for black workers, the relay is rigged. White supremacists have set the rules and given us dodgy equipment. We’re running with spikes upturned into the soles of our feet, and the baton we’re handing to the next generation of black youngsters is made of barbed razor wire.

The speeches from all sectors at the Black workers conference, confirmed in my mind that we know what is going on, so isn't it about time we start to organise our own races? Isn't it time we decide whether we wish to continue to work in such sites of oppression, where we have to beg white supremacists to be kind to us… to give us work… and when there’s an economic decline, ensure that job losses don’t impact on us disproportionately and we’ll be ever so grateful… Or should we now use the conference to organise to be in a position — since we realise what is going on — to plan a real future for our young people coming up after us, so that they are not in this position?

We need to set up more black businesses, industrial and agricultural co-operatives. We need to invest wisely and purchase land to build our own affordable homes. We must build our own regional education centres of excellence. We need to employ our own people, just as every other nation does. We don't even have to reinvent the wheel because we did it all before! Just take a look at those black pioneers who created the Black Wall Street in Tuscany. Look back in history in countries like Jamaica, where the Pinnacle Society was conceived. If those pioneers achieved self reliance, self sufficiency without the technological advancements we have now, then what's stopping us?

The one thing I know for certain is we can be very creative. We can be resourceful. It is not beyond the realms of possibility for us to now start to think out of the box. There can be no limit to our greatness, the only people that don’t seem to realise that is us. The 'Powers that be' know it… Believe me! That’s why they make every effort to ensure that as long as we continue to occupy their sites of oppression, there will never be a level playing field, and whilst we have skills and knowledge, a rigged process will ensure we will never win, and that can't happen.

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