This is Groundhog Day. You may have seen it before. Whichever way you look at it, it looks like yesterday or the day before, or the day, week or year before that.
It’s a day when we learn the lessons, see the light and then, forget.
This week the Equalities Commission unveiled its interim consultation and created a Groundhog Day all of its own.
The report said several interesting things about who was still experiencing disadvantage and invited comments on what should be done about it. But such issues were dwarfed by two crucial questions: what is equalities and who cares enough to fight for it?
Talk about discrimination in terms of race, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability etc and immediately you have a ‘crime’ and a ‘victim’. You also have guaranteed support from those discriminated against.
Talk about equalities and you have a concept that’s still incredibly woolly and which belongs to everyone and no one. Besides, as the report makes clear, ‘it would be wrong to assume that all inequalities are always unjust’.
All this makes it difficult to know what to do about it and who will push for change when complex issues cannot be neatly captured by a big, bad ‘ism’.
The task, according to commission chair Trevor Phillips, has been compared to ‘trying to nail jelly to a wall’. ‘We may not yet have nailed the jelly, but we feel that we have at least wrestled it to the floor.’
And the floor is where many of the most disadvantaged people remain as a result of the failures, both deliberate and accidental, of our major organisations, policies and structures.
When they look up, those identified by the report - Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, lesbian, gay and bisexual people and Afro-Caribbean boys among others - might well see the light of revelation filtered through well-meaning statements, enlightened reports, worthy action plans.
And they might wonder if it’ll be any different this time, or if we’ll just learn the lessons, see the light and then simply forget and start all over again.
Susan Downer, assistant editor
- New Start Online Online magazine