The Global Compact on Refugees recommends that high-income countries take in some refugees as labor migrants. Researcher Martin Ruhs explores how that might work.

MOST HIGH-INCOME COUNTRIES make a strict distinction in their immigration policies between refugees and those deemed to be labor migrants. While refugees are typically admitted on humanitarian grounds – albeit with debates in many countries about who qualifies and what degree of protection they are entitled to receive – labor migrants are usually admitted with the explicit aim of benefiting the economy and society. The Global Compact on Refugees, a new nonbinding United Nations framework for improved global governance and more equitable sharing of responsibility, recommends that high-income countries take in some refugees as labor migrants. Is this a good idea? Could it work?

In principle, there are three broad policy approaches for using labor immigration pathways to admit refugees to high-income countries. One aims to help refugees gain access to existing labor immigration programs without making any policy adjustments for “refugee-workers.” Another aims to create incentives for employers to recruit refugee-workers within the broad parameters of existing labor immigration policies. A third approach seeks to establish new labor immigration programs exclusively for refugee-workers. All of these approaches face significant obstacles and challenges in practice.

Most labor immigration programs enacted by high-income countries apply to migrants from any country. Employers are already able to recruit refugee-workers through these existing programs. In practice, they will do so only if refugees are the most skilled and suitable candidates for the job. Factors that weigh on this judgment, along with candidates’ skills and work experience, include the costs associated with recruitment and any training that may be necessary. Under almost all such programs, it is the employer rather than the migrant worker who applies for the work permit, so considering employers’ needs is of central importance.

Refugee-workers would be competing with migrant workers from around the world. In this competition, refugees who have escaped conflicts will be at a distinct disadvantage. They will lack information about the labor immigration programs of high-income countries, and employers and recruitment agencies are unlikely to be informed about potential refugee-workers. Forced migrants who have escaped from conflict zones are much less likely to be able to meet requirements for papers such as travel documents, proof of identity and skills certifications. Furthermore, for many (but not all) displaced people, the costs of legal migration may be prohibitive, yet they are still lower than the costs and risks associated with paying smugglers to guide them through illegal border crossings.

Even if some of these hurdles could be reduced or even eliminated, employers may still prefer to recruit migrant workers rather than refugees. The small number of refugees who would benefit are likely to be the most highly skilled and those with the most financial resources, since the current labor immigration policies of high-income countries are much more open to admitting higher-skilled migrants.

A second policy option is to go beyond the provision of better information and links between employers and refugees by taking measures that are explicitly aimed at generating employer demand for refugee-workers, within the broad parameters of existing labor immigration policies. Such policies could be modified to encourage the recruitment of refugee-workers in addition to migrant workers, which could increase the total intake of migrants. Alternatively, more refugee-workers could be admitted in lieu of some migrant workers, keeping overall numbers flat.

The labor-market test requirement, whereby employers must advertise a job locally before recruiting a migrant to fill it, is an example of a demand-side restriction that could be relaxed to encourage employer demand for refugee-workers. One option would be to waive the requirement for refugees. A second would be to reduce the mandatory advertising period. Either change would give employers faster access to refugee-workers. Another measure that might have a similar effect would be to lower the administrative fees employers must pay when applying for a work permit for a migrant worker. In many countries, these fees are considerable, making them one of the factors that discourage employers from recruiting migrants

Overall, this second policy option would likely result in larger numbers of refugees being admitted as workers to high-income countries. Its feasibility would depend on public acceptance of the humanitarian dimensions of the policy, to justify and maintain support for the relaxation of some restrictions specifically for refugee-workers. Policymakers would need to highlight the positive economic contribution that refugees can make to the host country, while emphasizing the special regulatory requirements of this type of “mixed motives migration.” Realistically, under any of the policies outlined above, the number of refugee-workers would need to be capped in order to address likely concerns about uncontrolled immigration of refugees allowed to enter under laxer regulations than those applied to other migrant workers.

The third and most ambitious option for creating a legal work-based pathway to high-income countries for refugees would be to establish new temporary labor migration programs (TMPs) specifically for displaced people who are currently in first countries of asylum in conflict regions. To be politically and economically acceptable, the numbers admitted through a new TMP for refugees would almost certainly need to be capped or at least tightly regulated.

To avoid undercutting prevailing employment conditions in the host country, refugee-workers would need to be given the same employment rights as domestic workers, or at least very similar ones. An important exception is the right to free choice of employment. This would need to be restricted to enable host countries to use migrants to address shortages in specific occupations or sectors.

Most temporary labor migration programs, especially those for lower-skilled workers, restrict migrants’ rights to family reunion in one way or another. But it is difficult to see how admitting refugee-workers without granting them the right to bring at least some family members would provide the minimum degree of effective protection that most refugee families seek. In my view, at least some right to reunion (if only for core family members) would have to be an integral part of the policy. If this right does not already exist under an existing labor immigration program, a policy adjustment could be made for refugee-workers.

