Campaigners say Cambridge is still divided a year on from Black Lives Matter

More than a year on from the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests, the movement has all but dropped from view.

However, racism in Britain became a newly hot topic last week after three Black England footballers endured a torrent of racist abuse from the public after the lost Euro 2020 final match.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka responded gracefully and five were arrested for their online comments, but the rest of the country was left to face the ugly truth of racism in Britain.

Read more: Five excluded from Cambs school after racist attack following Euro 2020 final

For Cambridge campaigners, their commitment to ending racism never went anywhere.

Barnie Hakata, who grew up in Chesterton, experienced racial slurs being thrown at him by his classmates and peers.

He said this racism was just “acceptable” in Cambridge, and that the barrage of abuse “destroys you as a person”.

Now age 22, Barnie was behind some of the largest 2020 Black Lives Matter protests Cambridge has seen in a long time.

Looking back on a year of campaigning after the murder of George Floyd and the recent racism suffered by Black British footballers at the Euro 2020 games, CambridgeshireLive spoke to Barnie about the anti-racism work he says still needs to be done in this “divided city”.

Cambridge’s wealth divide is “extremely obvious”

Barnie said the “obvious” divide in the city affected his childhood as well as Black communities across the city.

Barnie explained: “[At school] my name was [the N-word and variations]. Absolutely disgusting derogatory terms that people used openly, who were confident that they had a lot to fall back on. These were friends, school peers.

“[This language] is more acceptable here than in other cities like Manchester and London where the population divide isn’t so stark between ethnic groups.

“When there’s a word that can describe the total destruction of your identity as an individual, the torment and torture that your entire family experienced for the last 400 years, that word will cut you deeply. It affected my mental health growing up.”

Untold Stories newsletter sign up

Untold Stories – a new newsletter bringing together the very best journalism about and for our underserved and minority communities and groups from across the south east.

Simply press here to enter your email address and get news, features and plenty more besides.

And subscribe to the CambridgeshireLive newsletter for the latest breaking news and updates.

With a younger brother and sister still in school, he felt the need to “personally do something about it” to ensure they never get called such names.

But according to him, the issue isn’t specific to his school.

He said: “Black and Brown communities are so disadvantaged, they are essentially ghettoized in certain areas [in Cambridge]. It’s extremely clear where the wealth in the city lies.”

On a wider level, a 2018 report by think tank Centre for Cities identified Cambridge as the least equal city in the UK for two years in a row, with the top six per cent of earners taking home 19 per cent of the total income of the city, leaving the bottom 20 per cent of earners taking home 2 per cent of total income.

On a personal level, Barnie said he has been rejected from job interviews for his natural afro.

He said: “A friend who worked at the business told me the manager had laughed at my hair after I left, commenting on how ridiculous it was that I thought I could get a job there with ‘hair like that’.”

“Now I work at a bar and am consistently hassled about my afro. You can struggle to find a job if you have your hair in its natural way when our Prime Minister can walk around with his hair looking like it does,” he added, referring to Boris Johnson’s at times seemingly unbrushed hair.

Cambridge University, one of the biggest employers in the city, is improving its record on diverse hiring and student admissions each year.

However there remains a problem with Black and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in leadership positions according to the university’s 2020 equality information report, showing a lower number of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff in academic positions (12.3 per cent) than the Russell Group average of 16.1 per cent.

A report released in 2020 revealed systemic racism suffered by both students and staff, with incidents occurring mostly in colleges. Of the 117 incidents reported between October 2018 and 2020, 87 per cent of reports came from students, 10 per cent from staff.

Outside of university issues, Barnie named areas north of the city as “poor areas with large amounts of ethnic communities”.

Abbey and Kings Hedges are the two most deprived areas, according to a 2019 index of multiple deprivation from the Consumer Data Research.

The map shows that parts of Barnwell and Kings Hedges are in the second decile for deprivation, marked in red. Orange represents the third decile, with light green and then dark green representing the more affluent areas.

Map of deprivation. Red represents more deprivation, and green less.

Deprivation is measured using income levels, employment, education and skills, health deprivation and disability, crime, barriers to housing and services, and living environment deprivation.

Barnie added: “These areas are particularly known for being deprived with the worst schools, facilities, hospital access and resources in the city.”

And despite the relatively low proportion of BAME students across the city as a whole, disproportionate numbers of Black Caribbean and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children were given fixed-term exclusions in 2018/19 in Cambridgeshire, which was slammed as a “devastating failure of local authorities.”

In his experience, Barnie said that this was the education system teaching young Black boys like him that they’re “bad”. He said: “Black people have to grow up quicker. That’s a failing.”

Barnie Hakata with a megaphone at a Black Lives Matter protest in Cambridge, King's Parade, 2020
Barnie Hakata with a megaphone at a Black Lives Matter protest in Cambridge, King’s Parade, 2020

As well as education, there have been criticisms of the way the police force deals with racism.

In 2021 Cambridgeshire Police force was one of 12 English forces that didn’t uphold a single complaint of racially motivated misconduct, after receiving allegations against 132 police officers and staff over five years.

Barnie said: “Young Black men are seen as a danger, a threat. There isn’t an aspect of our society that you can name that there isn’t a racial issue with. Education, healthcare, policing, law.”

He referenced the overrepresentation of BAME people in the England and Wales prison systems, making up 25 per cent of all prisoners whilst only 14 per cent of the general population.

Evidence from the Lammy Review 2017 found Black people across the country were 53 per cent more likely to be sent to prison for an indictable offence, Black men 26 per cent more likely to be remanded in custody, whilst 60 per cent more likely to plead not guilty.

In healthcare, Black and minority ethnic individuals made up a disproportionate number of deaths at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

A Public Health England report from June 2020 found Black Caribbean and other Black ethnicities along with Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and other Asian people were between 10 and 50 per cent more at risk of death from Covid-19 than white Britains.

Death rates were higher in Black and Asian ethnic groups compared to white ethnicities.

Black women are four times more likely to die than white women in pregnancy or childbirth in the UK according to the MBRRACE-UK 2021 report. Statistics like these, Barnie says, proves the race problem is systemic.

The Black Lives Matter protests that continued throughout 2020 and 2021 in Cambridge, which Barnie helped to organise, aimed to highlight racism as “a British problem” not just American and unite the “power found in numbers”.

He said: “The protests are to educate the people on the racist structures in the city of Cambridge. Nothing has changed structurally, every single thing we said last year we are still doing. This requires a long and consistent effort in order to dismantle very in-build structures of our society that benefit a small group at the expense of many.”

Want the latest Cambridgeshire news direct to your inbox? Sign up here.

Cambridgeshire Live – Home