British military racism

Hostile Environment in the Military Targets BAME Staff

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Official ombudsman for the British armed forces has ruled incidents of racist behaviour is happening with “increasing and depressing frequency” in a damning statement this month.

Nicola Williams, the service complaints ombudsman for the armed forces, has stated the Ministry of Defence (MoD) must act to prevent and appropriately address the rise of racist incidents occurring within armed forces across departments.

Williams, talking to the BBC, said: “incidents of racism are occurring with increasing and depressing frequency,” adding, “I would absolutely say the army and the armed forces have issues with racism which need to be tackled.”

British military racism
The British army is under fire for entrenched racial discrimination [ibtimes]

The forces have found themselves under scrutiny since two service personnel carried forward a court case due to suffering racial harassment in the army. It was ruled in September that the two individuals had suffered “highly offensive” racial discrimination and found the MoD did not act effectively in preventing the abuse or protecting the victims.

It isn’t a reach that with the toxic combination of Brexit and the new Tory majority Government, racists and anti-migrant voices are feeling braver.

Employment judge Richard Baty stated the harassment was “unquestionably related to race”, following up in a written statement that the intention of the unknown person or people carrying out the racist behaviour was to make an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment” for the two paratroopers targeted. Racist graffiti included drawings of a swastika, a Hitler moustache and offensive language on photographs of the two men at their local barracks. The barracks were not accessible to members of the public.

It isn’t a reach that with the toxic combination of Brexit and the new Tory majority Government, racists and anti-migrant voices are feeling braver. This directly affects both immigrants and British born BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people, which this case illustrates. As the likes of Katie Hopkins and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon praise Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, those horrified by their unapologetic rhetoric have a right to expect the Government to condemn support from fascists.

The British attitude towards the forces has always been extremely romanticising, with any criticism met with anger, however valid it may be. Combined with toxic masculinity masquerading as “banter”, authority figures have an obligation to protect the rights of minorities – women and BAME people – in the military.

Indeed, Williams had already expressed concerns of a “continued disproportionality” of complaints from BAME and female staff, highlighting issues around a racist and misogynistic culture that places white men as the norm and everyone else as ‘other’. This must be taken seriously if the military is going to be able to deal with complaints sensitively, effectively and swiftly.

Combined with toxic masculinity masquerading as “banter”, authority figures have an obligation to protect the rights of minorities – women and BAME people – in the military.

An official from the MoD said: “Racism has no place in the military and anyone found to be behaving in such a way can expect to be disciplined, discharged or dismissed. We are committed to stamping it out and have a range of measures to ensure that this issue is tackled.”

The official added that a “new team” is being created to address problems with the way the forces currently deals with complaints about racism, including further training and education for all staff.

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