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Young Black voices must be heard when policies are being developed

Young Black voices must be heard when policies are being developed
4 min read

In July 2021, The Black Policy Institute (TBPI) pioneered the Global Future Leadership Programme, bringing together several young Black people from the United Kingdom and the United States. I was thrilled to be appointed as the UK chair of the first international young people’s advisory board for TBPI. To me, an effective leader is strategic, empathetic and adaptative; able to contend with the past and present with a vision of societal improvement and equity.

The Global Future Leadership Programme has enabled us to work with young people of diverse experiences and backgrounds. It has helped us understand the nuances of our experiences of being Black in America and the UK. I am collaborating with the US chair, Diontre Davis, and two other co-chairs in the UK and the US to inform policies with an internationalist and rich outlook on the world. 

We need to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach

We have witnessed and experienced the impact of policies that were developed and applied without a thorough foresight of the domino effects on our communities. Therefore, we share a strong desire for change and are developing the capacity to advocate for more equitable policies. 
The young people’s advisory board is determined to address pressing policy areas for young Black people, such as housing, education, health, employment, criminal justice, and policing. We need contextualised policies that move away from the one-size-fits-all approach. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on society’s ills, and revealed that Black people have no, or little, agency. Data from the Office for National Statistics between October and December 2020 shows more than 40 per cent of Black people aged 16 to 24 were unemployed – three times more than white workers of the same age. 

And although the Home Office stop and search data which covers England and Wales to the year ending March 2021 states that Black people are seven times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police, compared to nine times in last year’s report, the numbers evidence the continuation of how stop and search disproportionally affects racial minority groups. Yet the Home Office, through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, is attempting to increase police stop and search powers, likely to further harass communities with racially discriminatory practices. 

Young Black voices have unique perspectives. We can offer our lived experiences and our unfiltered insights to qualify and clearly explain to the government and society in general, how racial discrimination affects our wellbeing and resilience, as well as that of our families and communities. 

Young Black males, in particular, bear the brunt of racial discrimination in terms of policing, and accounts of their experiences are essential to unpack the impact of stop and search. 
We witness day-to-day how the UK’s education system curtails the advancement of young Black students, which in time affects our employment opportunities. Thus, from our lived experience, we are in an exceptional position to offer ways forward to equality and inclusion. We are eager to do so.

If we are not in the room when policies are being developed, how can they speak to our needs? Work is needed to ensure our voices are heard. We need leaders in power to create much-needed space. Every time there is a report or an article that outlines the disparities Black people face, there must be a call to action for change.

Inequality erodes democracy, and we need a healthy democracy to thrive. Young people are deeply concerned about the future of their lives. Britain is at a crossroads, and TBPI’s young people’s advisory board is determined to provide equitable solutions to disparities, and to achieve beneficial change. We are devising a toolkit to adequately address these inequities, but require a coalition of support to facilitate our delivery. 

In my leadership capacity as chair, I welcome any conversations that will further this cause. Our toolkit intends to enable a comprehensive look at policies and build a space for us to determine how we can implement a future with greater equity and equality.

 

Nadjah Osman is the chair of The Black Policy Institute’s Young People Advisory Group.

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