A psychiatrist’s damning indictment of 500 years of racism – now revived by Trump and 9/11


Suman Fernando. Pic credit: http://www.sumanfernando.com


Suman Fernando is a gentle soft spoken  consultant psychiatrist, lecturer and honorary professor at the London Metropolitan University.    The 85 year old is not the sort of person at first sight to produce such a searing critique of racism in the UK and the US and the baleful role psychiatrists have had in treating ethnic minorities in both countries.

His book released at  the end of last year and launched by ROTA – Race on the Agenda – looks at both the history of racism which he dates from 1492 when the Spanish finally  removed the Moors from Europe and the role of psychiatry in treating ” mentally ill”  black and brown patients over a very long period.

The book is particularly relevant as Theresa May has  quietly decided to review the UK’s mental health laws  which cover some of these issues – signalling her intent by  holding a meeting of psychiatrists at Number Ten Downing Street.

It also comes at a time when the election of Donald Trump, the rise of Islamophobia in the wake of 9/11 and to an extent, the worst excesses of some people supporting Brexit, has seen a revival of popular nationalism and in the US, white supremacists.

He traces racism from the bloody Inquisition in Spain through the development of the slave trade, the rise of eugenics leading to Nazism,  the Imperialist destruction of other cultures by colonisation to the ” rivers of blood” speech of Enoch Powell as Britain faced an immigration wave in the 1960s and 1970s.

His  thesis is that – mainly because of the 1970s race relations legislation in Britain – overt racism has until recently been replaced with a form of institutional racism and psychiatry is no exception to the rule.

Indeed some of the worse psychiatric theories to treat people as seen by superior whites as ” the other” came from this profession. This was the profession that applied the concept of  ‘Drapetomania’  to slaves in the USA, the primary symptom being a persistent urge to run away.  The implication was Black Afro-Caribbeans were supposed to be happy and content as slaves  and had mental problems if they wanted their freedom.

In Britain the book provides numerous examples of how different ways of dealing what is an obvious imbalance in the number of Afro-Caribbeans being sectioned compared to white Britons. Attempts to change treatment or properly research the issue by black psychiatrists were undermined in a typical British way – their work was subsumed by more conventional psychiatrists or their findings were ignored.

He also reveals  how attempts to change matters politically were undermined. Tony Blair  appointed Paul Boateng – now Lord Boateng- as the first minister for mental health in 1997. At the time he was known to be  strident in wanting to change the treatment of black Afro Caribbeans like himself- but within months he was squashed.

Since 9/11 the danger is that racism is on the rise with Muslims rather than Afro Caribbeans as the main target. That is why the timing of this book is relevant in the context that the mental health legislation is being revised. Already psychological research is being used as a basis in the Prevent programme to decide whether teachers or NHS staff, their pupils and their patients, should be reported to the authorities if they show signs of radicalism.

The next slippery step would be to decide that these people are insane – and should be sectioned rather than prosecuted. This is not as fanciful as it sounds. Under  Labour there was a move to classify stalkers of VIPs as a mental illness and Jack Straw when he was home secretary is said to have considered whether paedophiles should be classified as insane rather than criminals.

That is why this book is so interesting because it tells how deep seated racism is among white Europeans  and how insidious the present system is in dealing with the ” other” – from stop and search to sectioning.

The one sad thing is that the book itself has been “Ghettoised” – it has been pigeon holed by the publisher  as part of ” contemporary black history ” when it is much more of an account of how contemporary British and US society has reached such a view on black and brown people.

The German publisher has created another ghetto by price – Palgrave Macmillan have priced it at a ridiculous £67.99 or £53.99 as an e-book. Amazon have a Kindle version at £45.19. So I suggest you try and get it in a public library or if you are a student make sure your university library has got one.

Institutional Racism in Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology. Suman Fernando




Will Indian Immigration to the United States Increase? A blog that debunks the Donald Trump view of immigrants

This is the other side to the Donald Trump view of America. It shows the big contribution being made by immigration to the United States by often highly educated Indians and debunks with lots of facts the idea that immigrants are scroungers or even necessarily poor. Some of those people condemning immigration to the UK could learn from this analysis of the facts.


Indian Immigrants in the United States
Indian college student applying henna.

A college student applies henna, the Indian tradition of painting elaborate designs on the skin. (Photo: University of Illinois Springfield)

Immigrants from India first arrived in the United States in small numbers during the early 19th century, primarily as low-skilled farm laborers. In recent decades the population has grown substantially, with 2.4 million Indian immigrants resident in the United States as of 2015. This makes the foreign born from India the second-largest immigrant group after Mexicans, accounting for almost 6 percent of the 43.3 million foreign-born population.

