Our children should all have equal opportunity without fear or favour
Gwern Gwynfil, CEO YesCymru
I am always reluctant to allow my professional role to intrude upon my personal life but sometimes they overlap in unexpected ways.
We have five mixed race children, one of whom has visibly darker skin than his brothers and sisters. As his parents we are acutely aware that as he grows up, he is more likely to be stopped and searched, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be beaten up in police custody, more likely to die in police custody, more likely to be the target of a racially motivated assault, more likely to be discriminated against in the workplace and more.
Same parents, same upbringing, same background as his siblings but all of the above is true simply because he has a darker skin tone. This is a shameful indictment of the society and culture which tolerates this. The statistics are clear and stark, this is a systemic and institutionalised failing. It is a failure which too many media outlets are willing to feed rather than challenge. It is a failure that too many politicians are happy to sidestep and ignore even whilst other politicians actively stoke the divisions and prejudice which foster this reality.
This background makes it very hard to shift the dial and change our culture. Look no further than the Met Police, more than twenty years since they were branded as institutionally racist in an independent review, assessed again today and they are found even more wanting across a wider spectrum of prejudice, with the institutional normalisation of racism, sexism, misogyny and more. Cultural change is hard work, it takes time and needs support at every level of authority. It is also a constant process, today’s victim of prejudice may be tomorrow’s perpetrator of toxic and exclusionary behaviour.
I suspect that readers will already be picking up on my personal view here but for the complete avoidance of doubt let me be clear that I firmly believe in inclusion, tolerance and diversity. Our children should all have equality of opportunity without fear or favour. Wealth is fine but it should not buy privilege and poverty should not be a life sentence trapping individuals and families in an endless cycle of deprivation. Children should always be given clear routes to success and fulfilment with as much support as they need to get there.
If we are to make progress in combating prejudice in all its forms then we must also school ourselves not to make lazy accusations of racism and white privilege, where there is little or no basis to do so. In doing so we provide ammunition to those who are prejudicial, we undermine our integrity and we must accept that this too is part of the challenge we face. If we so easily throw such accusations at our allies it makes it harder to highlight those who are truly toxic in their beliefs and their ambitions for our society.
By targeting allies with insults, accusations and counter accusations we feed into the ‘culture wars’ so beloved of the reactionary right. We leave ourselves dead in the water whilst we fill their sails with wind. We diminish ourselves and feed their narrative.
I accept that those of us who believe in fairness for our children and in vibrant, tolerant, progressive societies face many challenges on the road ahead.
This has direct relevance to our campaign for Independence here in Wales.
Firstly, and importantly, I believe that Independence is our best route to faster and deeper cultural change in Wales.
Wales is predisposed to progressive inclusivity and Independence provides the means and the confidence to make that shift in short order and to change our nation so that it is systemically inclusive rather than systematically biased.
Secondly, we must accept that Unionists will stand shoulder to shoulder however far apart they are in other ways. When it comes to Independence, those who cling desperately to the dusty tail of Empire, be they liberal progressives or far right reactionaries, will all vilify, mock and patronise those who campaign for independence. They will do it from the gutter because they will know that they have very thin arguments indeed for the preservation of a Union which milks its periphery to sustain power, and what wealth remains, at its centre.
We must do the same. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Indy-believers, we must campaign with them, we must discuss and debate with them with civility and respect – because that’s the culture we wish to create and foster.
In doing so we will likely all come to understand each other better, there is no way we will all agree but perhaps the hard edges of absolute beliefs will be tempered by the reality of contact. Perhaps some will become friends – to their own surprise this was famously the case for Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley. Two diametrically opposed politicians and lifelong opponents who became close simply because they worked together in common cause. They managed this whilst holding fundamentally different political views.
Are we confident enough, ambitious enough, secure enough in our own beliefs that we can come together as one in common cause to secure the Independence that Wales desperately needs to escape its own poverty trap? I believe so. I’m willing to be part of that community, of this campaign, of the generation that sets aside its own conflicts to win Welsh freedom. Freedom we can use to build a better, brighter, future for Wales and for our children.
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Da iawn, well said. United by our common ground but appreciative and accommodating of our differences is the only way forward.
A career in the church certainly awaits. More tea Vicar. The wishful “shoulds” and our own piety will lead the way. Fairness and acknowledgement of difference is all.
But, what’s this, our opponents be it, unionist, liberal or reactionary, will “attack us from the *gutter*”
So not perhaps legitimate doubts, other perspectives, a deserved scepticism towards the elbowed Welsh political class ongoing etc. But “the gutter”.