(Title Image: Wales Online)
As mentioned, this is a series of articles on equalities issues, looking at how the situation is now as well as how it might ties in with Welsh independence. It’s an important piece in the jigsaw of deciding what type of Wales we want to live in.
I start looking at that in more depth with one of the most common forms of discrimination that, despite mainly successful attempts to reduce it, still remains with us and has on occasion been a loaded term in Welsh political discussion: racism.
What is racism?
Racism is, as you probably all know, prejudice or discrimination based on someone’s ethnicity – usually, but not always, meaning skin colour/race. Although discrimination based on national origin or citizenship isn’t strictly racism by the dictionary definition, it’s considered racism in law.
Some types of racism are specific to certain groups – for example, anti-Semitism is discrimination/hatred of Jews; Anglophobia and Cymrophobia are hatred of/fear of the English and Welsh respectively.
Racism can also manifest itself as a belief in racial superiority or purity – white supremacy, Apartheid/racial segregation and black supremacy being examples. Opposition to mixed-race relationships and marriage is known as anti-miscegenation.
Racism & Wales
Wales has been a clear historical victim of what we would now call racism; Penal Laws enacted by the English after the Glyndwr rebellion would nowadays be considered a form of apartheid and/or anti-miscegenation. Although partly eased during the Tudor dynasty, they weren’t fully repealed for 222 years. The Irish came off even worse.
Those days are, of course, over even if some of the psychological and socio-cultural elements remain as unhealed scars, with the occasional re-surfacing of anti-English or anti-Welsh sentiments. For people who’ve been victims of European colonialism, genocide or slavery, however, the scars are likely to run even deeper and leave a much longer lasting legacy.
These days, racism is considered more in relation to its impact on ethnic minorities (including Roma, gypsies and travellers), often abbreviated as BME (Black & Minority Ethnic groups).
In the year ending December 2017, it was estimated 4.7% of the Welsh population (145,200 people) had an ethnic background other than white – much lower than the UK figure of 13%. BMEs are also more heavily concentrated in Cardiff (16.8%), Swansea (10%) and Newport (8.2%) than any other Welsh local authority.
Race is by far the most common incitement for hate crime in Wales. In 2016-17 (xls Table 2.01), there were 2,080 recorded incidents of racial hate crimes – an increase of 668 compared to 2013-14 (xls – Appendix 1.02), with a sharp increase in the time after the 2016 Brexit referendum.
In 2016-17, racial hate crimes in Wales made up 3.3% of the EnglandandWales total compared to 3.8% in 2013-14 and Wales had a lower number of recorded racial hate crimes than any English region.
The obvious conclusion would be that “Wales is less racist than England”, but it’s not as simple as that. Due to the lower proportion of BMEs living in Wales, even with a lower number of recorded hate crimes, proportionally it’s not likely to be that different and could even be worse at some levels.
Where are the problems?
Casual racism, stereotypes and ignorance
A report by Show Racism The Red Card (pdf) revealed that 94% of Welsh primary school pupils believed racism happens between pupils and every single one believed there were negative stereotypes about particular races and nationalities (i.e. eastern Europeans) within their local area. Skin colour and religion were often conflated, particularly in the case of Muslims.
One headteacher said there was a “general ignorance” of nationalities, race and religions amongst pupils. 40% of pupils said they have been on the end of racist abuse (though rarely going beyond name-calling) while 17% admitted abusing other pupils. There’s also a distinct lack of BME teachers in Wales, with just 1.1% of registered school teachers coming from a non-white background in March 2017 (pdf p8).
According to the latest biennial Home Office report on race and the criminal justice system in EnglandandWales, dated 2016 (pdf):
- Mixed-race and Asian people are more likely to be crime victims.
- Black people are four times, and Asians 1.5 times, more likely than whites to be murdered, but each race is more likely to be suspected of murder against someone of the same race than someone of a different race.
- Black people were eight times more likely to be stopped-and-searched by the police than white people; people of mixed-race were 2-3 times and Asians twice as likely. Searches were near enough equally likely to find evidence regardless of race with a success rate of between 20-25%.
- 17% of arrests made against black people were the result of a stop-and-search compared to 5-9% for all other ethnicities.
- Black people are almost 3 times more likely to be arrested (in general) than whites, while mixed-race people were twice as likely.
- Black and mixed-race defendants were more likely to be prosecuted and remanded in custody than other ethnicities; blacks and Asians serve longer prison sentences, while whites were more likely to be convicted of an indictable offence.
- Custody rates are about the same for every ethnicity.
- Whites were by far and away the most likely to be repeat offenders with 15 or more convictions (88% rate). Blacks and Asians were proportionally more likely to be first-time offenders.
- Parole outcomes are broadly similar for every ethnicity, though you’re more likely to be released if you’re white or mixed-race.
Figures dated March 2017 (xls) show that of the Welsh police forces, just 1.6% of police officers and 2.4% of PCSOs were from a BME background compared to 4.7% of the population. In a bit of better news, 4.4% of new-joiners were BMEs – though none of them were in the Dyfed-Powys force.
Just 1% of court judges and 4% of magistrates in Wales were from a BME background in 2017 (pdf).