In 1960, just 12,000 Indian immigrants lived in the United States, representing less than 0.5 percent of the 9.7 million overall immigrant population. Migration from India swelled between 1965 and 1990 as a series of legislative changes removed national-origin quotas, introduced temporary skilled worker programs, and…

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The 60 year old shame of Home Office treatment of sexually and physically abused child migrants


The list of homes the Home Office is said to have known abused children; Photo credit: ABC News


Next month the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will hold a hearing into how British children were shipped abroad to  Australia, Canada and Southern Rhodesia ( now Zimbabwe) where they were subject to appalling physical and sexual abuse.

One of the people who has submitted evidence to the British inquiry has already raised issues about his treatment at one of these homes, Fairbridge Farm School,New South Wales in Australia.

David Hill  was interviewed by  the Guardian last year in Australia and tells a horrific story of a place where people were poorly educated and fed,brutally treated and some sexually abused. He went out with his brother in 1959 from Eastbourne in Sussex.

He has been one of the people who eventually prospered becoming chairman and managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ABC carried a report on his decision to send evidence here.

But his most damaging evidence is that he might not have gone there if the Home Office had acted on information they  received three years earlier after a visit of UK MPs to Australia. In 1956 they came on a fact finding mission to find out about conditions in those schools.

The result, according to evidence submitted to the inquiry. is that the Home Office were given the names ( see above in a memo) of ten schools that should have been put on a blacklist and no British children should have been sent there.

But the Home Office appeared to  do nothing even though they decided that  the schools would need a ”  complete metamorphosis ” to be fit to accept children. So they appear to have ignored the findings so they could keep the migrant programme going – where British children from poor backgrounds were offered a new chance in life. Their decision was no better than when a whistleblower, Lucy Cole Hamilton, alerted the Home Office over a decade earlier about conditions at Fairbridge Farm and warned them not to send British children there. As a report by Sanchia Berg for the Today programme revealed in 2009 the decision was to “lay by ” and do nothing.

I am hoping that this callous attitude – which seems extended today by the Home Office and Theresa May’s view that we should all but ignore the plight of immigrant children seeking asylum in the UK – is thoroughly examined by the inquiry.

The inquiry’s own research report points out the whole area is remarkably under investigated.As it states no inquiry has ever undertaken a proper  and sustained  analysis of the failings of this huge programme and properly investigated whether some of the children were sexually abused by people in institutions before they were sent abroad.

Gordon Brown has apologised in 2009 about the way the children were treated. But it was enormous programme – some 150,000 children participated and it began in the early 17C when children were sent to Virginia – though some of the largest programmes were after the second world war. It did not stop until the 1970s.

A lot of questions need to be answered – not least from the one posed by David Hill about the role of the Home Office in the late 1950s.



Stop these nasty attacks on people living here now

Manchester tram attack

Racist abuse on a Manchester tram this week Pic credit:www.dazeddigital.com


During both the first and second world wars my family came under  suspicion and attack from people because our family name Hencke is German. At one stage we even considered changing it or  Anglicising it  to something like Henkey.

The reason was that we were  at war with Germany and although our family left Germany via Holland in 1862 and we were virulently  anti Nazi ( my mother is Jewish after all) the hatred of the foreigner was very high at this time.

Since the Brexit campaign there has been an upsurge in nasty, vicious attacks on EU people staying and working here and racist attacks against ethnic minorities which we have not seen  for some time.

Frankly I blame  Nigel Farage, UKIP and both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for giving respectability and legitimacy to people who have held these views privately to think they can now openly harass foreign workers in this country.

By promising to quit the European Union and ” take control ” people have been given the impression that we can stop immigration altogether and that perhaps their wish that people could be sent home will be granted.

They have been told that all their problems getting jobs, housing, places for their kids in school, hospital operations  and even traffic jams and waiting in queues are all the fault of immigrants. If they left everything would be wonderful.

This monstrous lie was perpetuated in split screen TV campaign broadcasts by the Brexit campaign. Any sane person would know that this is far more complicated.than that.

But what has been alarming is the reaction. People attacked on a Manchester tram, women abused in the street, someone quizzing people on their nationality  in a supermarket queue and telling  the till staff to serve British born people first. Others have been nastier including abusing Polish  kids at school, putting nasty messages through Polish people’s letterboxes and daubing German made cars (presumably bought by British people) with swastikas. And there was the nasty graffiti  on the Polish centre in Hammersmith, west London.

