Blog: We must always have hope, even in these difficult times

Yesterday I had the honour of addressing UNISON’s Black Members Conference. On a difficult day for those who share our politics, it was good to be amongst friends who fight prejudice, as across an ocean a bigoted hate-fuelled menace took up residence in the White House.

That America’s first black president – a man of such courage, dignity and grace – could be succeeded by a man of such vulgarity, ignorance and spite is truly depressing. But after any step forward there’s often a backlash. And deep structural inequalities remain whether you’re the President of the United States, or a young black graduate in the UK.

If you’re from an ethnic minority you’re more likely to have a university education. But twice as likely to be unemployed. It’s a racism that still blights daily life for too many and one that holds too many people back. The racism that comes to bear when promotions and redundancies alike are handed out.

It’s apparent in the way the incoming American President talks about his predecessor. He didn’t just limit his attacks on Obama to his capabilities, he attacked his legitimacy and his right to be President. That’s racism, pure and simple.

There is no doubt in my mind that the rise of Trump will have a profound impact on race relations – not just in the USA but around the world – making ugly opinions acceptable. We’ve seen it here in the months after Brexit, with racist incidents on the rise. People with accents being told to “go home”, and the language used to talk about race and immigration taking a dangerous backwards turn.

But whatever kind of Brexit we have, it can’t be one built on the back of racist sloganeering. Or one that uses those who have built their lives here as pawns in negotiations. Brexit has to be about protecting and extending the rights we have, not turning the clock back.

So as we look to the future, and what it holds for our country, our communities and our public services, it might seem dispiriting. But there’s still cause for optimism. In the history of anti-racism in our movement, through to the election of Sadiq Khan last year.

Because in the teeth of rising Islamophobia and in a climate where immigrants are increasingly figures of scorn in our political debate, the son of an immigrant bus driver was elected to run our capital city, with the largest individual mandate of any British politician in history.

That is a cause for optimism and hope.

And we must always have hope. Even in these difficult times.

When those who share our values are being knocked down, we have to get back up and keep on fighting. That’s the only choice we have.

And it’s the only thing that has ever changed our country for the better.