Opinion: Wales’s anti-racist plan is anything but

One would hope that racial segregation and racial discrimination are things of the past. Yet, following their ‘Racial Equality Action Plan’, it would seem that that is exactly what the Welsh government seeks to implement. 

The action plan is a 142-page document which details the government’s vision of a ‘country that is proudly anti-racist, where everyone is treated as an equal citizen’. The draft invited Welsh citizens to give feedback on the approach the Welsh government seeks to take. The consultation period has since ended, and the revised plan will be implemented in 2022 to make Wales anti-racist by 2030. 

So far, it just seems like everyday government rhetoric in their response to social tension. However, closer inspection suggests that this action plan is something more than that. It details a list of things the government seeks to achieve by 2030, such as the ending of microaggressions, the ability to have difficult questions without fearing of being called out as racists, using positive action, and having the first black and minority ethnic (BAME) First Minister. It then lists in scrutinous detail of the action the government will take in sectors such as health, education, employability, housing, crime, and so on, most of which includes persistently asking BAME individuals about their experiences and how the government can improve.

The Welsh government also released a report on staff experiences of race, gender and intersectionality in the government. Some recommendations from the report were relatively predictable, such as improving BAME representation in the Welsh government, and creating training courses for anti-racism. Other recommendations, however, were less tasteful. The document details that they recommend to ‘Create a sub-group for [BAME] women in the workplace, focussed on providing a safe and a social, peer-supported network’ and ‘Create a Whiteness network which will provide a safe space for White colleagues to discuss White privilege and to take responsibility to address racism and to create more awareness and to strengthen allyship’.

The use and acceptance of the term ‘white privilege’ demonstrates the government’s adherence to identity politics, whereupon individuals are ‘dubbed ignorant, racist, or in denial’ about racial issues simply because they are white – indeed, the government makes assumptions about its own citizens purely based on the colour of their skin. 

But more than that, the Welsh government’s report blatantly advises racial segregation in the name of anti-racism. As Callum from the Lotus Eaters makes the point, the argument to segregate BAME people seems that it is because they ‘can’t be safe around white people’, and has solidified the typical critical race theorist view of BAME people being inferior and white people being evil. It is abhorrent that a British, democratic country would openly advocate for literal racial segregation in the 21st century, as though white and non-white individuals are so different to one another that they cannot even be safe together in the same room. It should no longer have to be argued that segregating individuals according to their race is fundamentally wrong.

Moreover, the Welsh government’s reliance on so-called ‘positive action’ further demonstrates its misunderstanding of sheer discrimination. One’s race, gender, sexuality and so on should have no relevance to a job application, save for a few minor exceptions. To hire someone based on their race is blatant discrimination, whether they are white or not, and there is no excuse for it. 

This is not the first time the Welsh government has endorsed racial and sexual discrimination. In 2020, it announced that business grants will be prioritised and given to those ‘most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak’ which was apparently ‘women’ and ‘people from BAME backgrounds’. Indeed, the judgement of who should be given priority in receiving a grant from the government was based on the individual’s gender and race – things that have nothing to do with one’s business.

The Welsh government has also funded a £5,000 grant to a virtual ‘Privilege Cafe’, which is essentially a 200-person Zoom call where people discuss important racial issues such as the use of the N word in classic American literature, which is clearly oppressing Welsh BAME individuals and is a good use of the taxpayer’s money.

Sarcasm aside, the insistence from the Welsh government to be ‘anti-racist’ raises the question of what anti-racism actually is. According to the Welsh parliament, ‘being a non-racist society is simply not enough’, and anti-racism consists of actively working against racial stereotypes and racism. 

Is this really what Wales needs? As Andrew Doyle argues, ‘the concept of anti-racism is a rhetorical sleight of hand. It is an illiberal notion couched in liberal terms’, and the ‘effect of this slippery language is to make rebuttals seem counter-intuitive’. Indeed, to oppose such proposed measures would almost undoubtedly lead to an accusation of racism, when it is quite the opposite. The Welsh government’s ‘anti-racist’ approach seems to be anything but.

To separate individuals based on race is racism by definition, and it should be called out as such. The obsession of the Welsh Government with the categories of BAME and white individuals may well come from good intentions, and I’d like to believe that it does, but nonetheless is predicated in an evil mindset that one’s race is more important than their individuality. Indeed, as writers for the Spectator argue, even the ‘soulless acronym’ of BAME itself robs ethnic minorities of ‘individual agency’ and are ‘assumed to be victims of injustice’ when this is not necessarily the case. One’s race should not be seen as a symptom of racial injustice – in politics, it should have no meaning over the individual at all.

The Welsh government is making it clear that it views its own citizens in racial and gender terms and will happily discriminate based on these terms, such as giving grants and hiring individuals based on their skin tone, and segregating its workers into separate ‘safe spaces’. This is fundamentally wrong; we should be long past racial segregation and racial discrimination. If this is what ‘anti-racism’ encompasses, then evidently it is a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing. 

Further reading:

https://gov.wales/now-time-action-racial-inequality-welsh-government-lays-out-route-systemic-and-sustainable-change

https://gov.wales/equality-and-diversity-statistics-2017-2019

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56487001

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