image caption: (Photo: S. Gurmukh Singh OBE, Principal Civil Servant at ETW Reception.)

Black & Minority Ethnic Exclusion from Public Events

         Absence of minority communities from public events causes offence. For example, Sikhs were not happy when the Sikh Regiment was excluded from the Republic Day parade in India in 2016. Dalits of India have suffered such indignities over thousands of years. Regrettably, not much has changed except labels.

In western countries, the non-white minorities suffered exclusion from mainstream media and events for decades. Recently, the black and minority ethnic communities (BMEs) seemed to be missing was the 75th D-Day landings anniversary 2019. By design or default, such humiliating exclusion still continues.

 

Some of us have personal experience of such exclusion. In October 1992 the Queen and the Duke visited the new world-class aerospace research facility, the European Transonic Windtunnel (ETW), in Cologne. Four countries, Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands had participated in the project. I received an invitation as the UK departmental representative as a Principal civil servant. However, I was politely excluded when others were lined up to meet the Queen. I never forgot that incident. Otherwise, I had always been well received and met visiting VIPs at this major European facility.

 

The insult is even greater when whole communities are excluded from major public events no matter what the excuse. Regarding the 75th D-Day Anniversary events, it is true that the countries which took part in D-Day landings and the Normandy campaign were from 13 white countries with Britain and America leading. Nevertheless, I wondered why no BME representatives were seen on the TV. If they were knowingly excluded following decision at high level then it was a mistake.

I feel that such issues are highly symbolic and important for the health of British multiculturalism today. The event brought out the best of British choreography but, to my suspicious mind, also revealed the hidden colonial past which surfaces at such events from time to time. I also wondered if the presence of President Trump influenced the decision in some way.

To quote one passage from a report: The D-Day landings and the subsequent campaign to capture Normandy might have been -minded by British and American commanders, but they included soldiers from far more nations.

It is not possible to single out just one event in World War II. As a colleague wrote: Whilst D-Day landings were important but so were other events at about the same time. Troops had already landed in Italy (which included Sikhs), and were pushing north through Italy, whist the Russians were also pushing the Germans back out of Russia. The Russians would push them all the way back to Berlin, and take Berlin in record time.

It is important for British communities to make their presence felt while contributing to all aspects of British life. Sikhs have always excelled as citizens contributing hugely to the British economy. There is little patience with those in the departments or within the community, who refuse to see the need for accurate count and minority ethnic monitoring for weighted rights to address policy changes. Only continual political lobbying and activism in a true democracy can bring about the desired socio-political change.

 

Gurmukh Singh OBE