Two fundamentals – which apply to all of the three approaches – relate to the right to claim asylum and the return of refugee-workers whose temporary work permits have expired. Most advocates of alternative pathways for refugees emphasize the importance of retaining their right to protection. But it is clear that the prospect of refugees using these alternative pathways to claim asylum would, in all likelihood, be a major disincentive for high-income countries to offer such pathways in the first place. They would surely want to avoid a situation in which refugees use a temporary labor immigration route to enter legally and then immediately (or after a brief interval) invoke their right to asylum to stay.

If the goal of the labor migration pathway is to provide strictly temporary admission and protection, how will refugees be returned to countries of first asylum? Successfully negotiating readmission agreements with first countries of asylum would be a major challenge. Most first countries of asylum are low- and lower-middle-income countries themselves. It is likely that they will accept readmission agreements that involve the return of refugees only in exchange for greater opportunities for their own nationals to gain admission to higher-income countries as workers, students or family migrants.

In light of these constraints and obstacles, labor migration to high-income countries is unlikely to become a major alternative pathway for large numbers of refugees. This is not to say, however, that some of the obstacles cannot be overcome through innovative policy designs that might benefit a limited number of refugees. There are important initiatives that have been able to place small numbers of refugees from first countries of asylum in jobs in high-income countries. However, given the obstacles discussed above, it is difficult to see how such initiatives could be scaled up significantly, and how international labor migration could become a major option for large numbers of refugees.

There are also considerable dangers of instrumentalizing refugees, in the sense of creating new policies that make the admission of refugees to high-income countries dependent, at least partially, on their perceived economic usefulness. For most refugees in first countries of asylum, the main legal pathway to protection in high-income countries should be resettlement. The key political challenge remains how to convince rich countries to radically increase the resettlement of refugees from overburdened lower-income countries.

Source: NewsDeeply

Children and parents have struggled to adjust to homeschooling. Now, some have to cope with returning to schools which will seem very different to those they left at the beginning of lockdown. One group of children, though, are facing challenges beyond those experienced by the majority.

Children with special educational needs (SEN) make up around 15% of all pupils in mainstream education. Developmental dyslexia is the most common condition in this group, estimated to affect between 10%-16% of the UK population. Autism is much rarer, affecting about 1.1%.

Our research suggests that children with these conditions might find it especially difficult to adapt to changes in their education. We need to recognise the extra challenges homeschooling and online learning have posed for many children – and take this into account as schools reopen.

Extra challenges

Many people think of dyslexia as a language disorder, but it also affects the memory and people’s ability to verbalise ideas and to pay attention. Even in the best of learning environments, struggles in school are likely to lead to low self-esteem for dyslexic children.

Dyslexia can affect many aspects of a child’s life. Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH

These difficulties are also experienced by autistic children, who may perceive the sensory world differently. Sounds can be magnified, for example, making it hard for a child working at the kitchen table to drag their attention away from the ticking of a clock or the dripping of a tap. Their experience of “not fitting in” also affects their self-esteem.

Another aspect of autism is concrete, black and white thinking. Some autistic children struggle with homework because they think school is for work and home is for play. Routine and predictability is crucial for these children. The move to home education has been another change for them in a sea of turmoil caused by the pandemic.

In school, autistic and dyslexic children would often have specialist support in place to help them with these problems. Without this kind of support, problems with attention and self-esteem may make learning at home very difficult.

It’s also important to recognise that dyslexia and autism are often inherited. Educational and emotional support at home may be limited, further disadvantaging the child and reinforcing the parent’s own potential sense of inadequacy. Children with SEN are also more likely to come from poorer families, an additional layer of inequality.

Positive impacts

Recent research has found that while many children with SEN (and their parents) are indeed more anxious and sad than usual, some families actually report minimal or even positive impacts of distance learning under lockdown. For some children, lockdown is a respite. For dyslexic children, it means they are not the child who is taken out of typical lessons to catch up on other work.

Some parents of children with SEN have reported positive outcomes from home learning. MIA Studio

For autistic children, it may be an escape from the bullying which is tragically endemic in this group. Many autistic children, including those with a type of autism called pathological demand avoidance, are simply too anxious to attend school regularly.

Remote online education may offer children a greater opportunity for personalised learning at their own pace. For these reasons, many parents of SEN children choose to homeschool their children even under normal circumstances. They argue that home-schooling allows teaching to be built upon the child’s interests, while removing them from rigid standardised testing which is focused on the majority of learners and may set children with conditions like autism or dyslexia up to fail.

Back to school

As schools begin to reopen, advice is already emerging around how best to protect and support children. It’s important to make children feel safe and in control as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts suggest that emotional and social development should take precedence over school work. Some children may need special help with this. Autistic children, for instance, may need to be explicitly taught how to play appropriately, and may need adult assistance to make friends.

Learning in small groups may benefit children with SEN. iofoto/Shutterstock

Before the coronavirus pandemic, teachers were advised to set up small circles of friends for vulnerable children. As such, the current advice, which recommends that children should stay in small groups, may be well suited to those with special educational needs. However, teachers will also need to actively adopt other strategies to foster social bonds between the child and their peers.

