Newbury member Andrea Saad recently attended the “Confronting the Rise of Racism” conference run by Stand Up to Racism and has written a blog about what she learned on the day.
The conference covered a wide range of topics with speakers from the UK and abroad including many activists, politicians, MPs and MEPs from the Labour Party. It is difficult to summarise in a few paragraphs what was said in the plenaries, workshops and fringe events, but I think it can be divided into two main themes:
1 Implicit and institutionalised discrimination
You have probably seen in the news that black people are underrepresented at Oxford University, Muslims are overrepresented in jails and most of the victims of the Grenfell fire were from an ethnic minority background. All these facts have something in common: institutionalised discrimination.
All these “symptoms” have recently been topical in the news. There is, however, less awareness of the ethnic pay gap and on the larger effect that austerity has on ethnic minorities. These two factors show us that things are not set to improve, contradicting our perception that there is continuous progress in racial equality.
To remove institutionalised discrimination, changes in policy are required. You can be part of the solution by joining NGOs (see the list of some below) and (of course!) contacting us, talking to us about your own experience and actively participating in the creation of policies.
2 Explicit racism
There is currently an increase in populist movements in the US and across Europe. Since last year, a surge in hate crime of 29% has been reported in England and Wales, with 80% of the hate crime being racially motivated, and a new Islamophobic group has been founded – the Football Lads Alliance.
Unfortunately, a lot of this racism is fuelled from the position of power; when attention is diverted from austerity, immigrants are scapegoated instead with divide and rule tactics.
The way to counteract this is from the bottom up. We can show solidarity and unity with everyday acts. One of the speakers told us how Trump’s open Islamophobia unwittingly achieved the most beautiful and defiant acts of solidarity between Jews and Muslims. When a mosque was burned down, a rabbi gave the synagogue keys to the local Iman so they could still have a place to pray.
With solidarity we show that those who think racism is wrong are in the majority and we increase the sense of community by taking care of each other. We can challenge the news from tabloids and sound bites with fleshed arguments. We can show empathy. Empathy and compassion are more important than justice because justice cannot undo the injustice currently happening.
On the whole the conference was very informative and inspiring.
If you would like to know more about discrimination to ethnic minorities, or you want to share your experience with us, please get in touch and start being part of the solution. We hope to hear from you!
List of NGOs
MEND Muslim Engagement and Development (mend.org.uk)
Stand up to Racism (standuptoracism.org.uk)
Institute for Race Relations (irr.org.uk)
Unite Against Fascism (http://uaf.org.uk)
West Berkshire Peace and Integration Forum (http://exploringpsyche.com/category/peace-and-integration-forum/)