In this post, I wanted to explore how ethnic minorities within Wales are treated and highlight the findings of a critical peer-led research report by Race Alliance Wales (RAW). There is an executive summary of the report by RAW for those who want to read into it further. I have picked out some areas I wanted to draw attention to; there is so much I did not have room to include as this is such an expansive topic. The areas I have chosen to speak about are less about the obvious racism people know can be an issue; these are subtler issues that are not always understood.
Why do reports by RAW need to happen?
Many issues around race are often questioned and invalidated as the majority white population are unlikely to experience racism compared to ethnic minorities in Wales. This means that the anecdotal evidence of “I have never seen racism in Wales” is used to suggest that ethnic minorities in Wales do not experience racism and invalidates our experiences of it. So, reports talking to BAME individuals about our experiences are important to shed light on how ethnic minorities are really treated – something a white British person would unlikely realise.
Institutional and Systemic Racism
The majority of BAME individuals in the report (over 60%) were actively discouraged from entering public or political life due to institutional racism. In this day and age, when we are closer to equality than ever before, people of colour (PoC) have barriers due to their skin colour or race resulting in “experiences of overt racism, bias and active exclusion in professional and educational settings, including evidence of unequal pay”.
Being a BAME British citizen often means having the pressure of being a “perfect citizen” as if we “rock the boat” or critique any British systems, we’ll be attacked with “go back to your own country” and that we “should be deported”. These have been said to me and many other BAME Brits despite us being born and/or raised here and view Britain as our home; for some of us it is the only home we know. Just because we are not white does not mean we should be treated as second class citizens and limited in our ability to critique systems as should be done in any functioning democracy. If we experience issues or see problems, we have to think twice about even speaking out about it which is incredibly unfair.
Just to show you the scale of the issue of discrimination in Wales, “94% [of respondents] said they had faced discrimination in certain areas of life, including 69% who said they had faced discrimination in employment”. This has led to PoC being passed over promotions in Wales despite having the right skillset and experience level; they found that it was “easier to obtain positions in England over Wales”. It’s very sad that PoC are leaving Wales to work in England because they are devalued and discriminated against in the workplace.
Modifying personal dress/behaviour/language
Many PoC reject their heritage or culture in an aim to fit in better and not get discriminated against, especially in a bid to avoid racist microaggressions which feel pretty macro to the person on the receiving end. An example of microaggressions is subtle comments about PoC for not fitting the mould of white beauty standards. Different ethnicities have different physical attributes, and each is beautiful the way they are. It breaks my heart to see PoC using skin bleaching to make themselves fairer as they received comments about their darker complexion. Many of us are left feeling white-washed to fit in which obviously this takes a toll on our mental health. “69% reported discrimination due to their name or background, with 46% saying they had changed the way they speak.” Imagine having to change the way you speak, dress and what you enjoy trying fit in?
When I was in school, I pretty much rejected my Indian heritage since I wanted to fit in and had never lived in India myself. However, that was denying a part of me which was not healthy and made me unhappy. Since then, I have discovered more about my heritage and have decided to incorporate the positive aspects that suit my values into my life. People need to understand that you can be British and have British values while also bringing positive aspects of your ethnic culture or heritage to the table; that does not make us any less British. Britain loves taking positives of another culture and putting their own twist on it (e.g., the Scottish chicken tikka masala and the Welsh curry half and half!), so why can’t we do the same?
Lack of positive role models
A rather shocking 43% felt that within Wales, there is little to no BAME role models leading many to look to England and the rest of the world for inspiration. The roles models that were present within Wales were often seen as negative or “regularly vilified”. This lack of role models that young PoC can aspire to is impacting their future.
Do you relate to this?
Some of you reading this will be learning about these issues for the first time while some of you may have experienced these issues yourself. Do not be afraid to reach out to me if you want to talk about any of this. This can be a sensitive topic, so I ask everyone to be patient if someone is trying to open up about any of the issues spoken about.
Facebook: Isadora Sinha SU