First non-white judge at top UK court used to be mistaken for defendants


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/04/08/first-non-white-judge-at-top-u.html


#2
  1. Somehow, Dhir totally rocks that wig. You can’t say that often.

  2. Wait, there’s racism in the justice system of the UK? Who would have thought such a thing would be possible?!


#3

I think there’s a point here, though, that needs to be emphasised. Racism against Indians in the UK at professional level is much less noticeable than that against other ethnic groups. Indians have been successful in the UK for a long time - there was a Parsee MP for Bethnal Green in the late 19th century - and two of the factors in that were polo and cricket, polo less so nowadays. Aristocratic Indians played both and so associated with the English upper classes and were socially acceptable. Indian (and Nepalese) regiments of the British Army considered they were superior to other units, and British officers given command of them regarded this as a high status job.

I’m explaining this because it is rather unsurprising - to me at least - that the first non-white Old Bailey judge has roots in the Indian subcontinent. I’m actually more surprised that it has taken so long.


#4

Indeed, Indian immigrants have done so well in Britain that a documentary about Eastern European immigrants featured British-Indians complaining about immigrants.


#5

“Judge Dhir said she once had to produce her wig and gown before security allowed her into court.”

Beyond the obvious racism she experienced, that is one really sucky security system if waving a wig and gown around gets you admitted as a judge.

The garb is easily obtainable. If the judges don’t have some sort of special security badge or ID, this is beyond ridiculous.


#6

Actually, it isn’t. Trust me on this. No court official would be taken in by a fake wig for a moment. A minimum wage “security guard” from our delightful outsourcing companies would need to refer a decision upstairs, because barristers are not good people to cross. As Michael Heseltine once remarked, they have the most powerful trade union in the country.

This has been put forward as a reason for the Leave vote. British expatriates in the EU were not allowed to vote (which was a fix-up on a level with Republican disenfranchisement of black voters…). People of Indian descent in the UK reasoned thus:

  1. Fewer EU immigrants.
  2. Jobs are still going to need to be filled.
  3. They’ll need to bring in my relatives.

Not that I’m knocking this; how can I, with Anglo-Indians in the family? Culturally the links between India and the UK are very strong indeed, just like those between Portugal and Brazil or the Netherlands and the Far East. But I’m personally a European multiculturalist and I think our government has made a huge, disastrous mistake in the attempt to end a war in the Conservative Party which in fact dates back to the 19th century and hasn’t ended yet; Free Trade versus Protectionism. And as the ugly racists support Protectionism, the fun has only just started.


#7

British expatriates in the EU were not allowed to vote (which was a fix-up on a level with Republican disenfranchisement of black voters…).

In the spirit of needless pedantry, British citizens on mainland Europe were allowed to vote if they had been abroad for less than fifteen years. The coverage of those citizens that fought a court case to extend franchise to those who had been on the mainland for longer did do a lot to confuse things, though.

Any light that might have cast on the British establishment is more than obnubilated by the deliberate disenfranchisement of our fellow EU citizens in the UK. The ‘It’s a British vote for a part of Britain blowing up our relationship with the EU’ rhetoric made the place look like a smaller, meaner one… And didn’t really stack up on its own terms, given that Irish and Commonwealth citizens could vote.


#8

This surprises me not in the least. Institutional racism in the uk is a curious thing, it’s so deeply embedded it’s like the wood grain: you can’t really get rid of it without ripping out the whole thing and starting again.


#9

Well, “once” may have been a long time ago (it was when she was a barrister not a judge) before more ‘modern’ security precautions came to pass.


#10

And within the past few months there was a long thread here on BBS about the shortage of curry chefs in UK and how the restaurant owners voted Brexit believing the Tories would relax non-EU immigration controls and were becoming angry it had not happened. (Rough summary from memory, not looked back to it.)


#11

In that case fetch me a coffee then, lassie.


#12

I find that post excessively negative in tone. There are agencies in the UK where institutional racism seems to be ineradicable, mostly associated with the Home Office, but in my 60+ years things have improved considerably. I am sometimes taken aback by unwitting remarks made by older people - as old as or older than me - but the younger generations seem much better.


#13

I agree, things have improved. Of course they have but not nearly far enough in my opinion. You said it yourself, in some agencies it appears impossible to eliminate but hopefully not forever. This country seems to have a unique relationship with institutional racism, being as it’s inherently tied up with the class system. Plus i’m not entirely feeling in tune with our wonderful fellow citizens lately: a lot of them - say, 17,410,742 - can go jump far as i’m concerned.


#14

A little help, please?

OK…

Wait – what?

Let’s be maximally generous to the write-up and figure she started practising in 1989; that would have made her 21. A bit young to hold a J.D., but she’s pbly bright, OK?

Maintaining our generosity, assume she was at uni in ‘79…at the age of 11!?! Apparently we weren’t generous enough…bright Asian Scottish female my eye – she’s a friggin’ Asian Scottish female SUPER GENIUS! Huh?

(Only asking because I was at uni in the '70s, and I’m now 63! Just wanna find out what I should have done differently to save/shave so many years…)


#15

Given s2redux’s apparently good catch, I may have to re-evaluate my view of “a long time ago”


#16

Yeah, the quote was butchered to the point of being misleading. From TFA:

At school in Dundee, Judge Dhir said she was steered towards a different career.
“I wasn’t the cleverest person in my year at school,” she said.
"I’m dyslexic so I find it difficult to read and write. And when I went to school in the 1970s in Scotland, women were not encouraged to aim high.
"When I first said to a teacher at school I wanted to go to university when I was older, she told me that I should aim a little lower and suggested I try hairdressing instead."
Judge Dhir said when she was called to the bar in 1989, most barristers were male, white, from a public school, and with “some connection” to the profession.

So she was probably in primary school in the late seventies, and not yet in her post secondary education.


#17


#18

Thanx, that’s a relief. I’m half Scotch/half Dutch, and for a moment I was bumming that my Caledonian genes had let me down.

(
Q: "I think you mean half ‘Scottish,’ nae?"
A: “If you knew how much my old man drank, you’d agree that ‘half Scotch’ is the correct descriptor.”
)


#19

[quote=“Enkita, post:6, topic:98573”]
British expatriates in the EU were not allowed to vote (which was a fix-up on a level with Republican disenfranchisement of black voters…)[/quote]
Who set this provision in the first place? My understanding was that Cameron called for the referendum as a way to shut Farage up, and neither wanted nor expected the referendum to pass. I would have thought he would have set the parameters to maximize the chance of failure, not “fixed it up” in this way.


#20