Tuesday 7th May 2019 was a momentous day. No, this article isn’t about THAT Champion’s League comeback - we’re talking about Wales. In the week that the Welsh Assembly celebrated 20 years of existence, racism was debated in the Senedd for the very first time.
Passing a ground-breaking motion, the Senedd agreed to:
· ‘Support wholeheartedly the global fight to root out racism and racist ideology and strive towards a more equal Wales, tackling all forms of racial inequality’
· ‘Support the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).’
· ‘Facilitate the development of a cross-party Welsh declaration embodying the principles of the CERD in consultation with the most appropriate persons and organisations.’
It was gratifying to see that there was cross-party support to ending racism in Wales, a recognition of the vital role that education plays in this, and to have the work of Show Racism the Red Card, alongside our anti-racism allies in Wales, recognised.
Long-time supporter of the charity, Dawn Bowden AM shared the story of Shaka Hislop’s experience of racism that led to the kickstarting of the campaign and praised the work that Chief Executive, Ged Grebby, Wales Campaign Manager Sunil Patel and the whole team have undertaken in Wales. She highlighted the 'great work by SRtRC both in schools and on the terraces’, adding ‘I have noticed a much more robust response to racist language in schools', sentiments that were echoed by Jenny Rathbone AM.
Deputy First Minister, Jane Hutt AM also took a strong stance, telling the chamber: 'It is unacceptable that many BAME people have come to accept everyday racism’ but that: ‘Now is the time for Welsh Gov, departments of education and equality to work together to ensure the future generations are considerate and kind citizens of the world’.
Many AMs highlighted that diversity (whether it be cultural, religious or any other) has greatly enhanced the lives of all people in Wales and that this was something to celebrated. However, it was also noted that there is work to be done. Jane Hutt AM continued with the recognition that a concerted effort was needed to make all levels of Welsh society representative of the population, citing the positive impact advances in the hiring procedures for new Welsh Government apprenticeships had had. She said 'Wales needs diverse representation in our politics, we won't succeed until we have fresh perspectives and voices'. While Leanne Wood AM, citing the Boris Johnson ‘letter box burka’ comments, said that the everyday racism and undertones of intolerance in politics and the media needed to be directly challenged.
Dawn Bowden AM also stressed that we cannot ignore the very real threat posed by the Far Right, and their normalisation of racist language, with former UKIP representative, the now Independent Caroline Jones AM highlighting the party’s shift closer to the more extreme elements. Neil McAvoy AM suggested an important lesson that some individuals must learn is that: 'When things get tough, we do not have to turn on our neighbours'. And a solution was given, as Ms Bowden noted: 'It is through SRtRC workshops that young people are given the space to learn about tolerance and diversity.' More of these needed then!
Clearly, our journey towards an anti-racist society is far from over, but 7th May will be remembered as a positive step in the right direction.