As always, it will be important for parents and teachers to collaborate closely to ensure as much consistency as possible. There are things that teachers and parents can do to help children deal with difficult emotions. Children might also be dealing with bereavement and new financial insecurity at home. The involvement of other child specialists, like psychologists and social workers, might therefore be beneficial.

To help build a sense of control, we need to do more to help children with special educational needs succeed in school, respecting their own pace and learning styles. As this situation evolves, we must be mindful of its impact on the already entrenched inequality that hampers these learners. However, the situation also forces us to come face-to-face with the cracks in our previous systems and come up with new ways of doing things which might, in the long term, reap surprising benefits.

Mauritius reported its first cases of coronavirus on 19 March and closed its borders to all foreigners on the same day. It was a radical step for a small, open economy, but a necessary one.

Subsequent containment efforts proved successful. A travel ban on foreign visitors was declared as early as 2 February. Contact tracing began soon after along with an aggressive public marketing campaign about the disease and what precautions to take. Under a countrywide lockdown, schools, markets and even its famous beaches were closed.

While the World Health Organization had forecast over 20 000 cases and 1 139 deaths for Mauritius in total, the country’s swift action has meant just 337 infections and 10 deaths. Three active cases have been imported.

With the virus outbreak now largely contained, attention must shift to the economic and social fallout. Although Mauritius has reinvented itself before, the consequences this time challenge its economic philosophy and will require vision, creativity and innovation.

The country, heavily exposed to global dynamics, now faces a triple threat of declining tourism, capital flight from its financial sector and increasing concerns about food security. A rethink is needed of how to adapt, especially with a downturn in the global economy.

COVID-19 has devastated the tourism and hospitality industry which has effectively been halted with border closures – both those of Mauritius and other countries. The sector contributes an estimated 25% of GDP and approximately 15% of all employment.

French and United Kingdom visitors are among the biggest contributors of foreign exchange receipts, with China also a fast-growing market. For many, lost income makes island holidays an unaffordable luxury. The fear of infection and practicalities of travel will also keep visitors away. South African Airways and Air Mauritius, two of the main carriers bringing tourists to the island, have been grounded by the pandemic, and both have entered business rescue.

However it’s not just the tourism sector taking a beating. Pressures in the offshore sector could not have come at a worse time. Last year Mauritius narrowly escaped being blacklisted by the European Union as a tax haven – an issue that’s recently resurfaced. Dismissed as noise in some quarters, its impact could be dramatic.

More recently, the European Commission announced that Mauritius would be added to a list of states posing financial risk due to lax anti-money laundering and terrorism financing oversight. Despite the Mauritian government’s assurances that it will implement remedies to be removed from the list, the immense reputational damage could exacerbate COVID-19-related outflows and divestments.

Anuradha Ramphul, Managing Director at financial services consultancy St Lawrence Management, believes the reputation damage is already evident: ‘We have seen some initial impact outside of the EU last week, for example, the Reserve Bank of India turning down investment proposals from Mauritius-based entities in the Indian financial services industry.’ She nevertheless believes the authorities will soon address regulators’ concerns.

Another setback came in May when Senegal announced it was withdrawing from its Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Mauritius, criticising the agreement as lopsided. This is a blow to Mauritius’s intra-Africa relations, amid efforts to pivot towards the continent. This will dent sentiment and future investment prospects, especially if other African nations follow.

Food security is another growing concern. Mauritius has diversified away from agricultural output (sugar and vanilla) for nearly five decades, all the while drawing historically subsistence farmers into the now collapsing services labour market.

Mauritius imports most of its food, making up 20% of total imports. In a climate of growing nationalism and protectionism, many countries have restricted some food exports to protect domestic food security. A sudden stop of staple imports from any one country would have a dramatic inflationary impact, heightening social pressures.

The impact of COVID-19 alone has forced extraordinary downward economic revisions. The economy is forecast to contract by up to 11% year on year in 2020 and unemployment to double from 7% to 17.5%. With economic and regulatory headwinds mounting, both Moody’s and Fitch revised Mauritius’ commercial bank’s outlook to negative in line with their downwardly revised sovereign rating.

This isn’t the first time Mauritius has faced such existential shocks. Policymakers have previously reacted with dexterity, but this was as a lower income country moving up the industrial value chain. Now Mauritius not only needs to avoid the middle-income trap pitfalls, but also radically reinvent itself to stay relevant.

It therefore finds itself at a crossroads. The tenets of its economic success – being attractive to international markets in an increasingly globalised world – are threatened as nationalism grows and countries look inward.

But as Eumonix Chief Executive Claude Baissac argues, decision makers should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. With its small domestic market, endogenous solutions are limited. Instead, Mauritius should use one of its main comparative advantages – its seat at all diplomatic tables.

The country’s strategic location and geopolitical appeal to foreign powers allow it to develop new sectors and industries tailored to specific needs. The Chagos question is an example, illustrative of the rapidly changing geopolitics of the Indian Ocean. With India, China, the United States, UK and France all having a vested interest from a strategic and economic perspective, this remains a unique comparative advantage.

