black politics

black politics
   ‘Black’ as a political construction derives from the protracted race struggles of the 1950s and 1960s onwards. A contentious term criticized for its simplistic reduction to an implicit ethnic dualism of black and white, ‘black’ has conversely functioned as a unifying term of empowerment among ‘ethnic minority’ groups to describe the commonality of their historical oppression, marginalization, personal and institutionalized racist experiences.
   Black politics have been organized around the loosely successive phases of New Commonwealth immigration, settlement, protest and an active involvement in community and mainstream politics. The Commonwealth Immigration Bill (1962) and Race Relations Act (1965) (see Race Relations Acts) initiated the black immigration control and antidiscrimination legislation which has illustrated conflicting state attitudes to race. Govern-mentsanctioned organizations like the Community Relations Councils (later the Commission for Racial Equality) coexisted alongside numerous politicized black welfare and cultural groups autonomously mobilized at an urban and grassroots level. Larger organizations such as the nationwide and left-wing Indian Workers Association (IWA) provided practical and legal support and advice for newly arrived and settled Indian migrants. The Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (1965) and Black People’s Alliance (1968) enlisted the support of black representative groups in conglomerate fronts against racism.
   During the racially polarized 1960s, Black Power groups like Black Unity and Michael X’s Racial Adjustment Action Society (RAAS) offset Powellist politics and heralded the more confrontational tone of the 1970s. Industrial action protesting against exploitative migrant labour proliferated, while racist killings, conflict and the National Front led to the formation of the Anti- Nazi League (ANL) and youth organizations such as Southall Youth Movement (SYM). Riots including Notting Hill (1976), Southall (1979), St Paul’s and Brixton (1981) and Broadwater Farm (1985) demonstrated the swollen social and political disaffection among black communities (see riots and civil disobedience).
   The 1980s anti-racism and racial equality campaigns accompanied the election of four black Labour candidates to Parliament in 1987: Diane Abbot, Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant and Keith Vaz. However, the formation of the Labour Party black sections and the black Conservatives created controversy over their ‘ghettoization’ of black political interests, with the ascendancy of the ethnic right (such as the Muslim Parliament) also exposing the inadequate representation of black interests in mainstream politics. Yet from grassroots activism to its gradual integration into the racialized political mainstream, black political concerns are gradually emerging as an irrepressible force.
   Further reading
    Gilroy, P. (1987) There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, London: Routledge (a classic cultural study conveying the complexities of race and nationhood).

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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