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Opinion: We can all do our bit to end racism and racial discrimination

PUBLISHED: 14:33 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:33 09 June 2020

Black Lives Matter protest at The Forum in Norwich on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Picture: Eloise Ray

Black Lives Matter protest at The Forum in Norwich on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Picture: Eloise Ray

Archant

Editor David Powles discusses the issue of racism and racial discrimination in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Protesters take a knee at the Black Lives Matter protest in Eaton Park, Norwich, on Sunday, June 7. Picture: Anush Rajagopal GaneshProtesters take a knee at the Black Lives Matter protest in Eaton Park, Norwich, on Sunday, June 7. Picture: Anush Rajagopal Ganesh

The words of musician Myleene Klass about the racism she received while growing up in Norfolk were a tough read for anyone who deeply cares for this county, its people and its reputation.

In a brutally honest post last week, she listed a string of abusive slurs she heard as a child and told how she even receives prejudice, not just in Norfolk but elsewhere, to this day.

It would be easy to brush her words to one side. To claim that Ms Klass is talking of an era we no longer recognise and that our county is a very different and more accepting place now, than it was then.

And while that would be partly true, I believe in general the majority of people are able to look past the colour of a person’s skin before making judgement, it’s clear from the events of the last seven days that we have an awful long way to go, both in this part of the country and the nation as a whole, to tackle both outright racism and racial discrimination.

Black Lives Matter Protest at the Forum Norwich 7 June 2020 Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANBlack Lives Matter Protest at the Forum Norwich 7 June 2020 Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Of course, I can’t say for certain that things have improved, because I’m lucky enough to never have faced suspicions, to have been disregarded or sneered at just because of where I was born or the colour of my skin. I can only imagine how horrible and degrading it must be.

Like many I’m sure, I feel confident enough that I could look myself in the mirror and say that I’ve never thought less of someone because of the way they looked.

But is it enough to simply keep a check on your own behaviour when, after so, so many years, this problem refuses to go away, and in some parts of the world is possibly even intensifying?

I don’t think it is.

I think that every single one of us needs to look at what we can do to wipe out what, according to some, remains the ‘worst disease society is fighting right now’.

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But what does that actually mean in practice?

I can‘t tell people how to live their lives, but perhaps as a starting point it means we all take a look at ourselves, assess our own actions and check we are comfortable we have never knowingly, or unknowingly acted in a prejudicial way against someone because of their background, colour - or come to think of it sex, size or looks.

And then take a look at those nearby and make a pledge to flag up anything you hear which is unacceptable and even try to educate the person behind it, if you consider it safe to do so.

I remember years ago being at a Norwich City match when I heard a fellow Canaries fan make a racial slur towards one of our own players. It bugs me to this day that I didn’t have the courage to either call him out - or at least make the nearest steward aware. I hope I’d act differently now - but more than that, I hope I wouldn’t hear it now.

Everyone will then have their own personal way they may be able to redress the imbalance so many still experience. How well balanced, for instance, is your office or workplace when it comes to black and ethnic minority (BAME) representation?

In Norfolk 3.5pc of the population is from a BAME background (a staggeringly low figure given the national average is 14.6pc), is that the case where you work? I certainly don’t think we’re close enough in our newsroom and would like to explore ways to make sure we are even more representative of the population we serve.

That doesn’t mean positively discriminating - it just means making sure we’re giving the same opportunities to everyone - not just the privileged.

Meanwhile, I’d also be very interested to explore how we give a better voice to all of our communities in the pages of this newspaper and on our websites, in terms of the stories we cover and columns and letters we run. These pages should provide a voice to all, not just those prepared to shout the loudest.

I took great heart from the demonstrations we saw in Norwich this weekend. On the whole they seemed to have been conducted in a safe, socially distanced way. They were without violence and came across as positive and constructive. It was pleasing to see so many people from so many different backgrounds take part.

It was a start.

* If you wish to write a column on this subject or drop me a line with your thoughts please do so at david.powles@archant.co.uk.


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