Four quick paradoxes of the welfare state for Black communities

1) The welfare state was supposed to provide universal provision but was never extend to British subjects outside of the UK. However, British subjects in colonial territories were just as much subjects to the crown as those resident in the UK.

2) The era where, in large part due to the welfare state and the ethos of public goods, social mobility was most pronounced in the UK (late 60s, early 70s) was also the era of the proliferation of violent and visceral racism and entrenched institutional racism in public and private institutions.

3) In the 80s, funding the ethos of public goods allowed for the development and expression of community initiatives, especially with the Black community through Ken Livingstone’s GLC. It was a golden era, in this respect, despite being a high point of the battle against the BNP and far right.

4) The end of the ethos of public good, and the massive diminishment of the welfare state has done nothing to dampen institutional racism, and now visceral racism is on the rise again.

Welfare and social mobility did not get rid of racism. Welfare provided for an opportunity to fund provisions to ammeliorate racism. The material basis for ammelioration has now diminished and is disappearing fast. But a return to an ethos of “public goods” will not in and of itself get rid of racialised inequalities and discriminations. No triumphal leftist narrative is possible for Black communities – nor was it ever – when it came to the welfare state. How can we re-make the relationship of public goods to racism for a better tomorrow?

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