Harrington: Chain of command – yes, I am the mayor!

Friday, 8th April

Sabrina Francis

Mayor of Camden, Sabrina Francis

THE Oxford and Cambridge boat race has been going on since 1829 and it seems the prejudices of some dignitaries attending this year are fixed firmly in the past.

This week the mayor of Camden spoke out about the racism she faced on the banks of the River Thames on Sunday.

Sabrina Francis had been invited to a special viewing party for London mayors near the finish line in Putney Bridge.

She told a public meeting yesterday: “On Sunday I was a guest of the mayor of Wandsworth at the boat race.

“It was pretty fancy for me and there were lots of other London mayors there, but I was repeatedly asked if I was really a mayor.

“They were questioning if I was really a mayor and what borough are you really from, is that really a mayoral chain?” She added: “In a room of 10 or 12 other mayors and people in sparkly things, I didn’t really have to wonder why I was the one they were questioning if I was really a mayor.”

The racism she faced at the party is echoed across London she said, with the case of Child Q – a young black girl who was strip-searched at school – showing how black children are stereotyped from a young age.

She said: “Black girls and boys are seen as older than they are. Girls are seen as streetwise women when they are still children.

“We know this leads to a lack of consideration when we are assaulted and even involved through crime through grooming.

“Black boys are seen as a threat and as men as young as from the age of 10.

“We know that leads to increased sentences and discipline in the education system.”

Since being elected mayor last year, Ms Francis said she “has been in lots of predominantly white spaces in the last 10 months and it has been incredible to move around in those spaces and be treated as an equal because that does not happen often.”

She said: “People can be very, very nice to a black woman if she has a chain.”

Hosted by the mayor of Wandsworth, the mayors gathered to watch the historic races.

Despite neither of the Oxford nor Cambridge teams being in the top five best university rowing teams, thousands turn out to watch the race.

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