JUST is a groundbreaking initiative set up by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in 2003 to promote racial justice in West Yorkshire. Since its establishment JUST has become a leading voice in the North promoting racial justice, civil liberties and human rights. The fall-out from the 2001 Northern Uprisings and the introduction of draconian legislation following the 7/7 London bombings has resulted in civil liberties and human rights increasingly becoming an integral part of its work in the region.
In an era where the Community Cohesion and Prevent agendas have become the key paradigms of government policy and the Race and Institutional Racism agendas have been rolled back by the State, the adverse impact on Black and minority ethnic people has been unprecedented.
BME people continue to be over-represented in poverty, discrimination, NEETS, criminal justice, stop and search, education, poor health and other poor quality of life outcomes. Instead of investment in resources and funding to address the generational and historic systemic and structural discrimination that BME people experience, the government’s ‘war on terror’ has ‘criminalised’ BME and particularly Muslim people and its community cohesion policy has put the burden of good race relation on visible minorities.
The attrition of civil liberties and human rights that have been developed in response to the perceived threats from Muslim terrorists has legitimised the incursion of the State into the public and privates lives of citizens.
Similarly the recent attack on the BME Third sector that have followed the recommendations by the Cohesion Commission to withhold funding from single identity groups who are considered to perpetuate ethnic divides has resulted in critical services and support being withdrawn from some of the most vulnerable BME communities. The constriction of grant aid following the transition to commissioning and procurement by local authorities has left the BME sector unable to compete as equal partners. Consequently the voice of the BME Third sector has become invisibilised within key decision making arenas where critical decisions on funding and service priorities are formulated.
The move towards an Equalities framework has effectively undermined the gains made following the introduction of the Race Relations Amendment Act. The proposed Equalities Bill that will give public authorities greater scope to frame their priorities across the equalities spectrum based on determination of local priorities carries with it a real risk that Race as a discrete Equalities strand will be even further downgraded.
In response to these very real threats facing the sustainability of the BME sector JUST West Yorkshire’s key role is to challenge the implementation of retrogressive government legislation and policies and seek parity in outcomes for BME communities underpinned by the values of racial justice, civil liberties and human rights.
Where is JUST Yorkshire