The Black Lives Matter global uprising that followed the murder of George Floyd has forced a reckoning with racist state violence, its history and its ongoing perpetuation across the world. Recent research by Resistance Lab has shown that Greater Manchester Police are, after the London Metropolitan Police, the most frequent users of tasers; with Black people subject to the use of tasers by GMP at nearly 4 times the rate of white people.
In housing too, racial inequality is starkly apparent and has a long history with deep roots. It is well documented that Black communities are more likely to face overcrowding, disrepair and general poor housing conditions. Homelessness is also disproportionate among these same communities — one in three homeless households aren’t white, compared to around one in seven in the general population. Research done by the Runnymede Trust also demonstrated that the impact of a decade of government austerity has disproportionately impacted Black communities.
A report published in 2016 summed up by stating: “four decades of struggle by black and minority ethnic communities, bolstered by legislation, statutory and regulatory codes from the 1960s onwards, have failed to confront adequately and systematically racial disadvantage and discrimination in housing”. The following year, the Grenfell Tower fire was tragic evidence of this fact. As Leslie Thomas QC said at the Grenfell Inquiry earlier this year, the fire was “inextricably linked” with race and reported that that “40% of those living in high-rise buildings in the social rented sector are black, Asian or other. This, compared to the percent of the population (14%), is high.”
Overlapping with housing, are other factors. The government’s racist hostile environment, which led to the Windrush scandal, has ensured that the UK border is present across society — including in housing, where both private and social landlords increasingly conduct immigration checks, controlling peoples’ access to housing. Injustice in our immigration system means that asylum seekers are often housed in substandard accommodation, with companies like Serco hanging the threat of eviction over their tenants. The politicisation of the border has been the result of a decade which has seen the rise of the far right, which has racism at its core.
The Covid-19 pandemic, and its health and economic impacts have highlighted the pre-existing inequalities of our society. Amongst Health and Care workers, and the wider population of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities, infections and mortality rates are far higher. The poverty and destitution, barriers to tenants challenging the exploitation and disregard of landlords, and the impact of severe overcrowding and disrepair problems, have disproportionately fallen on our Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities.
In this context, our position is clear. The Greater Manchester Tenants Union is determined that campaigning against racism and racial inequality will be a priority for our organising. We want to ensure that our organisation is not merely non-racist, but a proactive anti-racist one. We will organise to fight the housing conditions that disproportionately affect Black communities. Beyond this, we will position ourselves as part of a broader anti-racist movement in society. We are forging links with campaigns beyond housing, and stand in solidarity with struggles against police violence, the hostile environment and the rise of the far right.
What we are doing
Upon the election of a new committee in October, it was agreed that anti-racism would be a priority. This has led to the formation of an anti-racist working group, convened by the Chair, Secretary and Treasurer, with staff time allocated as well. This working group reports to the Committee and is overseeing our anti-racist work, including:
- Developing a strategy for growing our membership, focusing on Black, Asian and ethnically diverse membership.
- Leading the growth of links of solidarity with organisations and grassroots campaigns combatting racism.
- Reviewing and updating GMTUs diversity policy, for staff, committee and members.
- Coordinating a programme of training and education for the membership, committee and staff on anti-racist organising, history and principles.
- Writing an anti racist policy document for GMTU to be reviewed and approved at the next AGM.
This document stands as a statement of purpose and intent from the new committee and the anti-racist working group. We intend for it to shape and direct our organising through 2021 and beyond.
This document is dated January 2021, to be reviewed on a six monthly basis.