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Let's make 2019 the year anti-racists fight back​ Open in fullscreen

Malia Bouattia

Let's make 2019 the year anti-racists fight back​

2018 was a year of intensifying racism across the UK [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 4 January, 2019

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Comment: Home Secretary Sajid Javid's inhumane migrant policy highlights the need for a robust anti-racist fight back in 2019, writes Malia Bouattia.
As we enter the new year, it's important to reflect on the past 12 months in the UK, which have been largely defined by the Tories' inability to deal with the political and economic crisis the country has been going through.  

2018 was marked by the government's attempts to unashamedly redirect the blame for worsening living conditions of its population by scapegoating migrants, Muslims, communities of colour and the poor through every possible institution.

From their obvious lack of a Brexit strategy to the failed economic recovery, Theresa May and her party have laid out a path of total destruction.

At their hands, the welfare state has faced crippling cuts, which are likely to have cost countless lives, especially given the chronic underfunding of the NHS.

Benefits continue to be slashed by the billion, including child benefits ($4.3 billion), disability benefits ($3.5 billion) employment and support allowance, and incapacity benefit ($2.5 billion) housing benefit ($2.9 billion), tax credits ($5.8 billion), and universal credit ($4.5 billion), leaving millions of families, disabled and elderly people in desperate poverty.

The number of homeless people has risen by an alarming 120 percent in England over the last five years, and 63 percent in Wales.

A national charity for the homeless predicted that there would be 24,000 people sleeping rough over the winter holidays in the UK. In Tory-run 2017, almost 600 homeless people died, one can only imagine in horror what those numbers are likely to be for the year that just passed.

Read more: UK minister questions whether Channel migrants are 'genuine' asylum seekers

This is to say nothing of the crisis of un- and under-employment. Young people are expected to work so-called 'flexible hours' - a creative way to describe casual, insecure, and non-permanent work - with hourly paid and zero-hour contracts booming across the UK.

So much for austerity measures serving as a necessary tool for a more 'strong and stable' nation, or all of us being in it 'together'. The rich get richer, and the rest of us pay the price.

Instead of addressing their failures, however, May and her ilk have spent the last year using their national platforms to ratchet up the pressure on the weak, and point the finger at the most vulnerable, as the cause of all suffering, and destitution faced across society.

Theresa May and her party have laid out a path of total destruction

Blaming migration and minority communities for the misery of the poor is yet another tactic to divide us in order to avoid accountability, and much worse, discourage our ability to build political movements, which demand change. In fact, it is a tactic that has defined much of the politics of 2018.

The alarming spike in hate crime has been engineered on a policy level, organised through the corridors of power, diffused through the mainstream media, and manifested on the streets, in communities, and even, in our schools - a reality that was painful to watch in the recent video shared across social media of a Syrian refugee being physically and verbally abused at his school.

This cannot be explained away as a principal outcome of the EU referendum.

On the Windrush scandal - one of the many examples of the government's racist practices that was exposed last year - a recent report released by the National Audit Office states that for up to four years, the Home Office had 'credible information' relating to the impacts of their policies.

There was also a failure to act on recommendations which could have prevented countless people being erroneously deported. The deportation targets that have driven the (effective) witch-hunt of the Windrush generation, have in fact been in place since 2004.

The fact that the Home Office is showing an unwillingness to review the cases of around 160,000 non-Caribbean Commonwealth nationals who have also fallen victim to the xenophobic agenda, highlights their aim.

They had hoped to get away with ruining the lives of thousands in their total disregard for migrant lives, but given the national outrage, are now doing the bare minimum.

If anyone needs further evidence, we ushered in the new year with Home Secretary Sajid Javid making the suggestion that some refugees who make the life-threatening decision to cross the Channel, are not "real, genuine" asylum seekers.

Not happy with simply belittling the suffering of those migrants, Javid is now also deploying military vessels to patrol the channel, risking the lives of thousands.

Alongside all this, the growth of Islamophobia continues apace.

Facing international condemnation over its Prevent strategy, the government has not only refused to address the concerns of UN officials and NGOs over the profiling, criminalising, and targeting of Muslim communities alongside the undermining of civil liberties, it in fact doubled down on its approach.

The alarming spike in hate crime has been engineered on a policy level

Indeed, its Counter Terrorism and Border Security bill increased online surveillance and further extended the use of counter terrorism measures to target people travelling to specific countries in the Global South… Sound like a Muslim Ban yet?

Perhaps even more grotesquely, Sajid Javid participated in spreading the outrageous narrative that Asian men were a specific problem when it comes to the grooming of young women. This, of course, despite the lack of any credible evidence.

At the same time, Boris Johnson attacked women who wear the burqa and cosied up to Steve Bannon, while May normalised relations with the fascist and violently anti-Semitic government in Hungary and refused to address calls to investigate systematic Islamophobia in the Tory party.

In this context, it is not surprising that thugs like Tommy Robinson have managed to re-build a following, and that tens of thousands of Nazis, fascists, and their racist hangers-on marched through the streets of London on a number of occasions this year, in the greatest show of strength of its kind for a long time.

A happy new year for all requires making the resolution to redouble our efforts to fight racism

While the Tories are whipping up hatred for the poor, the weak, and the racialised in government, the far-right is profiting in the streets.

2018 was a year of intensifying racism across the UK, and the early signs of Javid bringing military ships to hunt for migrants in the channel already point to more to come in 2019.

While discussions on Brexit and new governments continue, there are no silver bullets for the poison that the rich and powerful continue to unleash across society.

A happy new year for all requires making the resolution to redouble our efforts to fight racism on the streets, in our institutions, and in government.

Let's make 2019 the year of mass anti-racist fight back, the year the rich are blamed for the crisis they caused, and the persecuted are defended, protected, and empowered.


Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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