Branch Secretary : suz.muna.unite@gmail.com
  

Sanctuary Slammed on Equalities

Statement in response to Sanctuary Housing Association's treatment of black resident, Selma Nicholls 

 

By Andrew Bindi, Black & Asian Minority Ethnic Officer

 

Another case depicting the great disparity that exists between people as a result of their colour, Selma is just another example of the unwitting prejudice and plain racial bias that is still prevalent in today’s society as a result of the colour of one’s skin. 

 

The association was found to be charging a black woman considerably greater rent, amounting to £30k over a four year period ("Sanctuary Housing Cuts Rent Of Black Tenant Who Found She Was Charged More Than White Neighbour"). They have now agreed to cut Selma's rent, but shamelessly continue to deny discrimination despite the overwhelming evidence; their flimsy excuse flies in the face of equality.

 

Selma Nicholls, Sanctuary tenant

 

Their defence: “we reviewed our records and have found that these are two leases granted at different points in time on different terms” this is a very poor attempt to cover up an obvious case of discrimination. Different times of taking a contract should not in our view determine how much rent one pays for the same property – rent should be the same irrespective of whether one is white or black or whether one moved in one month or a year later.

 

The actions of Sanctuary are inexcusable and to add insult to injury they have quoted “administrative error” as the reason for not increasing Selma’s neighbour’s rent (who is white) over the three year period. What they also fail to mention was that Selma’s rent was high from the onset compared to her neighbours so this again is a feeble attempt to abdicate themselves from what is clearly racial discrimination and unconscious bias against Selma.

 

 

Unite Housing Workers Branch protest against poor treatment of care staff (2019)

 

To start to truly address this problem within its own organisation, Sanctuary should recognise Unite with the aim of working together to improve the culture of the organisation, instead of shunning our approaches. It should also conduct a full audit of all rents and service charges to ensure that there are no discriminatory practices.

 

Decisive Action is Needed

 

Over 300 years of slavery followed by consistent suppression, dehumanisation, inequality, discrimination and institutional racism against black people has made it almost culturally acceptable to be unconsciously biased in parts of British society. Black people face cases similar to Selma’s in every walk of life, and much more so in education, housing, health, employment and the criminal justice system. And there are no signs of this consistent racial stereotype declining. 

 

We have seen systemic failures in dealing with the great disparity that exist between black ethnic minority people and that of their white contemporaries. The Black Lives Matter movement has given a renewed impetus to the question of inequality and its impact on black people. Racial discrimination is indeed a global problem with racism bubbling under the surface of all walks of life, and the UK has seen black people suffer the brunt of this discrimination during the pandemic. The practice has gone unchecked for far too long, with government turning a blind eye to the undeniable injustice endured by people of colour for so long. 

 

It is time to face the issue head on by taking bold steps to tackle racism through reforms, anti-racism programmes, government lobbying, enforcing the Equality Act 2010 and adopting more punitive measures against organisations that practice racism. 

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