By Sam Portillo
A 2018/19 report published by Welsh charity, EYST, reveals the experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people living in Wales at a time when racism and foreign relations are in the national limelight. The charity surveyed BAME residents in 20 different Welsh local authority areas, whose answers suggest there is much to be done in achieving racial equality.
According to the survey, most BAME people in Wales “strongly” feel a part of their local community and believe that people from different backgrounds have good relations with each other. Despite the sense of belonging, though, almost half, 44%, of respondents reported feeling “unwelcomed” by a person of another background and 52% reported having experienced racial or religious abuse, showing that racism is still an issue affecting ethnic minorities in Wales. It seems a contradiction that 80% of respondents say they feel safe in their local community. This suggests that racism is not a prominent issue in the wider community, but one where the perpetrators are a minority themselves.
EYST recommend that the Welsh Government safeguards funding for community spaces such as libraries, leisure centres and community centres, in order to maintain local cohesion and give residents the opportunity to socialise and make friends. They also suggest that community policing levels should be maintained or even increased so as to nurture feelings of safety. The number of BAME people working in the police force also must improve, it is reported. Currently, ethnic minorities are under-represented in the criminal justice system.
The report also suggests that police in Wales should adopt a preventative approach to hate crime as opposed to a reactive one. EYST hope that the idea of a diverse Wales can be fostered through school education and public campaigns, which could reduce the prevalence of racist attitudes and therefore crimes.
Institutional racism refers to the subtle discrimination pervading society, as opposed to individual racism which is more overt and readily condemned. The report also discussed the existence of institutional racism in Wales which is indicated by the racial wealth gap, the lack of BAME individuals in senior positions, the disproportionate number of BAME people in the prison system, and other measurable variables. It follows that the social and professional opportunities offered to BAME people are hindered by embedded racism. In the survey, 60% of respondents felt that ethnic minorities were treated unfairly in the workplace.
Tackling institutional racism may be the largest obstacle in reaching racial equality. EYST recommends that Welsh companies adopt “name-blind recruitment” as standard practice, whereby employers must assess candidates on their credentials without a name which might carry racial connotations. The report suggests that “unconscious bias training” should be made compulsory for those in senior positions in the public and private sectors, especially for those who are involved in the recruitment process. EYST also advocates for the continuation of apprenticeship and placement programmes which boost the number of young BAME people in skilled work.
In facing a sweeping issue, the Welsh Government should create a strategy for quantifying progress. Aforementioned variables such as BAME poverty levels, under-representation in senior positions and over-representation in prisons could be used to gauge whether the country is becoming more inclusive and fairer for all. Ultimately, any numbers are indications at best for what is a complex and immeasurable problem.