A fortnight ago, a British-Indian entrepreneur in Birmingham launched a public campaign against the 2022 Commonwealth Games against “perceived institutional racism”. In just one weekend, he supported galvanization in addition to heads of local churches, mosques and temples, Labor and Tory members of parliament, Pakistanis and Indians, influential media and business persons of varying backgrounds, both black and white British .
In the weeks that followed, the campaign led by Louis Martin, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, moved away from the board of the organizing committee, a reform of key decision-making bodies, and promised to address ‘colonial issues of injustice’, others in the middle.
The Birmingham Games have been heavily criticized in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, with some academics in the United Kingdom even questioning the relevance of the CWG as a concept.
The person to start it all was Ammo Talwar, who runs a music agency in Birmingham. He says he had the idea of a public campaign after reading a local news report on “systemic racism and the 2022 CWG organizing committee’s almost entirely white executive board”. The organizers’ response was “vague and abstract”, and they decided to swing into action.
Talwar prepared an open letter to the organizing committee, which was signed by 53 individuals. Britain’s shadow minister, Alison McGovern, sent it to Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston. A few days after the letter was published, Martin, CGF chief, resigned and in an interview to the BBC, Huddleston said that “more changes” were likely to follow.
A CGF spokesperson told The Indian Express on Thursday that they were also addressing several other issues.
“Over the past decade, the Commonwealth Games and the Commonwealth Games have turned into a movement representing social change and are demanding the creation of peaceful, sustainable and prosperous communities in the Commonwealth. The CGF and the organizers of the Games have sought to address issues that address colonial injustice, truth and harmony, human rights and wider inequalities, ”the spokesperson said.
Talwar, who has roots in Punjab, said that “there were many disappointments among the citizens of Birmingham, especially among Black and Asian communities who have been more affected by Covid-19 than our white counterparts”.
“We felt that the work they were doing was probably lazy, disrespectful and sometimes embarrassing,” Talwar said. “About 46 percent of Birmingham’s population is non-white British. There is a large Pakistani and Indian community. The main site of the Commonwealth Games at Perry Barr, North Birmingham, is super diverse. It is about 70-80 percent non-white British, ”he said.
Given this demographics, 19 of the 20 members in white decision-making bodies were white whites, not sitting well with the locals, Talwar said. The executive management team consisted of five white men and two white women, and the board of directors consisted of seven white men, five white women and one black man.
While the focus was on the absence of the sword’s diversity, Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at the University of Birmingham, said the games were “problematic” due to Britain’s relationship with its colonial past.
He said, “It should happen once again as the Commonwealth is trying to get Britain to maintain some kind of symbolic link to its imperial past. The Empire is still in some ways,” Andrews to Birmingham Live , Quoting the local tabloid’s digital channel The Birmingham Mail. “The city has embraced it (the games) because it’s money, which is quite a good metaphor because the empire is one of the things that built Birmingham We should not be surprised that the city embraced it, “said Prof. Andrews.
Talwar acknowledges the CWG’s “connection to the Empire”, and believes that in Birmingham “the Commonwealth means no more than a lot of people”.
But he insists that there is excitement about the Games because the community sees it as a “catalyst for change”. “That’s why the tone of our letter is supportive. We want to resolve the issue, so our letter was based on that rather than just hitting the head, ”said Talwar.
The open letter asked the Games organizers 10 questions on issues such as involving people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and reviewing external, independent equality.
A spokesperson for the organizing committee told The Indian Express, “The diversity of our team is improving, but it is not yet reflective for the region, and so we are taking action and increasing our efforts. We are listening to the comments that people have made and we have already talked to several signatories. We are committed to change and to action. ”
Talwar said that the fight was against the system and not against individuals. “I’m not calling anyone racist at the Commonwealth Games,” he said. “We’re talking about the system, not about the individuals.”