Friday, 6 June 2014

Don't Believe the Hype: Glasgow ain't a Sick City

15 years ago, when my brother told me to listen to Public Enemy, I must admit I was a bit hesitant. However, he had introduced me to Neil Young (no relation) and the Velvet Underground before, so I realised I could trust his judgement.

I certainly didn’t regret it. My eyes were suddenly opened to a world of racial oppression and media prejudice.  I learnt how the labelling and stereotyping of black Americans, particularly the youth, had continued long after the days of Martin Luther King. The mainstream media in the US had, thankfully and to a large extent, moved along way from overtly racist headlines, but negative images remained. This had clearly helped to perpetuate ongoing political, social and economic inequalities between blacks and whites.

What’s that got to do with Glasgow you may ask. Well, I was reminded of the words of Chuck D yesterday as I was looking through the BBC News website. Tucked away under the barrage of coverage marking 70 years since the Normandy landings, I found a story titled:

Many people living in and around Glasgow will have heard the city referred to as the 'sick man of Europe' and researchers will know it often tops the statistical charts for the wrong reasons. The headline is certainly not factually inaccurate and the article is thoughtful and well written. It even draws positive attention to Galgael and other projects which are having a greatly positive impact on communities, helping individuals to turn their lives around.

However, it’s the headline which bugs me. Provocative language like this helps to foster and reinforce negative ideas of places and people. The health rates are indeed alarming and certainly need to be given proper attention and action. However, the headline doesn’t allow the space for well-rationed solutions to be discussed: it merely labels Glasgow as a problem holding the rest of us back.

The Poverty Truth Commission has learnt how stigma and negative media labelling pervades the lives of people living in poverty, haunting them at every turn. One of our Commissioners shared her experience:

 ‘I’ve seen me fill in application forms and I’ll put down “Govan” ... but no. You don’t put down “Govan.” It’s Glasgow because if you live in “Govan” no one is going to employ you. ...They are even saying that at the Job Centre.’

Just as Public Enemy decided to stand up to negative media coverage, we as a society need to challenge the false myths of people living in poverty. If you are willing to look past the headlines and hear the truth then please come along on Saturday 21, June as we Turn Up the Volume on Poverty.

To register at this free event click here; call 0141 248 2911; or email #TurnItUp2014

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