It is soon going to become very obvious that people are NOT going to get what they want from Boris Johnson. Immigration will not stop, they are not going to be miraculously rehoused and immigrant’s children are not going to be removed from school. All because  this depends on policies that have nothing to do with immigration – such as house building or providing enough places in schools.

So what should  be done. There should be a crackdown on people who do this to show it is unacceptable.

But there also should be action to explain to people that if they want to live in  dynamic, prosperous, modern society  it is going to be a multi racial and diverse and people of different beliefs, race and sexuality all have something to contribute. We are no longer a pale male and stale society and can’t turn the clock back  centuries. That is why I think London rejected the Brexit case.

The problem is that we are left with a nasty backlash from people who see they have been left behind and want to take it out on anybody who is different to them. That must be tackled or we slip into a nasty, divisive country that no one will want to stay in.




The woes of the first 48 hours of Brexit


Parliament at sunset. Pic credit: LSE blog


So Britain has had its ” independence  day ” as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage would have it. And what have been the repercussions.

In 48 hours the pound has dropped to its lowest level since 1985.

Stock markets across the world from London to Wall Street have all fallen.

The Prime Minister has announced his intention to resign before the party conference triggering a Brexit leadership contest.

Jeremy Corbyn is facing a leadership  challenge from his own MPs reinforcing the split between the Parliamentary Party from huge swathes of the membership. The shadow cabinet is now splitting as well with eleven resignations so far tonight.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has said that it is ” highly likely” there will be a fresh referendum on independence from England after Scots voted in every constituency to stay.

Sinn Fein has called for a border poll as a move to a united  Ireland. Meanwhile it is pointed out that all Northern Ireland’s citizens are entitled to a Republic of Ireland passport which guarantees them free movement and jobs in Europe.

Spain has made it clear that all citizens of Gibraltar – who voted heavily to remain – could have Spanish EU passports  if they took over joint sovereignty of the Rock. This means it could trigger a fresh crisis.

The promise of £350m a month for the NHS if the leave campaign one  has mysteriously disappeared.

Britain’s taxpayers have begun a new bail out for the banks with £250 billion of our money earmarked to defend the pound.

The result has been however been welcomed as an ” historic opportunity” in Iran. See this report in a  US pro  Jewish and Israeli website here. The Islamic state also thinks it is a good idea as they see great opportunities for dividing Europe.

In the last 24 hours the situation has worsened.

In Berlin the six founding fathers of the EU  met and decided they would not wait for a leisurely departure from Britain but ask the country to prepare to go this week.

Jonathan Hill ( Lord Hill) the British commissioner responsible for capital  and financial markets announced his resignation from July 15. He was the lynch pin for the EU’s relationships with the City of London. See a report here. he is being replaced by a Latvian with strong support for the Euro.

A major rating agency Moody’s has changed Britain’s credit rating to negative while also ruling that the Euro’s credit rating is positive – widening the gap between the two currencies.

Some British people living in Brussels ” in the know”  started applying for Belgian EU passports to ensure they had freedom of movement to apply for jobs in Europe. I wonder why?

What seems certain is that in short term prices are likely to go up but that is no problem for those Brexit supporters. some of them were celebrating their new freedom to buy bendy cucumbers without interference from Brussels.

I wonder how they will feel when Independence Day comes around next year.





Why I am going for Remain on Thursday

referendum pic credit BBC

Thursday is referendum day. Pic Credit:BBC


Tragic and horrible as the murder of Jo Cox  was I was relieved this weekend when there was a pause over campaigning for Thursday’s  EU referendum.

I have covered politics for many decades and actually voted in the last referendum to join the Common Market

Bur the standard of debate  on both sides of the argument this time  has been abysmal and exposed the poverty of argument. And it suggests the  calibre of politicians leading Britain has plummeted to a new low.

I don’t believe for one moment the claims from Cameron and Osborne that Britain is going to have huge tax hikes, even more austerity, plummeting house prices and a further squeeze on the NHS if we vote to leave the EU. It seems to be hyperbole gone mad.And anyway with the exception of house prices they have made a good job of doing this while we are a member of the EU.

But nor do I believe that the figures from Leave  that the NHS will gain  an extra £350m a week if we vote to go, that only immigrants rape people or that the whole of Europe is going to settle in the UK unless we take control of immigration.