“Ghettoisation” & the Contact Hypothesis
As mentioned earlier, if you live outside the M4 corridor or university town you’re less likely to come across anyone from a BME background except those working in a hospital or GP surgery. There’s a logic to it by creating “strength in numbers” and minority communities basing themselves around a shared interest – places of worship being an obvious example. There is some evidence (Zebrowitz, White & Wieneke 2009) that racist prejudice comes from not being exposed to facial structures that differ from your own race on a regular basis.
There’s the opposite problem as well – the “white flight” phenomenon, where people move to Wales from larger English conurbations due to changes in ethnic diversity there; the most famous “white-flighter” in Wales being Nick Griffin. It’s a controversial view – ask Mike Parker – but no doubt with an element of truth to it, rural Wales representing a form of English idyll that those moving here think they’ve lost, inevitably bringing negative attitudes to Wales, the Welsh and the Welsh language with them.
Where are the improvements?
A note of caution here as it depends mainly on which race you belong to as well as social class (which is arguably a bigger influence than race or gender).
According to the latest statistics from the Welsh Government (xls), pupils from an Asian or mixed-race background were more likely to hit Key Stage indicators at Foundation Phase, KS2, KS3 and KS4 (GCSE) than other ethnicities. Pupils of black African and white decent did slightly worse, but the poorest performers were black Carribean pupils and those from a gypsy/traveller background.
At GCSE level though, BME pupils generally and consistently out-perform white and gypsy/traveller pupils, with Indian and Chinese pupils often ranking near the top throughout their school lives. These findings are backed by a Senedd committee inquiry into outcomes for BME, gypsy and traveller students.
BME representation & role models
It’s hard to believe that as recently as the late 1970s/early 1980s you were perhaps more/as likely to see a white person in blackface than actually see a black performer live on television. That’s changed significantly and we wouldn’t bat an eyelid at Asian or black sports stars, actors, performers or politicians these days.
BMEs are now proportionally represented in the Senedd with 5% of AMs coming from a BME background. There’s also been a concerted effort by the likes of the BBC to provide more opportunities for BMEs behind the camera as well as in front of it. There’s still some way to go, but things are much, much better than they used to be.
A change in attitudes
Work undertaken by the Wales Governance Centre as part of its 2016 Assembly election survey revealed a majority of people in Wales had positive attitudes towards different races (60%+). Those who had negative attitudes often numbered in single figures or less than 10%. There was also no sign of any significant anti-English sentiment.
One problem is that there were markedly more negative attitudes towards people based on nationality, immigration status and religion. Muslims (44% positive), Eastern Europeans (41%) and refugees (39%) all carried more negativity. It’s unclear whether this means Muslims are conflated with Asian ethnicities, as a similar survey from 2011 which counted Asians separately from Muslims carried more positive responses for “Asians”.
There were also marked political differences, with UKIP and Conservative supporters having more negative attitudes towards other races and minority groups and far more positive attitudes towards the English.
It appears your “status” and culture matters more in Wales than ethnicity, but we’re not quite offering the “welcome in the hillside” we like to think we are.
Policy options to tackle racism
A standardised school discipline system – If racism is to be stopped it has to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. A school discipline “points system” could be introduced where pupils receive points for offenses including the use of racist language – the number of points would depend on the severity, with a threshold established for withdrawal of privileges, suspension or exclusion.
“Buddy schools” – Schools could be encouraged to have regular contact with other schools – in Wales, England or elsewhere – that have a different ethnic make-up. For example, school competitions could be changed so pupils come into contact with those from different communities (i.e. Valleys & Cardiff schools).
A revamp of the PSE/religious education curriculum – This is already being considered, but ideally RE would become more about philosophy and cultural differences (though religion plays a part in it). Pupils should learn why certain cultures are the way they are as well as what they’re not. There has to be an element of self-reflection as well; if covering Islamist extremism, far-right and far-left extremists have to be included too.
Set realistic, but concrete, targets for BME recruitment that accurately reflects local demographics – Priority should be given to increased numbers of BMEs in local government, civil service, teaching, the police, prison & probation service and the legal profession (military post-independence as well). I don’t think there’ll be as much of a problem in the NHS, but targets and benchmarks should be realistic and change with updated census data (i.e. there’s no point aiming for 5% of police officers in Dyfed-Powys to be BMEs, but you would expect 15-20% of police officers in Cardiff to be BMEs).
Anonymous/blind recruitment system for senior roles – This is going to feature in quite a few of these posts. In essence, when people apply for senior roles (particularly in the public sector, but perhaps also added as a condition for private companies to receive Welsh Government funding), all distinguishing characteristics (race, gender, disability) are anonymised in job applications so unconscious bias based on name, ethnicity, gender etc. is eliminated and the best candidates are shortlisted regardless. This system could be extended to other types such as university applications and insurance policies.
Press regulation and editorial codes – Place a duty on the media in editorial codes and via independent press regulation to put issues of religion and race in context; for example, the likes of Islamic State and al-Qaeda should be considered terrorist organisations above being Islamist in the same way the IRA wasn’t always equated with “the Irish” by and large (though it did happen). This shouldn’t, however, be used as an excuse not to highlight problems within particular demographics – i.e. black-on-black crime, Asian grooming gangs, travellers using slave labour, white supremacist terrorism.