Debates and discussions on racial discrimination have in the recent years gained in intensity. Whilst discrimination seems to have declined over the past few decades, it is still very much alive and well as seen in the UK where the black youth continue to be marginalized in many areas including education and employment. It would be remiss for us to think that discrimination no longer exists in the society of today. People are still marginalized on a regular basis due to their race, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation and even their abilities
In view of the above, this paper examines the discrimination of the black minority ethnic group of young people in the UK. It explores on the various ways in which this group of young people continue to be marginalized and discriminated against. The analysis also examines how anti-oppressive practice can help address these issues. This includes defining discrimination and anti-oppressive practice, discussing the models of discrimination and drawing on examples of work that is anti-discriminatory. Additionally, the paper provides a reflective summary on why anti-oppressive practice is key to understanding of the notion of self.
Part 1: The discrimination of black minority youth groups in UK
Discrimination is an umbrella term that encompasses the social injustices perpetuated by societal structural inequalities along the lines of gender, sexual orientation, race, identity and class which result in the unfair treatment of a certain group of people (Dumbrill 2009). It simply means the unjust or prejudicial treatment of certain categories of people on grounds of race, gender, religion or disability (Dumbrill 2009).
Black youths still marginalized in many aspects in UK
Whilst discrimination has declined in the recent years, black youths are still marginalized in a number of areas. In the youth justice system, the Black youths remain largely over-represented. This is evident in a recent government report by the Criminal Justice System Race Unit which pointed out that the black youth were six times more likely to be stopped and searched, and three times more likely to be arrested compared to their white counter parts (YJB 2010). Such controversial use of “stop and search” powers by the police gives a breeding ground for racism (Verkaik 2010).
Moreover, they receive differential treatment within the youth justice system. According to statistical analysis by the Crown Prosecution service, it was found that young black defendants were twice more likely be denied bail compared to their white counterparts (May et al. 2010). These findings are further echoed in a recent study conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which found that the Black and mixed-race youths were three times more likely than the white youths to be denied bail (May et al. 2010). The study also found that the difference in treatment in the youth justice system could not be accounted for by the criminal history of the defendants or by the severity of the crimes, indicating that they were being discriminated against (May et al. 2010).
They also appear to be discriminated against in the education sector. Most the black youth are less likely to be enrolled in the most prestigious universities. Whilst the number of minority ethnic students joining universities had increased from 13% in 1995 to 23% in 2009, only a few of them were enrolled to the most prestigious universities with high employment rates (Runnymede Trust 2012).
In 2009, 44% of the minority ethnic students attended post-1992 universities and only 8% joined Russel Group Universities (Runnymede Trust 2012). On the other hand, a large proportion of the white students attended prestigious universities. Unlike the black students, a vast majority of the white students (24%) joined Russell Group Universities (Runnymede Trust 2012). These trends have significant implications on the earnings and employment prospects of the black minority graduate students.
The media also seems to contribute to their discrimination. Media is known to make vast exaggerations and sensationalizing events surrounding black youth crime, attaching a level of drama to make it newsworthy (Okoronkwo 2008). As noted by Dorfman (2001), 86% of white homicides are caused by the Caucasians yet only the least frequent killings-homicides that involve the black youth receive the most coverage.
The recent 2007 killings of Kodjo Yenga and Adam Regis received vast coverage, with the media depicting the black community as highly dangerous (Okoronkwo 2008). The two deaths were central to the media reporting on the rise of knife and gun crime amongst the black community (Okoronkwo 2008). But is crime really that bad amongst the black community compared to the whiteIs media portrayal of the black youth crime in the UK exaggeratedMoreover, is the moral panic really justified?
Black youths are also to blame
The problem facing most of the black youth in the UK has loomed largely not only in media but also in academic research with many researchers highlighting the moral panic about drug dealing, rioting, mugging and knife and gun violence among others (Gunter 2010). However, this does not mean that the black youth groups are totally blameless.
Whilst it is true that they are increasingly marginalized in many areas, it is also true that some of the black youth are influenced by popular youth cultures associated with the development of aggressive behaviours and those that perpetuate black stereotypes (Simpson 2012). A considerable proportion of them appear to perpetuate the black stereotype through their ignorance and idleness (Simpson 2012).
