Black Lives Matter

20 June 2020

Across the world people have been appalled by the murder of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of racist police brutality. We want to stand together for a society that believes we are all equal, racism must end and that BLACK LIVES MATTER.

We Own It fights for a fairer society that is more caring and an economy with public services that work for all of us. That means dismantling racism here in the UK.

Black people suffer more because of privatisation

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people contribute more to the workforce in public services - not least in the NHS, where 45% of medical staff are BAME. BAME people also rely more on public services than white people - for example on public transport. There are many reasons for this. For example, black workers with degrees are paid 23% less on average than white workers with degrees.

This is why privatisation is a racial justice issue - and public ownership is a part of the solution. When public services are stripped back, outsourced and sold off, BAME people suffer. Whether it's outsourced migrant cleaners or privatised NHS staff - privatisation is hurting and harming BAME people, day in, day out.

We've seen from the Public Health England report into disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 that BAME people are more likely to have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and that they are also more likely to die as a consequence. There are a multitude of factors behind this - not least systemic racism embedded in our health services and in our society and economy. 

Privatisation plays a role in this. Private bus companies are failing to provide enough protection and safe, clean buses for their staff or passengers. The outsourcing of the NHS Supply Chain is a key part of the story of PPE shortages in the NHS. Huge parts of the government's response to the pandemic are being handed over to companies like Deloitte and Serco. All of this has hindered our ability to get a grip on the coronavirus crisis. We know that this has had a devastating impact - leading to needless loss of people's lives. BAME people's lives have been disproportionately lost as a result.

Public services should be for everyone

Since 2013, We Own It has been campaigning to bring an end to privatisation and build public services that work for people not profit. We believe that public services are a powerful force for economic and social equality and justice. Our NHS, our public education system, and our local services provide equal services for all, in principle. But we need to make that true in practice.

In the last few decades, we've seen the gradual chipping away of the fundamental principles of the NHS - that healthcare should be comprehensive; that it should be based on clinical need, rather than ability to pay; and that it should be free at the point of delivery. Policies like charging migrants to access NHS services is a form of privatisation built on xenophobia and racism. It shifts the burden for funding healthcare from the collective to the individual, and separates out patients deemed deserving of free, comprehensive, universal healthcare based on where they are from. Organisations like Docs Not Cops are doing incredible work to fight such policies.

This is about power

Our 2019 report - When We Own It - called for democratic governance in public services, with citizen representatives throughout the system, and proper representation of BAME people. We want to see this democratisation across the public sector and machinery of government, from parks to public transport.

We are also campaigning for proper democratisation of the BBC so it can become a true public service. That can and must include proper representation of BAME people at every level, of equality and justice issues in local and national coverage, and equal pay for BAME workers at all levels. 

Such structures and processes should also be introduced for our museums, galleries, theatres, education system and public spaces. We - the whole community - should be able to determine what statues, sculptures and events are celebrated, and how to teach and understand our history - including the role of British and European imperialism, slavery and eugenics in racism today.

The fight for public ownership must be an anti-racist one

We Own It’s team, board and advisory group at the moment is mostly white. We are reviewing how we can make sure our work is meaningfully anti racist, while educating ourselves at the same time. Some of the resources we’re finding helpful at this time, include -- on connections between racism and the COVID crisis:

On broader issues of systemic racism:

On anti-immigrant prejudice in the UK:

On the history of race and empire in Britain:

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the links between privatisation, public services and racism - and any suggestions about useful resources.

Do you believe in public services for people not profit?

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Susan Richardson replied on Permalink

Obviously there should not be discrimination against anyone because of their colour, but I suspect the institutional police racism is partly caused by the fact that historically black families have lived in poorer areas where young people get involved in crime because they are scared of being bullied if they don't. This is a wider social problem that needs tackling. Also, I think it is a mistake to take down racist statues because to wipe out the history perhaps removes some of the motivation to change it, or to prevent things regressing. Nothing wrong with putting different plaques on them, but don't be seen as people who aim to destroy things.

Eddie Waldron replied on Permalink

Hi All

I recently read Guy Standing's Plunder of the Commons book and was very impressed by it and plan to read some more of his books. I'm sure you're all already aware of his work. After reading his work, I just thought he may be a good contact for We Own It. I think potentially he could be a good advisor to We Own It or raise awarness of We Own It campaigns to his readers and at his public talks as a next step to fight appropriated privatisation of our public services. His website has some interesting publications and his contact details -

Mark Allen replied on Permalink

I think that this is just the the sort of analysis that WeOwnIt should apply to it’s campaigns. It would be nice to include more positive examples of good representation in public services.

According to the House of Commons Briefing Paper CBP 1156, 16 March 2020

The NHS stands out as having high levels of non-White staff, especially in England where 20.7% of staff reported their ethnicity as non-White. This compares with 14.3% of the economically active population (that is, people aged 18-64 who are employed or available for work). 40.3% of doctors and 39.3% of hospital consultants in NHS England are non-White.

However it is disappointing to see that Ethnic minority representation in local government is lower than the corresponding population in all countries of the United Kingdom. An audit by Operation Black Vote found that while councils in some local authorities, especially in London, closely reflected the local ethnic make-up, many others had no non-White councillors at all.

Perhaps WeOwnIt could consider supporting a campaign to improve BAME representation in the Public Services that it supports.

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