You can listen to the event here.
Dr Nicola Rollock, Ajmal Hussain, Dr Gavin Schaffer and Rajinder Mann OBE explored the topic. Runnymede Trust director, Rob Berkley, opened the event. In his speech he noted that 50 years had passed since Conservative politician Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood speech’ took place.
Dr Nicola Rollock kicked off the debate, asserting that ’ in [the] context of civilised society, most individuals are not racist. And married to this is the idea that racism is this strange, ugly, unusual beast that lives at the fringes of society. It doesn’t reside within society, it’s something other. And connected to that is that we can define very clearly who is racist.’
She emphasised that assuming the problem is on the fringes of society truncates accountability and hinders us from getting to the heart of the problem, adding that white people sit outside of meaningful discussions about racism, whereas for BME people, discussing it openly is risky business.
Ajmal Hussian added that talking about race ‘reminds us that we are an unequal society where some people enjoy less social and public privileges than others simply because of their racial or cultural background’- and that recognising this can be uncomfortable for some.
As the debate was opened to audience, responses were varied in perspectives. Some mentioned that racism is seen as a dirty word. A debate broke out about the role of young people in changing attitudes, with a representative from Wolverhampton’s youth council commenting that she feels she has to work harder to prove herself at school. Also raised was the complex nature of intra immigrant discrimination with those who had faced unwelcome arrivals decades ago reacting similarly to recent migrants from Eastern Europe.
The consensus of the room not only disputed the opening question, but agreed that racism was an urgent issue that needed to be addressed. Discussion was passionate and decisive, with an urge for real change.
End Racism This Generation is calling on individuals and organizations to make changes in their own lives, workplaces and communities to tackle racial inequality. We holding events around the UK and providing safe spaces for people to talk honestly about racism. Click here
to find out how you can get involved in the campaign.
Note: This blog was first published on the End Racism This Generation
website in December 2013.