Some appear to be driven by celebrity glamour, demanding materialistic gratification without putting any effort to achieve such success (Simpson 2012). Some of them prefer spending their money and time on material goods rather than their vocational courses (Simpson 2012). Others appear to chase a get-rich-quick scheme and those that try to seek employment are often quick to lose hope at the first failure (Simpson 2012).
But of course, this is by no means limited to the black youth. This is also evident in the white and Asian youth groups. Overall, the black youths appear to be marginalized in the various areas discussed above. There is need for anti-oppressive practice to address the discrimination of black youths in the UK.
Part 2: How anti-oppressive practice can address the discrimination of black youths in UK
As defined by Dalrymple (2006), anti-oppressive practice involves recognizing the power imbalances and working towards promotion of change to redress the balance of power and to challenge the wider injustices in the society. Anti-oppressive practice is based on the recognition that:
Society creates divisions based on gender, sexual orientation, race, identity and class (Wood & Hine 2009)
Some groups of people are believed to be more superior than others (Wood & Hine 2009)
Such beliefs are deeply embedded within institutional structures (Wood & Hine 2009)
In order to understand the workings of oppression, it is important to understand the different levels at which it occurs. This is reflected in Thompson’s PCS model, which views oppression and discrimination as occurring at three different levels: personal level, structural level and cultural level (Penhale 2008). The personal level relates to personal thoughts, attitudes, feelings and actions (Penhale 2008). At this level, individuals form and share their own beliefs and values. The ideals at this level are mainly based on personal experiences (Penhale 2008).
The cultural level relates to the ‘commonalities’ or shared values (Penhale 2008). That is, the assumed consensus of what is good or bad and what is considered to be normal. The structural level is where systematic discrimination becomes institutionalized. At this level, oppression and discrimination are ‘sewn into the fabric’ of society through structures and institutions such as the media and the government (Penhale 2008). The three levels interact to create and re-create patterns of discrimination as seen in figure 1.
Fig.1 Thompson’s PCS model (Penhale 2008).
In this case, at the personal level, the direct discrimination of black youths is evident where they are stopped and searched by the police severely compared to their white counterparts. This implies that the police view the black youth as potentially dangerous individuals because of their colour. Such beliefs and attitudes serve as breeding grounds for racial discrimination. Anti-oppressive practices must thus address the disproportionate use of controversial “stop and search” powers in the UK.
At the cultural level, we examine where the views come from. That is, the shared assumptions that are made about the black youths in the UK which contribute to their discrimination. This equally needs to be addressed by anti-oppressive practices. One way to address discrimination at the cultural levels is through the provision of diversity and cultural awareness training (Dominelli 2002).
The black youths are also discriminated against at the structural level through media portrayal of the Black and Ethnic Minority groups as highly dangerous. In addressing such kind of discrimination, it is worth assessing whether media’s sensationalisation of events surrounding black youth crime is justified or whether the media attaches a level of drama just to make it newsworthy. It is clear from above that the three different levels must be taken into account in order for anti-oppressive practice to effectively address issues of discrimination.
However, an important progress seems to have been made in addressing the discrimination of black minority groups. For example, in recognition of their over-representation within the youth justice system, an audit and planning process was initiated by Youth Justice Board (YJB) in 2004 (YJB 2004). The action plan required that the differences between ethnic composition of offenders in pre-court and post-court disposals be reduced (YJB 2004). This initiative was meant to address the issue of overrepresentation of the black minority groups in the juvenile justice system, hence improving confidence in UK youth justice system.
The black minority ethnic groups have also benefited from affirmative action policies which have increased their opportunities for employment in areas that have in the past been closed to them (Herron 2010). Such policies take into consideration factors such as colour, race, religion, gender and national origin in order to benefit a group that is underrepresented in areas of employment, business and education (Leonard 1990). In this case, the policies ensure that the black minority ethnic groups are equally represented and included in government programs. The affirmative actions are implemented in pursuit of equality by ensuring that the black minority ethnic groups are also afforded preferential treatment under law especially in areas of employment, business and education (Herron 2010).
