"The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an opportunity
to renew our commitment to building a world of justice and equality where
xenophobia and bigotry do not exist. We must learn the lessons of history and
acknowledge the profound damage caused by racial discrimination."
Living in a society that is tolerant of others, and free of hatred based on people’s identity is a subject close to my heart. I guess I wouldn't do the job I do, if it wasn't, and I have to thank my wonderful parents for being such a positive influence on me growing up.
Although the UK has come a long way since the days of Enoch Powell and his ‘rivers
of blood’ speech in 1968, the sad reality is that racial discrimination, xenophobia and
negative attitudes towards other races, ethnicities, cultures and religions are still
prevalent in everyday society. You only have to look at the national statistics for Hate
Crime to realise this. Police recorded 52,528 hate crimes in 2014-15, up from 44,471
in 2013-14, with more than 80% being racially motivated. This is estimated to only be
a portion of the hate crimes committed, as research shows that it is vastly under
The recent refugee and migrant crises has led to a commitment by the UK Government to help relocate 20’000 Syrian refugees, who are fleeing the civil war in Syria, by relocating them from refugee camps in the Middle East to the UK. The families will need support and compassion when they arrive, as it is likely they have been profoundly affected by what they have seen and experienced.
Where I live in the South Wales valleys, we are renowned for our warm
welcome to others, and I hope this will be no different when these small numbers
of refugees arrive.
Unfortunately the crises has also produced a raft of negative headlines in our media
about our country being flooded with migrants who simply want to take advantage of
our benefits system, and live in luxury at the cost of the UK Payer. The facts behind
these sensational headlines are often very different but unfortunately facts don’t
always sell newspapers. This has helped result in a wave of anti refugee and migrant
sentiment, which could quickly increase if the majority allow it too.
The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘Don’t Stand By’. The
Holocaust and subsequent genocides took place because the local populations
allowed persecution to take root. Whilst some actively supported or facilitated state
policies of persecution, the vast majority stood by silently – at best, afraid to speak
out; at worst, indifferent. Bystanders enabled the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and
There is an important message to be taken from this theme. We are probably all
guilty of ignoring’ that’ racist Facebook post from one of our ‘friends’, or staying silent
when your family member makes an offensive remark about someone’s religion, or
overlooking a negative comment about refugees from a friend on a night out. If we all
‘stand by’ and do nothing, we are allowing the conditions for a future genocide to
happen. It takes courage to be the one that challenges someone’s comments or
views, but the more of us who do this, the more people will be confident to challenge
Stonewall have started a movement called #Nobystanders. It asks people to make a
pledge to ‘call out’ bullying and teasing language, and to stand up for fairness and
kindness. By signing the pledge, you are saying that you will not stand by and let
things such as racism and homophobia happen. Information on this important campaign can be found here. It really is a subject that is close to my heart, and I really think it is important that we talk about these things.