By Kehinde Andrews
One of the key aims OBU is to build a mass membership base in the community and so we expect and accept a broad range of views in the organisation. However, in the spirit of Year X, we have decided we need to ‘make it plain’ and be vocal about the politics that underlie the organisation. Unity, cannot mean compromising your politics to keep everyone happy. It means attempting to rally the community to a progressive politics of liberation, which is going to put some people off. Our first topic for the monthly series of posts is a key issue because in May a general election will take place and there is a campaign to gain support for the Tory party in the Black community. We need to be clear about the relationship between the Tories and Black progressive politics: the two can never mix.
Everything the Tory party stands for is negative for the Black community. They have already made savage cuts to public spending and have outlined their plans to reduce the size of the state to levels not seen for almost a hundred years. That means less jobs in the public sector (disproportionately Black), less support for the low paid (disproportionately Black) and less of a safety net for the unemployed (rates of unemployment up to 6 times the average, depending on age and gender). On top of this they are anti-immigration, particularly from the Caribbean and Africa, with 20% of all refused entrants over Christmas 2014 coming from Jamaica, and families from Africa routinely being denied entry, even to attend children’s funerals. Additionally, the Tories plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and protections for employees will undue much of the limited gains in equality legislation over the years. The list could go on and on, the point is clear: the Tories are a political party who have always had an anti-Black agenda and nothing has changed. So there is no good reason for any of us to support them, let alone represent them. Anyone standing for the Tories, represents this regressive politics, and cannot at the same time represent the community
The defence of Black candidates representing the Tory party, shows the level of political immaturity that has taken root in our community. Apparently we should defend the general effort to get Black people represented in party politics. Somehow we have conflated Garvey’s ‘Race first’, with ‘support them because they are Black’. ‘Race first’ means that we put the interests our community at the heart of our politics, not that we put the ambitions of individual Black people at the forefront. The Tories are bad for the Black community, which means that anyone who represents them is bad for the Black community. In fact, what incenses us so much is that Black faces representing the Tories are more harmful than White ones. Black Tories sanitise the image of the party and make it seem more accessible to the community. If someone wants to embrace the individualist ideals of the Tories, doesn’t think that their Blackness is that important and doesn’t feel the need to represent the community then we can agree to disagree. However, Black Tories seeking to represent the Black community and pushing us towards the party are leading the community astray and working to pacify serious resistance. We should not be supporting Tories when they are Black, we should be denouncing them because they are.
We also need to recognise that Black faces in party politics are irrelevant in terms of improving the conditions of the Black community. In the last 7 years pretty much every indicator has gotten worse for African Americans, and Black men are still killed by the police with impunity. If a Black President can make no positive difference in the community, we have literally lost our minds if we think a handful of local councillors in Britain will have any positive effect. We need to expand our understanding of politics and realise that the power to improve our conditions does not lie in the hands of the mainstream political parties; that power only comes when communities are well organised and can exert pressure on politicians. If a community has real power, then the colour of the politicians is irrelevant; it is only because we have no power that we are obsessed with promoting Black faces at all costs. Real political power is built from the grassroots and when we take control of our communities. This is the work that OBU is committed to and we welcome anyone in the community who wants to help us moving forward.
We must also be clear that it is not divisive to criticise Black Tories. It is divisive to cosy up to the Conservative party and attempt to get the community to give them support for their anti-Black agenda. We need to make it clear that the community should not tolerate it. OBU has made a strong and clear point about progressive politics and the Tories. Other groups should also consider whether their politics is aligned with that of the Tory party or if they want to make a stand against blindly supporting Black skin, with Tory masks.
Photo by Chris McAndrew