Another anti-oppressive practice which has contributed towards combating discrimination in the UK is the provision of diversity and cultural awareness training. The provision of such training programs in institutional structures helps promote equality for everyone regardless of their identity, gender, national origin, race and colour (Darlymple 2006). Such initiatives indeed contribute to youth work values through their commitment to equal opportunity. Extensive research has also been conducted to identify the various areas where the black youth continue to be marginalized.
However, there is need for research to move beyond the quantitative phase and instead focus on anti-oppressive practices for combating factors that result in the differential treatment of young people (Darlymple 2006). With regard to educational attainment, there is need to develop innovative practices for combating the lower educational attainment of the black minority ethnic groups and their exclusion from prestigious universities.
There is also the need to extend the Race Relations (Amendment Act) 2000 to cover the private sector as well. The act requires all public authorities to carry out their functions in a manner that eliminates racial discrimination and promotes equal opportunities and good relations among the different races (CRE 2012). Employers in the public sector are required to assess the impact of their policies on recruitment of the different racial groups. Similarly, public schools and institutions are required by the Act to assess the impact of their policies on students, parents and staff from different races (CRE 2012). Whilst this policy plays a major role in the fight against racial discrimination, there is need to extend the Act to cover the private sector as well.
Additionally, youth settings can develop schemes for ethnic minority monitoring. Sometimes a great deal of ethnic disadvantage especially in the private sector may be unintentional and may not be immediately recognized by senior management (Wood et al. 2009). Monitoring schemes can help identify such issues that remain largely unrecognized and inform institutional arrangements such as schools and organizations to address the weakness identified (Wood et al. 2009). Clearly, more work need to be done on anti-oppressive practices and policy interventions in order to effectively address the discrimination of black minority youth groups in UK.
Part 3: Anti-oppressive practice key to understanding the notion of self.
An important aspect to addressing the issue of discrimination is self-awareness. In other words, understanding how own self can contribute towards inequality and discrimination. As argued by Dominelli (2002), reflexivity and self-knowledge form the bedrock upon which anti-oppressive practitioners can build their interventions. The process of reflecting thus forms a core part of working in an anti-oppressive way.
We live in a world with potentially contradictory identities and for us to co-exist in harmony, we must understand and appreciate the various aspects that shape and inform our identities. Practicing equality thus requires the need to identify and understand own self, recognize the differences between self and others, and to value the differences. It should be remembered that many aspects define our identities and determine how we view people and how others view us (Moore 2003). Factors such as our race, religion, values and beliefs shape our identities and differentiate us from others. In many of these factors, we tend to have little control and they enter our practice without our awareness (Moore 2003).
Practicing equality requires that we value our differences as opposed to settling for a clone of oneself through demanding uniform conformity in others (Dominell 2002). Unless we follow this path, our reactions to ‘difference’ would remain one that involves control or domination of others (Dominell 2002). The casting of people in a subordinate status based on the actual or perceived differences is central to the process of ‘othering’ them, which denies hem their fundamental human rights (Dominell 2002). The politics of identity construction thus plays an important role in confronting oppression and addressing issues of discrimination (Dominell 2002). Practitioners must be aware of the social divisions that occur within the society and the nature of their interaction (Dominell 2002).
Anti-oppressive practice require that we value our differences and develop an understanding of the other person’s identity and position while at the same time reflecting on the privileged nature of our own (Dominell 2002). The understanding of oneself is important in order to effectively engage with the others (Donell 2002). As such anti-oppressive practices, is key to understanding the notion of self. It challenges many own social norms and sharpens own senses towards issues of oppressions and discrimination (Dominell 2002).
It is clear from above that the black youths in the UK are still marginalized in many aspects. The young black and ethnic minority groups feature in any description of social discrimination and alienation; and are often seen as suffering in measures of poverty, underachievement in education, mental illness, exclusions from schools, unemployment and overrepresentation in youth justice systems.
To effectively address the discrimination of black youths in UK, anti-oppressive practices must take into account the three levels at which discrimination occurs: personal, cultural and institutional. There is also need for research to move beyond the quantitative phase and to focus on interventions and policy initiatives that can help combat discrimination and oppression of marginalized groups in UK. There is also the need to reflect on self and examine the impact that we may have on others. Knowing oneself better equips a person to build interventions to address the issues of oppression and discrimination
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