That said, there’s a need for creativity, says Kevin Teeroovengadum, a Mauritian finance executive. ‘First, Mauritius must target self-sufficiency – it is essential to reduce its import bill which has been growing faster than exports for the past two decades. Second, we need to go big bang into innovation, digitalisation, and big data. Third, the blue economy is key given that we are surrounded by the ocean. Fourth, make the environment the centre of everything and create an economy around it.’

Having already lowered interest rates and tapped reserves for business lending, the Bank of Mauritius was recently granted permission to make equity investments in private companies. These investments should be directed to future-facing industries in science, technology and innovation.

The country’s established manufacturing base can capture some of the shift away from Chinese supply chain dependence. And its skilled, multilingual workforce can drive a greater share of the global business process outsourcing market. Looking ahead, Mauritius’ strong services focus positions it to play in emerging sectors like health and medical tourism, medical cannabis technology and green-geared industries.

While ‘business as usual’ is under threat, Mauritius has proved agile in adapting to a changing world. The crisis requires it to fortify existing economic sectors but offers the opportunity to forge a new future. To do so will require bold and visionary leadership. The question is whether the incumbents are ready for the challenge.

Source: ISSAfrica 

In the fall of 2000, the United Nations adopted Security Council Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security with the goal of involving more women at all levels of peace and security efforts and taking action to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.

Today, almost 20 years later, women remain largely invisible in international peacemaking, even though they are active and successful mediators at the grassroots level. According to an analysis by the Council on Foreign Relations, women made up just 2% of chief mediators and just 8% of negotiators in major peace processes between 1990 and 2017. Participation at high-level peace talks is often shaped by warring factions – they generate the violence, and they largely get to decide who sits at the table to end it. That categorically prevents half of their country’s population from having a voice, and reduces the leverage of civil society in forging peace, while holding fighters accountable for it. When we don’t have women at the table, we falter in the implementation of Resolution 1325, with a lower likelihood of peace, which holds up every other development goal.

At the Women & Peacebuilding Discussion Forum at the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations, News Deeply’s CEO and Executive Editor Lara Setrakian and panelists H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women; H.E. Ambassador Lang Yabou, Permanent Representative of The Gambia to the United Nations; Mavic Cabrera Balleza, founder and CEO of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; and Dr. Bilqis Abu-Osba, assistant professor of Political Sciences and Gender at Sana’a University and head of the Awam Foundation for Development and Culture discussed what is holding back the implementation of Resolution 1325 and what needs to be done to include more women in the peace process.

“After now decades of our own peace process, watching the most translated U.N. resolution ever, 1325, find its way within the U.N. system and in many governments, what we need to emphasize is that you don’t add women and stir it and hope something comes out on the other end,” said Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason. “What we want to see is a meaningful participation for women.” She stressed the importance of sharing experiences in the same way that women from Northern Ireland did with Syrian and Colombian women in that very location, the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations.

According to Mavic Cabrera Balleza, a major challenge is that women’s viewpoints are often undervalued. While women were present in peace processes at the local level, that didn’t translate at the national and international level. “They disappear when it becomes formal and official. The decision-makers do not recognize women’s expertise,” she said. “We need to work harder [on] connecting the local and informal to the formal and official [level].”

Asked what could be done to bridge the local, grassroots role of women with policy, Ambassador Lang Yabou said that what was needed was conscious leadership committed to the issues, coupled with local ownership. “Quite often we tend to assume that we know what is good for [local stakeholders]. I think this has partly contributed to a lot of initiatives not achieving what they should have. The grassroots [groups] must be given the opportunity to tell us what they want and then we form policies based on their needs.”

You can listen to the entire recording of the discussion here:

Dr. Bilqis Abu-Osba, who has been working with the U.N.’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to build a coalition of Yemeni Women for Security and Peace, called on the U.N. to honor Resolution 1325. “It’s very important for the international community to pressure the two delegations to add women,” she said, adding the women should be involved in discussing many matters and not only women’s issues.

This article originally appeared on Peacebuilding Deeply. You can find the original here. For important news about peacebuilding, you can sign up to the Peacebuilding email list.

For the last three months, around two million people have “shielded” themselves against the novel coronavirus by staying indoors, on recommendation of the UK government. On May 31, however, the guidelines were updated to enable those who are clinically vulnerable to go outdoors if they wish. But they must remain vigilant and won’t be able to visit their loved ones under new plans to ease restrictions by creating “support bubbles”.

It’s not hard to see that spending so long stuck indoors worrying about a potentially fatal infection must be hard to cope with psychologically. The new measures may indeed be a source of further anxiety rather than relief for shielders – particularly when you consider that, of those who have died as a result of COVID-19, 91% had a pre-existing health condition.

Other factors that contribute to psychological harm for this group include coping with cancelled clinics, difficulties accessing medication, reduced exercise and lowered mood. Some perceive they are being stigmatised as a result of being forced to disclose to others that they are clinically vulnerable. Despite this, shielders have been largely neglected in government briefings and news items.

While many clinically vulnerable people ultimately feel safe at home during the pandemic, studies looking at the psychological impact of patient isolation report high levels of fear, loneliness, boredom and anger. This is especially relevant for over 70s, many of whom will already be struggling with social isolation, multiple health problems and compromised mobility. This is concerning, as loneliness is associated with higher mortality rates, particularly in the older population.

