Public bodies should accept rural racism is a real issue in the South West, according to a new report by Equality South West.
The publication, launched today (Thursday, September 5), reports the results from a programme of engagement with black, minority and ethnic (BME) representatives in the region, and reveals individuals and households in rural areas feel isolated and without a voice.
Brenda Weston, who compiled Race Equality in the South West: Time for action, said: “The public bodies whose duty it is to take seriously their role in these matters too often regard race equality as an irrelevance instead of an opportunity to deliver truly inclusive and effective services at a time of unprecedented public spending cuts.
“Public authorities, from national government down to parish councils, should show the leadership and determination to eradicate racism that is necessary to build the integrated, safe and harmonious society they wish to see.
“The government’s stated aim is to empower communities, yet practical recognition that racial discrimination exists ‘around here’ is all too rare, as are efforts to develop accessible and constructive channels for engagement with BME communities by decision-making bodies that are overwhelmingly unrepresentative of the diverse populations they serve.”
ESW is calling on local authorities to be more proactive in tackling this problem by encouraging BME people to vote in local elections, by creating a more inclusive environment where they feel their views will be heard and by improving equality training for staff.
Brenda Weston said: “Another key point is to look at the role of schools to inculcate today’s teachers and parents and, importantly, tomorrow’s citizens, decision-makers and leaders, with positive attitudes concerning race equality and respect for diversity.”
The report also highlights the effects of funding cuts in undermining the fight against discrimination in the South West.
Brenda Weston said: “With the onset of the recession, one by one organisations such as race equality councils, whose purpose was to support frontline equality and community groups in challenging deep-seated prejudices, have largely fallen by the wayside, and those that remain have found it increasingly difficult to meet the need of BME communities for advocacy and support.
“We believe the work undertaken by these organisations to eliminate discrimination and its impacts is fundamental in enabling people to flourish as individuals and fulfil their potential. What is lacking, and urgently needed, is a supportive policy environment and strong leadership from central and local government that names and condemns racism and exemplifies good practice.”
(from a press release)