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:
Dr Sonia Adesara media interview
Dr Ameen Kamlana interview with Just Treatment
On broader issues of systemic racism:
On anti-immigrant prejudice in the UK:
On the history of race and empire in Britain:
- David Olusoga’s BBC series Black and British: A Forgotten History
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the links between privatisation, public services and racism - and any suggestions about useful resources.
Image credit: Tim Dennell - Creative Commons