Black History Month reflected in Politics

Black History Month reflected in Politics


Giles Monks
Giles Monks
Black History Month reflected in Politics

Y12 students have celebrated Black History Month by considering a range of areas related to minority issues in modern UK politics. Students have studied the ‘participation crisis’ reflected by the much lower voting turnout of 18-24 year olds and also minority ethnic groups in UK elections. This is significant as political participation – or lack of it – influences party manifestos and policy priorities. Students also contrasted the lack of voting by some groups in society with the active politics and demonstrations seen in the UK Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. The BLM protests were often led and dominated by students and other young people showing their support for the BLM social movement and frustration at the lack of progress in creating racial equality in the UK. This also highlighted the economic disadvantage and high unemployment disproportionally faced by minorities. The fact these protests and similar ones about climate change, involved large numbers of supporters across the country suggests there is not a disinterest or apathy about politics in the UK, but a lack of engagement with young people by political parties and politicians.

The Black Lives Matter movement was analysed to identify the factors making a pressure group successful and the impact of the tactics and methods outsider groups may use. In this case students felt that, Black Lives Matter has been an extremely successful social movement in gaining public recognition of the issues, informing and educating the wider public. It even prompted organisations such as the National Trust to review the history of their properties and highlight the hidden links to the money generated by the slave trade and exploitation of workers in the Caribbean sugar plantations. However, Black Lives Matter has been less successful in fundamentally changing government policy in terms of implementing new policies to ensure equality for all ethnic minorities. Over 30 years after the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry, there are still many concerns raised about UK policing and racial stereotyping. Students discussed the issues raised by the disproportionate use of ‘stop and search’ powers by the police on young black males.

Politics students also considered why the Black Lives Matter movement has not been able to translate it’s large popular support into changing the political agenda. Factors considered included a lack of focus and clear leadership within the movement, plus small minorities turning some demonstrations into violent protests which politicians could not be seen as supporting. Students also identified that a lack of political ‘access points’ to government ministers and civil servants who make or influence policy decisions has meant protest and public campaigns have had to remain the main tactic. Y12 students discussed the debates and controversies around the use of professional lobbyists in promoting changes in policy and the often unequal advantage held by pressure groups with ‘insider status’ who are able to meet decision makers in person or can afford expensive lobbying campaigns. Black History Month has provided an excellent focus for students to debate and consider many political concepts which are essential to our democratic representation.

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