So being able to step outdoors should come as good news. The outdoors can offer pleasurable activities to elevate mood, social support and independence. These things could kick-start the virtuous cycle of doing more enjoyable activities that make you feel good, resulting in improved mood and increasing motivation to do more.

But is this enough of an incentive to step outside the safe zone of the home? Many are fearful.

Barriers to the outside

Around half of people with medical conditions already strugglewith anxiety and/or depression. So it is very likely that, in the context of a global health threat, those shielding will see further deterioration in their mental health. This can come with a lack of motivation and create a barrier to taking those first steps outside.

The outdoors can lift spirits. Paul S Hill/Shutterstock

For those with underlying health problems, it is vitally important to maintain vigilance, both in terms of precautionary measures and checking physical symptoms. But this can easily become excessive, which can serve to increase anxiety and, in turn, physiological symptoms. This is a vicious cycle that can make people avoid going outdoors.

And when we avoid something due to anxiety, we stop ourselves from finding out what would have happened had we persevered. We didn’t get to see that it would have been ok – strange, overwhelming, but psychologically survivable.

Overcoming fears

It is important that those who have been shielding keep following advice and safety precautions – do no more, no less. But even though it may feel hard, these people can go out. For most, it is about becoming used to the new experience of being outdoors. Once the first unexpected close encounter is dealt with, things may start to feel easier.

When it doesn’t, it can help to accept and understand your anxiety. Anxiety presents as worries about what might happen next, but also in many physiological ways such as palpitations, shakiness, chest tightening – this is adrenalin and caused by the fear response. Fear is a normal response to an abnormal situation. You can begin to tackle it with coping strategies such as physical exercise, breathing exercises/meditation and challenging unhelpful thoughts.

It is important to keep our thoughts accurate and in perspective, stay in the here and now and treat ourselves with self-compassion when things don’t go as planned.

For the most anxious, a gradual return to the outdoors may be best. A long walk in a busy park on a Saturday morning will undoubtedly lead to a peak in anxiety and may make the outside world feel overwhelming and unsafe. Instead, it may be better to start with a short walk at a time and place where there are fewer people around.

It is also important to appreciate the positive shift that stepping outside brings. This can be used to revisit hobbies and activities that bring pleasure and to engage your social network. A good reason to go out is a vital motivator when anxiety is a driving force to stay in.

Most people with clinical vulnerabilities lived with uncertainty even prior to COVID-19, adapting to changing medical circumstances and responding to health threats. Such people are often highly resilient and armed with a repertoire of adaptive coping strategies.

In some ways, the “vulnerable” may in fact be better equipped to deal with these uncertain circumstances than others. But some will need professional help moving forward. Either way, now is the time to collectively mobilise to support those shielding to step forward and reclaim life: keep your distance, stay in touch, and offer compassion to those who need it most.

Source: The Conversation

Being homeschooled can be a lot of fun for many, but for some the lack of routine, social interaction, quiet study rooms and quality education can negatively influence their well-being. Therefore, it is highly important now to focus on providing kids with the adequate emotional support as they might need it now more than ever before. 

One easy way to check the students emotional-health is through Google Forms. They are really easy to create and analyse and so it is an amazing tool for teachers to get more information about their students mental and emotional state. It is recommended to rather create shorter 2-3 pages long questionnaires as students are more likely to do them, but include questions that require longer responses for deeper engagement. 

To maintain the sense of routine teachers can encourage students to add deadlines, meetings, exams to their Google Calendar to increase their time management. Also, with Google Docs students can create to-do lists to see what tasks they need to do that day or that week. These are simple ways to keep track on the tasks and duties and will help students to be prepared which then can increase their confidence and motivation.

A more creative exercise to learn about students’ experiences about distance learning is to ask them to create a journal and/or vlog. This can be a reflective journal on how they see distance learning, their emotional state, their motivation and their well-being in general. A vlog can be an amazing way to demonstrate what it is like to study at home and how one can overcome the arising challenges.  

If you’re looking for more ideas for improving the well-being of students, visit the website for CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), which offers resources such as webinars. You can watch our webinar on SEL, and visit Teach from Home, Google’s new hub of information and tools to help teachers during COVID-19.

On July 22, in announcing the federal indictment of Charleston killer Dylann Roof, Attorney General Loretta Lynch commentedthat the expression of forgiveness offered by the victims’ families is “an incredible lesson and message for us all.”

Forgiveness and grace are, indeed, hallmarks of the Black Church.

Since slavery, the church has been a formidable force for the survival of blacks in an America still grappling with the residual effects of white supremacy.

This was eloquently illustrated in the aftermath of the Charleston church massacre. Americans rightly stood in awe of the bereaved families’ laudable demonstration of God’s grace in action.

But what about the psychic toll that these acts of forgiveness exact?