Certainly if Farage is right it is going to be a funny old Europe, 364  million new immigrants in the UK and countries like Turkey, Roumania and Bulgaria with populations down to a couple of people who decided to stay. This is the politics of fear gone mad – one side of Europe being totally depopulated and the other side full to the brim. It will never happen.

The truth is neither side really knows what will happen. The pro Europe campaigners can’t be certain how a 28 country Europe will develop and those predicting a new Shangri-La if we leave haven’t a clue how Britain will develop outside a big trading bloc.

So it comes down to gut feeling and a basic set of beliefs.

For a start my ancestry is against Leave. I am British born but my ancestors are Dutch, German and Norwegian on my father’s side. I am Lithuanian, Polish, South African, and  Russian on my mother’s side. I am Protestant on my father’s side, Jewish on my mother’s side. Two of my grandchildren are Kurdish.

Frankly I am  rather proud to have such a diverse heritage and an even more diverse future  I have no time for little Englander  faux patriotism ( except probably at sporting events!)

But there is a wider issue about Europe. Yes some of the laws -particularly on employment, access for the disabled, and safe goods, clean beaches and climate change – are driven by the European Union.. And that is a good thing.

And one only has to go to Russia – as I have been recently – to see how countries outside the EU – are not disabled friendly.

I am also highly suspicious that the key pro leave campaigners – Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith – are te very people who have been driving  policies to deprive the disabled, cut benefits, put up the price of justice and destroy public services. Migrants make a great scapegoat for those dissatisfied with schools, housing and other public services.

And  I am little tired of the cliche Brussels bureaucrats. Why has nothing been said about the increasing role of the European Parliament in holding the European Commission in check or the idea that some of these top bureaucrats are going to face Europe wide elections for the first time.

Yes there is a lot wrong with Europe _ I am sceptical about whether the Eurozone can survive in its present form – and I certainly dislike plans for new international trade agreements which take away powers from elected governments  and use workers as commodities. But I am not convinced that the UK by itself can fight them any better by standing alone.

I also resent the idea that we have no control in Europe when as the fifth largest world economy we have a major say in all new EU initiatives outside the Eurozone.

So I will vote for Remain to continue sharing the government of Europe – home to my ancestors- and reject the  Boris Johnson ego trip of a faux Independence Day on Thursday.



Why all the UK should see this brilliant exhibition on the Calais Jungle


Until June 22 there is an extraordinary exhibition of art, sculpture,photographs, documents, multi media  and sound on the Calais jungle migrant camp.. It is at the London Newcastle Arts Project Space in Shoreditch,London.

Wanderers 1

An amazing sculpture at the entrance to the exhibition. It looks like a mass of people but each of them is an individual. A fitting symbol for the exhibition.

© Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen

The exhibition tells the story of the huge migration from the Middle East, Afghanistan, and North Africa to Calais and the people involved.It is probably the biggest issue in the whole of Europe today.

It is both a harrowing and uplifting showing the strength of the human spirit in the face of extreme adversity. There are evil people, neo Fascists,nasty people smugglers, and thugs who exploit and deride them  but there are also many ,many caring human beings who are prepared to help them on their way to a better, safer life.

What is extraordinary about this exhibition is that much of the art comes from the very people themselves as a way of expressing their own plight. And the squalid Jungle is  a place where people play music, dance, paint,cook,and create as well try to survive.

Call me by my name 9 hi res

These are the tents they livedin. Picture

© brandingbygarden.


Everyone who has any humanity should see this exhibition – especially the people who denigrate them as hordes or swarms of people. They are people like them. It is antidote to the crass debate on Brexit.

And denying them a safe haven is also denying our country the benefit of their enormous talents – many are highly educated and many have discovered new talents on the way. Worse the plight of unaccompanied children aged from 8 to 14 or 15 is something this country cannot ignore – and thanks to the efforts of Alf Dubs ( Lord Dubs) who pushed Theresa May, the home secretary, to allow them to come in – there is some hope  for a few now. But there needs to be more.

Call me by my name 11

These lifejackets were taken from the beach in Greece. Believe it or not the smugglers gave them fake lifejackets, they don’t float.

© brandingbygarden.


At a very moving reception where the organisers- through the Migration Museum Project – was attended by asylum seekers – and some who had managed to be smuggled into Britain. They mingled with students, artists and campaigners looking at the exhibits.

Museums and art centres in Britain you should thinking of staging this exhibition so the people  across the United Kingdom can see the whole story. How about some of you rising to the challenge.

Call me by my name 3 med res (1)

The sculpture as you enter the exhibition. © brandingbygarden.