OPEN LETTER TO THE GOVERNMENT: Thanks for the picture, but the backlash speaks a thousand words – By Arion Lawrence

OPEN LETTER TO THE GOVERNMENT: Thanks for the picture, but the backlash speaks a thousand words – By Arion Lawrence

Seeing diverse images of fatherhood in the mainstream is always well received. As a black dad, to a mixed race son, it’s encouraging to feel that diversity in fatherhood is indeed visible. When I saw your Father’s Day tweet, with the picture of a black dad and his son, I was therefore encouraged by the choice of image.

Alas, the backlash to the photo, as seen in the comments that followed, made it clear that not everyone feels the same way.

The comments cannot be described as anything but racist. They peddle the myth that black dads are absent and are generally offensive at the use of a black male. Scrolling through the comments, I envisaged angry commenters, incandescent with rage while foaming at the mouth in response to a picture of a black dad with his son.

Suffice to say, many responding to the tweet were clearly triggered by an image of black fatherhood. And they had no problem sharing their racist views on the Twitter page of the governing political party in the UK. Nor were their comments met with any censure from yourselves.

As a black dad, I know the damaging and racist stereotypes around black fatherhood. And as a minority, I know first-hand that there is a deep rooted problem with racism and inequality in the UK. Yet while unhelpfully and offensively attempting to play this down, the language and messages from your party and the government sadly supports just that.

Dominic Raab suggested taking a knee was taken from Game of Thrones; essentially trivialising black trauma and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Prime Minister tweeted an eight part thread on Churchill’s statue, undermining and delegitimising the movement, while failing to empathise with our exasperated frustration and anger with systemic racism in the UK. Instead, his concern was more evident for the protection of statues.

In contrast, the following day he tweeted lukewarm condemnation of far right thugs clashing with police. Although many of those taking part in the violent scenes we witnessed would have held views that they felt the government sympathised with.

There is little hope of any meaningful recommendations from the forthcoming review into racial inequality, due to be led by Munira Mirza. As minorities, our confidence in the government’s intent and commitment to tackling racism, and achieving equality, is lacking. Despite being a minority herself, Munira Mirza a has a proven track record of being dismissive of racism and hostile at best towards diversity so what more can we expect?

Pontificating about a diverse cabinet, or having minorities in positions of visibility, doesn’t excuse silence on equality. Nor does it substitute championing of diversity in our society. In a recent survey commissioned by CNN, 58% of black people said they considered your party to be institutionally racist. This is a view I, and many others, share. There is a deep distrust amongst the black community of your intentions and allyship in the fight against racism.

To see a diverse image of fatherhood presented by the Conservatives was therefore welcome, even if unexpected.

At MusicFootballFatherhood, one of our main objectives is to have open conversations about fatherhood. We are a diverse group of dads from a range of backgrounds and we celebrate fatherhood in its many guises. From dads of colour, dads within blended families, dads who co-parent, gay dads and more, we appreciate and champion fatherhood in all its forms.

As fathers, we want our children to grow up in a world where diversity isn’t met with derision. To see such negative responses to an attempt to achieve this, is deeply disappointing. Moreover, it serves as a microcosm for attitudes on diversity in the UK today.

The comments on your Father’s Day tweet presented an opportunity to amplify anti-racism and in any subsequent response. Instead, your silence makes you complicit in furthering the toxic attitudes that very much still exist in this country. Only this week, a small plane with “White Lives Matter Burnley”, was flown over the pitch at the Etihad Stadium during Manchester City’s match against Burnley.

To refute this needs action – not inactivity. The open conversations we have at MusicFootballFatherhood may not always be comfortable. But they are necessary and promote raising our children with honesty and awareness.

Against a backdrop of Black Lives Matter, the current mood of reflection on equality and diversity is one that is seemingly absent from the Conservatives. Perhaps this is why you feel little compulsion or necessity to respond to criticism of an image that reflects diverse fatherhood. Silence is not enough. You need to be actively anti-racist.

I urge you to have these conversations and to call out racism. Acknowledge that your silence facilitates the very attitudes that we need to combat.

You have an opportunity to distance yourselves from a history of resisting equality in your party and to be part of the solution. Don’t continue to be part of the problem.

Written by Arion Law

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