Events like Charleston put a spotlight on the growing body of literature that looks not only at the United States’ failure to have authentic conversations about slavery and its legacy but also at the mental health impact of forgiving acts of white racism and repressing justifiable feelings of anger and outrage – whether these are horrific acts of terrorism or nuanced microaggressions.

I am a social work educator and practitioner with 25 years of experience in the field of mental health. I teach at one of the nation’s leading schools of social work, committed to preparing its graduates to work with racially and ethnically diverse populations. It is time, I believe, to bring this new field of inquiry into the mainstream.

The church as buffer

In his seminal book, Mighty Like A River, the Black Church and Social Reform, sociologist Andrew Billingsley asserts that the Black Church is the only African-American institution that has not been reenvisioned in the image of whites.

His research illuminates the role of religion in building the resilience that allows blacks as a people to overcome the various forms of terrorism and oppression endured over centuries that sustain doctrines of white supremacy.

Indeed, in his analysis of the African-American family, Billingsley concludes that it is “amazingly strong, enduring, adaptive and highly resilient.”

But as we pay homage to church and family in buffering blacks against the full effects of white racism, we must not obscure or diminish racism’s impact on the mental health that few blacks – irrespective of educational, social or economic status – will escape.

There is increasing evidence that repressing feelings associated with acts of white racism may be psychologically damaging and lay the foundation for future mental health problems and behaviors symptomatic of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Evidence of racism’s impact on mental health

Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint asked why suicide rates among black males doubled between 1980 and 1995.

In his co-authored book, Lay My Burden Down: Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis among African-Americans, which takes its title from a Negro spiritual describing the hardships of the slave system, he argues that one of the reasons for this increase is that African-American young men may see the afterlife as a better place.

Terrie M Williams is a clinical social worker in New York. In her book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, she uses powerful personal narratives of blacks from all walks of life to illustrate the high toll of hiding the pain associated with the black experience on mental health.

Joy DeGruy, Portland State University researcher and scholar, has developed “post-traumatic slave syndrome” as a theory for explaining the effects of unresolved trauma on the behaviors of blacks that is transmitted from generation to generation.

DeGruy’s argument may be controversial, but the questions she asked are surely relevant as we try to make sense, for example, of research released this July that shows suicide rates among black elementary school pupils significantly increasing between 1993 and 2012.

Moving to the mainstream…slowly

The fact is that from my perspective at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work, these publications have yet to move into mainstream literature. They have low visibility in the curricula and training programs for mental health professionals.

Nor have the questions these scholars and practitioners raised led to the kind of research that is needed to support race-conscious and culturally appropriate practices for the mental health programs and agencies working with African-American families.

At the same time, however, the original thinking of authors like Poussaint and DeGruy is very much in sync with the new emphasis on trauma-informed care in social work across all fields of practice.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in a May 2014 research report, undiagnosed childhood neglect or trauma is widespread among American adults and is the root cause of mental health and behavioral problems in adulthood.

Indeed, it is now the recommendation of the National Council for Behavioral Health that trauma-informed care be integrated into all assessment and treatment procedures.

This emphasis on trauma provides a new lens for developing research into the impact of slavery – and its legacy of structural and institutional racism – on black mental health today.

A difficult topic of conversation

The problem is, no one likes to talk about slavery.

The trauma of slavery. National Archives and Records

For blacks descended from slaves, the subject evokes feelings of shame and embarrassment associated with the degradations of slavery. For whites whose ancestry makes them complicit, there are feelings of guilt about a system that is incongruent with the democratic ideals on which this country was founded.

Cloaked in a veil of silence or portrayed as a benevolent system that was in the best interest of blacks, slavery – much like mental illness – has become shrouded in secrecy and stigma.

Associated emotions are pushed away.

Anger, however, is a healthy emotion, as even the Scriptures acknowledge.

The God of the Old Testament is angry and vengeful. In the New Testament, Jesus vents his anger in driving the money changers from the Temple.

As research (including my own) has shown, when anger is internalized and driven deep into the unconscious, contaminated by unresolved pain, it becomes problematic.

So what happens to the anger felt by people discriminated against and, in extreme cases, physically targeted because of their race?

Not enough is known about the relationship between clinical depression and race. But there are extensive findings (including reports by the Surgeon General) that attribute racial disparities in mental health outcomes for African Americans and whites to clinician bias, socioeconomic status and environmental stressors (such as high rates of crime and poor housing). And there is evidence of a link between perceived racism and adverse psychological outcomes such as increased levels of anxiety, depression and other psychiatric symptoms.

The numbers tell a story. According to the Minority Health Office of the Department of Health and Human Services, black adults are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than white adults and are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness than do their white counterparts.

And yet there continues to be reluctance to forthrightly confront the impact of racism on mental health. Some of my colleagues, for example, say that content on race and racism is the most challenging content for them to teach. Authentic dialogue on race is constrained by the fear of being “political incorrect.” It takes less effort to promote the more inclusive liberal view that we live in a “color-blind society.”

It may be easier to allow everyone to remain in their comfort zone. But today as the US faces what would appear to be an epidemic of race-based attacks committed by whites, it is time to examine how our history of racism affects the mental health of African Americans as well as that of whites.

