The latest racist attack from The Times is truly chilling

the times
Support us and go ad-free

On 27 July, the Times published a vile racist attack on UK minority groups who already face daily “pervasive prejudice and discrimination”. And this comes as the Conservative government is pushing forwards with draconian legislation that will have a devastating impact for members of the UK’s Gypsy, Roma, Traveller (GRT) communities, as well as protesters and activists.

Many Travellers face difficulties accessing basic medical treatment. Meanwhile, tabloid papers perpetuate dangerous racist attacks on GRT groups. Now, a former Tory speechwriter has added further fuel to the fire.

“The last acceptable form of racism?”

In 2017, a report from the Traveller Movement identified GRT discrimination as “the last acceptable form of racism”. An article by David Cameron’s former speechwriter Clare Foges has highlighted just how disturbing and prevalent this is in the establishment media.

On 24 July, three teenagers were convicted of manslaughter for the abhorrent killing of PC Andrew Harper. Many, including Harper’s family, feel that the three should have been charged with murder. Subsequently, many media outlets drew attention to the killers’ Traveller status.

Foges’ Times column took this to the next level. According to Foges, it’s wrong “to completely ignore the cultural context of this crime”. She says the killers’ “education was in petty crime” and calls to “end the squeamishness that prevents open talk about Travellers”. She continues:

Since the Equality Act 2010 recognised Gypsy, Roma and Travellers as ethnic minorities, race has been used to shield this culture from due scrutiny. Sensible questions about why those within these groups are more likely to be in prison, more likely to be illiterate or more likely to suffer domestic violence prompt cries of racism.

People pointed out quite how racist this attack really is:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Not least, because Foges has form on this topic:

Twisted

What’s so disturbing about Foges’ column is the way she twists inequalities faced by GRT communities:

Travellers die about ten years earlier than the rest of us. They have higher rates of chronic illness. Their suicide rates are six times higher. …

As long as the culturally sensitive force-field exists around Travellers, [their] children are abandoned to a fate that should not be tolerated in 21st-century Britain.

This is part-based in tragic fact. But Foges uses this as evidence against people when it’s actually an indictment of the systemic racism and inequality GRT communities face.

Although Foges bemoans the convicted killers’ lack of formal education, people on social media also pointed out the huge inequalities and discrimination GRT children face. Conservative-led cuts have made this even more difficult:

Minority groups

In the 2011 census, an estimated 63,000 people identified as GRT – although this figure is likely to to be an underestimation.

Gypsy, Traveller and Irish Traveller communities are recognised as ethnic minority groups. As such, they have – in principle – the same protections as other ethnic minorities in the UK under the Equality Act. But as a 2017 report found, GRT “experiences of prejudice are seemingly so common that they have almost become normalised”.

There is also another community of so-called “New Travellers”. This includes van, truck, and boat dwellers recognised as ‘cultural’ rather than ‘ethnic’ Travellers. All groups suffer from racism and discrimination. As support group Friends Families and Travellers explains:

Members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities can often face harassment and discrimination on a daily basis as a result of negative stereotypes and deeply ingrained cultural prejudices.

The statistics are shocking. In 2017, 91% of GRT people reported facing “discrimination because of their ethnicity”. Meanwhile, 77% had “experienced hate speech or a hate crime”.

As people on social media pointed out, Foges’ article epitomises and perpetuates this prejudice:

Persecution of GRT communities isn’t new. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) estimates around 20,000 “Roma and Sinti men, women and children” were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau. According to HMDT:

[This persecution] has parallels with that of the Jewish people. Both populations were targeted on the grounds of their race and had previously suffered centuries of discrimination.

Others, meanwhile, pointed out how dangerous and damaging these attacks are:

Establishment-backed racism

On 13 July, home secretary Priti Patel announced that the government will push forward legislation that discriminates against GRT communities even further.

The Travellers’ Times reported that lawyers are set to challenge these “new ‘hostile’ anti-Traveller laws”. It also noted:

the criminalisation of trespass and the other threatened laws could also criminalise homeless camps and protest camps and is an attack on the civil liberties of everyone – not just Gypsies and Travellers.

Awareness of racial inequality has reached new prominence through the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Calls have gone out from GRT communities to show solidarity with BLM activists. The government has now been accused of “dragging its feet” on tackling racism. Attacks on GRT communities from Murdoch’s racist media empire and Patel’s intention to criminalise more people highlight the challenges we face. Wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head, racism can and must be challenged in all its forms.

Featured image via The Times (modified)

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us