What Obama can do – and what he can’t

I found this story in the Guardian food for thought. It’s one black American considering what’s in store for his new born son. Chances of young black people ending up in prison or being shot remain significantly higher than for white people.
While his initial thoughts were that if Obama gains power it would give a message that the sky was the limit for his son. However what was the likelihood that the situation would be turned round for the many?
In the UK the prospect of a black Prime Minister remains remote. Black MPs report the daily round of racism. Here too young black people have a much higher risk of ending up in prison or suffering from mental health problems. A conference in London marked ten years since the David “Rocky” Bennett report – a name that goes alongside Stephen Lawrence. Have lessons been learned? Well reports are legion saying the same thing but in practice statistics indicate the situation remains stubbornly fixed.

There are many people in voluntary organisations (now labelled by the professionals “the third sector”, a term that might describe how it is like “Third World”, but is unwelcome by those who work in it). who wish to help with advocacy and counselling services. The problem with mental health is that no one wants to recognise it. Fear and mistrust is widespread if not universal. A government document “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT). Commissioning Toolkit” spells out the need.
I have set up a website as a tool for helping organisations and individuals build their capacity to offer advocacy and counselling services. However when I approached commissioners recently they politely declined meeting myself and a colleague. “We are already working with those we have selected in the third sector. Thank you.” The result will inevitably be more reports on mental health problems, particularly among black and minority ethnic groups – and not only African Caribbean young men. They are sure they have got it right. Those in the community know they haven’t. Recently in Birmingham a centre for mental health called the Frantz Fanon Centre closed down in favour of a new approach. I wonder if those responsible for its closure knew why it was named after this man and what he stood for.

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