Source: The Conversation

Nottingham residents have been warned by Aldi of a voucher scam that is circulating on social media. The ‘Aldi Scam’ offers recipients a £250 voucher that they can spend at the supermarket in exchange for their personal information and message forwarding. The scam includes a link to an Aldi look-a-like webpage where in order to claim the free Aldi voucher personal details needed to be given. 

Aldi informed locals that they currently do not have any voucher promotion and that this is a scam. 

To protect oneself from being fooled by scams it is advice to contact the reputable organisation or visit their website about the ‘scam-like’ information such as voucher, discount or giveaway, as they are the ones who can verify the information. You should also not read any suspicious messages and report them to stop the harm spreading. 

When bank account details or other sensitive information has been given, contact your bank or police immediately, to help them protect you from the scammers. 

Keep an eye on the messages that you receive and do not give any personal information without verifying the validity of that promotion beforehand. 

To report any scams, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report them online. 

As Ahmaud Arbery fell to the ground, the sound of the gunshot that took his life echoed loudly throughout his Georgia neighborhood.

I rewound the video of his killing. Each time I viewed it, I was drawn first to the young black jogger’s seemingly carefree stride, which was halted by two white men in a white pickup truck.

Then I peered at Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, who confronted Arbery in their suburban community.

I knew that the McMichaels told authorities that they suspected Arbery of robbing a nearby home in the neighborhood. They were performing a citizen’s arrest, they said.

The video shows Arbery jogging down the street and the McMichaels blocking his path with their vehicle. First, a scuffle. Then, gunshots at point-blank range from Travis McMichael’s weapon.

My eyes traveled to the towering trees onscreen, which might have been the last things that Arbery saw. How many of those same trees, I wondered, had witnessed similar lynchings? And how many of those lynchings had been photographed, to offer a final blow of humiliation to the dying?

A series of modern lynchings

It may be jarring to see that word – lynching – used to describe Arbery’s Feb. 23, 2020, killing. But many black people have shared with me that his death – followed in rapid succession by Breonna Taylor’s and now George Floyd’s officer-involved murders – hearkens back to a long tradition of killing black people without repercussion.

Perhaps even more traumatizing is the ease with which some of these deaths can be viewed online. In my new book, “Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism,” I call for Americans to stop viewing footage of black people dying so casually.

Instead, cellphone videos of vigilante violence and fatal police encounters should be viewed like lynching photographs – with solemn reserve and careful circulation. To understand this shift in viewing context, I believe it is useful to explore how people became so comfortable viewing black people’s dying moments in the first place.

British colonialists hanging Africans in 1890s Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.The photo was so prized by British officer in ‘Rhodesia’ Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the ‘Boy Scouts’ and ‘Girl Guides’, that he kept it in a scrapbook entitling it ‘The Christmas Tree’. Still happening in 2020. When will it end?

Images of black people’s deaths pervasive

Every major era of domestic terror against African Americans – slavery, lynching and police brutality – has an accompanying iconic photograph.

The most familiar image of slavery is the 1863 picture of “Whipped Peter,” whose back bears an intricate cross-section of scars.

Famous images of lynchings include the 1930 photograph of the mob who murdered Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. A wild-eyed white man appears at the bottom of the frame, pointing upward to the black men’s hanged bodies. The image inspired Abel Meeropol to write the poem “Strange Fruit,” which was later turned into a song that blues singer Billie Holiday sang around the world.

Twenty-five years later, the 1955 photos of Emmett Till’s maimed body became a new generation’s cultural touchstone. The 14-year-old black boy was beaten, shot and thrown into a local river by white men after a white woman accused him of whistling at her. She later admitted that she lied.

Throughout the 1900s, and until today, police brutality against black people has been immortalized by the media too. Americans have watched government officials open firehoses on young civil rights protesters, unleash German shepherds and wield billy clubs against peaceful marchers, and shoot and tase today’s black men, women and children – first on the televised evening news, and, eventually, on cellphones that could distribute the footage online.

When I conducted the interviews for my book, many black people told me that they carry this historical reel of violence against their ancestors in their heads. That’s why, for them, watching modern versions of these hate crimes is too painful to bear.

Still, there are other groups of black people who believe that the videos do serve a purpose, to educate the masses about race relations in the U.S. I believe these tragic videos can serve both purposes, but it will take effort.

In 1922 the NAACP ran a series of full-page ads in The New York Times calling attention to lynchings. New York Times, Nov. 23, 1922/American Social History Project
Reviving the ‘shadow archive’

In the early 1900s, when the news of a lynching was fresh, some of the nation’s first civil rights organizations circulated any available images of the lynching widely, to raise awareness of the atrocity. They did this by publishing the images in black magazines and newspapers.

After that image reached peak circulation, it was typically removed from public view and placed into a “shadow archive,” within a newsroom, library or museum. Reducing the circulation of the image was intended to make the public’s gaze more somber and respectful.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, known popularly as the NAACP, often used this technique. In 1916, for example, the group published a horrific photograph of Jesse Washington, a 17-year-old boy who was hanged and burned in Waco, Texas, in its flagship magazine, “The Crisis.”

