Durham Student Voices – BAME Representation

By Kweku Bimpong 

It’s important.

I am tempted to leave it at that, I will however refrain from doing so. Having said that, I ought to express my incredulity at the fact that such a notion would be questioned. Surely we ought to strive for suitable representation? Democracy thrives off the basis that a population is aptly represented.

Well it’s a good job that the people are represented! Yes – yes they are but not as well as this nation capable of doing. It is indeed possible for someone to represent a group of people without belonging to them. Having a person from a certain group in a role to represent said group does not equate to good representation. The importance of having politicians from a BAME background is not merely because of their ability to represent their communities. Arguably it results in more role models furthermore resulting in greater participation in politics from the BAME community.

Having said that, I personally believe that role models are often based on those that we can relate to. It would be dangerous to suggest that the colour of ones skin inherently makes them relatable to someone with the same pigmentation. However, I should affirm that there are indeed some experiences that are certainly more likely to have been encountered by those from certain groups in society regardless of social standing.

Notice that throughout this article I have used the term BAME, I have done so simply for ease of writing. However, it is important to clarify that within there are stark differences amongst the BAME community and it simply isn’t helpful to cluster them together. In order to enhance our democracy, we need to represent everyone. Cynics may claim that in an ideal world I would want there to be equal representation for the % of the population. We have truly come far but there is still a while to go.

If we are to suggest that at present there are minimal hindrances to the success of certain groups of people, it would be fair to suggest that we should see our nation’s demographic reflected clearly by our representatives.

This disparity is unforgivable. We need more women. We need more people from ethnic minorities. We need people from all backgrounds! And we must eradicate all perceivable barriers.

Fortunately, these obstacles or perceived obstacles appear to be diminishing for one reason or another. The Office for National statistics (ONS) 2015 annual population survey suggests that 13% of the UK population are from ethnic minority background, this is 7% more than the percentage of MPs from ethnic minorities. This is an appalling statistic however it is the highest amount of ethnic minority MPs ever.

The civil service has done tremendously well with regards to their inclusiveness, the latest figures from ONS suggest that 11% of staff are from ethnic minorities. Tellingly they recognise that they “need a workforce with the very best possible mix of existing and future talent”. Society is changing rapidly and it is essential that we keep up with the times. We need to ensure that we have diversity amongst our politicians in order to be able to utilise the array of experiences that Britons have thus enabling us to adapt to these changes and make this nation holistically better.

Image by Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr

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