The fight to challenge racism is East Renfrewshire is for us all

Usman Ali says Black and Minority Ethnic people in East Renfrewshire are experiencing racism routinely.Usman Ali says Black and Minority Ethnic people in East Renfrewshire are experiencing racism routinely.
Usman Ali says Black and Minority Ethnic people in East Renfrewshire are experiencing racism routinely.
Everyone in East Renfrewshire is being urged to unite and stand in solidarity in the fight to challenge racism and discrimination.

That’s the call from East Renfrewshire’s Minority Ethnic Forum, Diversity ER, following a virtual meeting organised by the group which was organised to highlight and discuss the direct, indirect and institutional racism that many Black and Minority Ethnic people routinely face living, working, and accessing services across East Renfrewshire.

Usman Ali, Vice Chair of Diversity ER, facilitated the discussion with 21 participants taking part including forum members, parliamentarians, local councillors, council officers, and representatives of local community groups.

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Examples were read out at the meeting including a young person being racially abused on the football pitch during an inter-school sport event, pupils and their parents being accused of aggressive behaviour when they were reporting incidents of racist bullying, a shop keeper whose staff was subjected to racial slurs and violence, a women who felt she was being held in suspicion as a result of her race when followed about in a shop by staff, and derogatory comments made towards a couple who emigrated to East Renfrewshire from Poland.

The meeting also noted the race-based incidents seen across the country and abroad – the cases of Sheku Bayoh in Scotland and George Floyd in the United States to name a couple.

Usman, who is also Chair of the STUC Black Workers’ Committee and Queen’s Young Leader, said: “Diversity ER is calling on communities to unite and stand in solidarity with those facing racism and discrimination of any kind.

Racism and discrimination exists everywhere and sadly Black and Minority Ethnic people in East Renfrewshire are experiencing it routinely.

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“You may not witness every occurrence or hear about every incident to the extent it leads to mass protests, but it does happen in direct and indirect ways.

“Challenging racism is everyone’s fight and we must all unite to rid it from our schools, workplaces, and streets.

“We have heard from community members who have faced institutional racism within the operation of vital public services within East Renfrewshire. But we have also heard from the community a sense of fear of being further victimised if they were to raise complaints with the Council, and that nothing will change as a result.

“This is why we are asking councillors and council officers to work with us to regain the full trust of Black and Minority Ethnic communities in East Renfrewshire.

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“That starts with the Council ensuring diverse representation in the elected and paid staffing structures of the Council and across all of the services it is responsible for.”

Eastwood MSP Jackson Carlaw, who was involved in the discussion, added: “I was incredibly distressed by the video evidence of the brutality which led to the death of George Floyd while being restrained by police officers in the United States and I have received many messages of powerful sincerity from people living in Eastwood who are equally horrified by what happened.

“Racism has no place in our society and the events in the United States reminded us all that however far we have come in my lifetime, racism and rank injustice remains as does our duty to tackle it.

“Diversity East Renfrewshire are doing powerful work to address problems with racism and we all must come together, in a collective endeavour, to stamp out racist behaviour once and for all.”

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Councillor Paul O’Kane said that over the past few weeks, he was sure we had all been affected by events in the USA and the tragic killing of George Floyd.

“The reaction has reverberated across the world with people taking action against racism and saying #BlackLivesMatter including here in East Renfrewshire,” he said.

“As Deputy Leader of the Council and Convener for Education and Equalities, I am so proud of our diverse community and of the way we come together in the hardest of times. We still have more to do to stand against racism and discrimination and I am committed to working with others to do this; particularly Diversity ER.

“I thank the group for their work and offer my solidarity in fighting racism and discrimination wherever we find it.”

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Kirsten Oswald, East Renfrewshire’s MP, added: “I was encouraged to see the range of public services engaging with the Diversity ER meeting, and the positive enthusiasm for action to tackle inequality.

“The diversity of East Renfrewshire is a great strength, and this focus on working together to deliver change can only be to the benefit of all our communities.”

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