Memberships in the civil rights organization skyrocketed as a result. Blacks and whites wanted to know how to help. The NAACP used the money to push for anti-lynching legislation. It purchased a series of costly full-page ads in The New York Times to lobby leading politicians.

Though the NAACP endures today, neither its website nor its Instagram page bears casual images of lynching victims. Even when the organization issued a statement about the Arbery killing, it refrained from reposting the chilling video within its missive. That restraint shows a degree of respect that not all news outlets and social media users have used.

A curious double standard

Critics of the shadow archive may argue that once a photograph reaches the internet, it is very difficult to pull back from future news reports.

This is, however, simply not true.

Images of white people’s deaths are removed from news coverage all the time.

It is difficult to find online, for example, imagery from any of the numerous mass shootings that have affected scores of white victims. Those murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012, or at the Las Vegas music festival of 2017, are most often remembered in endearing portraits instead.

In my view, cellphone videos of black people being killed should be given this same consideration. Just as past generations of activists used these images briefly – and only in the context of social justice efforts – so, too, should today’s imagery retreat from view quickly.

The suspects in Arbery’s killing have been arrested. The Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired and placed under investigation. The videos of their deaths have served the purpose of attracting public outrage.

To me, airing the tragic footage on TV, in auto-play videos on websites and social media is no longer serving its social justice purpose, and is now simply exploitative.

Likening the fatal footage of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd to lynching photographs invites us to treat them more thoughtfully. We can respect these images. We can handle them with care. In the quiet, final frames, we can share their last moments with them, if we choose to. We do not let them die alone. We do not let them disappear into the hush of knowing trees.

Source: The Conversation

 

It’s no secret that currently there is a riot sweeping across the US because a black man, George Floyd was killed in broad daylight by four police officers. It’s not just one act of racial crime it is more of a systematic racial discrimination of black people across many countries, including the United Kingdom, that burst to the surface. 

White privilege, immunity, racism and discrimination are just some of the concepts that influence how authorities make judgements, how people of colour are being treated and why society ignores issues that does not affect them directly. The movement of Black Lives Matter urges people to speak up and take actions to support BME communities whose voice has been undermined for decades. 

Even if the riots are currently happening in the US, this topic cannot be ignored elsewhere, as it is just as much our fight as it is theirs. There are a few things that as a UK citizen you can do to help supporting the transition to create a more accepting and fair society, including: 

Call/Email MPs to question their stance on the murder of George Floyd

Look around and see if your MP has spoken out to protest the murder of George Floyd. Check their Twitter, Facebook and local news to see if they have spoken out against it.  Go to https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/ to see how your MPs vote on different issues. 

If they haven’t spoken out against the murder of George Floyd, ask them why with this email template. 

„Dear [MP’S NAME], 

My name is [YOUR NAME]. I’m a(n) [OCCUPATION] who has lived in [YOUR CONSTITUENCY] for [LENGTH OF TIME]. Over the past [X] days, the riots in Minneapolis have not only shown the world the systemic racism that is still pervasive in modern societies, it has also exposed the indifference that people in power have towards it. Many who claim to represent the people of the UK have not made any motion to show their support for black people who still suffer from the institutionalised racism that still exists in the UK. Since you are my MP, I want to ask why you have not yet taken a stance on the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. Is there anything preventing you from speaking out against it? Can the people of our constituency expect to hear you speak out on this matter soon? I am expecting a detailed response to these questions.

It is easy for people in the UK to look at what happens in the US and say “it’s not as bad in the UK, so there’s no reason to complain”. But this simply isn’t true. According to the Institute of Race Relations, police are 28x more likely to use Section 60 stop-and-search powers, where officers don’t require suspicion that a person has been involved in a crime, against black people than white people (http://www.irr.org.uk/research/statistics/criminal-justice/). On top of this, BAME people die disproportionately as a result of use of force or restraint by the police (https://www.inquest.org.uk/bame-deaths-in-police-custody). As an MP, it is your duty to serve and help the people in your constituency. And as a member of your constituency, it is my duty to ask what you’re doing to help. So, what exactly have you done to combat racism in the UK on a national and local level? Have you introduced any legislation in parliament that actively aims to either fight racism or lift people of colour out of a disadvantaged position? What measures have you taken to ensure that racism within our community isn’t allowed to thrive? I would also like detailed responses to these questions. 

I want you to understand how important the issue of racism is to me. The systematic oppression of nonwhite people needs to be actively fought against if we as a country truly believe that all people are born equal. The inaction of politicians to fight racism is not something that any reasonable person can stand for anymore. If you set out to make a change, it can happen. But it won’t happen if you stand by and let it happen.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I hope you take the issues I have raised seriously. I look forward to reading your response. 

Black Lives Matter.

Sincerely, 

[YOUR NAME HERE]

[YOUR ADDRESS HERE]”

You can find their email addresses at: https://members.parliament.uk/constituencies 

Make sure to add your address when you send this to your MP; the spam filters on an MP’s email prevent people from emailing them without a return address. Put it at the bottom of your email that you send to them to make sure it gets through.

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