Peter Hussey attended the “United we Stand” Conference in Cardiff – this is his report.
The 21st March 1960 became the reference point for the world’s assessment of the apartheid government in South Africa , it being the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre which occurred in 1960 after a day of demonstrations against pass laws. Six years later, the UN declared 21st March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Human Rights Day. To mark that day, and, terribly, just six days after 50 Muslim men, women and children, the youngest just three years old, were shot dead by a supremacist terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand, I attended a one day conference exploring unity and solidarity amongst diverse communities in Wales in the context of Brexit and the hostile environment.
The well attended conference was presented by EYST, the Swansea based charity supporting BAME (Black and Ethnic Minority) people across Wales, and Race Alliance Wales. A very varied programme of speakers included Deputy First Minister and Government Chief Whip Jane Hutt. Ms Hutt brought greetings and expressions of solidarity from First Minister Mark Drakeford. The Welsh Government is committed to diversity as a principle. The Minister also announced some amounts of money that would now be available for work in the areas of concern of the organisations represented there. While these amounts were welcomed there was some concern expressed during the conference that they would have to be competed for by charities working in this field.
There are many ways in which life for BAME families is improving in Wales but, particularly since the calling of the Brexit referendum instances of hate crime and abuse have increased in Wales, as in other Western countries.
The appalling massacre in New Zealand is a dreadful example of this horrific trend but here also anti-Muslim hate crimes reported across Britain increased by 593% in the week after, an independent monitoring group, the charity Tell Mama, said almost all of the increase comprised incidents linked to the Christchurch attacks.
There was little doubt among the attendees at the conference that the Brexit process, along with the hostile environment created by the Home Office, initially when Mrs May was Home Secretary, are both contributory causes to attacks on immigrants generally, but these attacks also specifically demonstrate hatred of Muslims and, through ignorant association Sikhs and Hindus.
The point was made that fear of immigrants is not being demonstrated by the “left behind” citizens but rather by those with moderate income.
Wales needs to build a data base of evidence of racial hate acts to provide credibility and veracity.
Some small BAME charities showed presentations of surveys which, in my opinion, were based on samples that were too small and unrepresentative but where surveys are well conducted they can provide illumination. For example: of 15 and 17 year olds going into apprenticeships: 0.6% identify as black, 0.7% as mixed race, 1.1% as Indian, 1.5% as disabled and 97.3% as white; and a further clear statistic: the wealth gap. The average assets of white people £221,000, black Caribbean:£76,000, Bangladeshi: £21,000 and Black African:£15,000.
The Conference was designed to bring together all the charities and agencies working with BAME Welsh peoples to help in creating a united standpoint and to some extent the day celebrated that unity. However any celebration was overshadowed by the horror of the Christchurch attacks and the long history of inequality and exploitation of BAME peoples.
Peter Hussey. Llandrindod LM.