Showing true colours: the changing politics of race equality in Wales

Racial equality in Wales was the focus for the 2021 Centre for Welsh Politics and Society Annual Lecture that over 200 people watched live on Zoom this week.

The lecture, Showing true colours: the changing politics of race equality in Wales, was presented by Professor Charlotte Williams OBE, Chair of the recent Welsh Government Working Group on ‘Communities, Contributions and Cynefin: Black Asian Minority Ethnicities in the New Curriculum’.

Charlotte Williams provided insightful commentary and observations on what she identified as “a critical shift” in relation to race equality nationally.

The Welsh Government published their Draft Race Equality Action Plan in March this year. Simultaneously, the UK Government’s Sewell report was published, which rejected institutional racism. The totally reinvigorated response to inequality presented in the Welsh plan sets out an agenda to achieve an anti-racist Wales by 2030.

Professor Williams discussed this distinctive drift from the wider UK politics of race, including how it is made possible by the particularities of the Welsh, devolved context and what it means for the possible progress of race equality in Wales.

“To progress race equality in Wales we have to understand how race is represented in Wales, what I call ‘race thinking’. Race equality goes well beyond public policy, to ask questions about the very identity of society itself.”

Professor Charlotte WilliamsOBE

She continued: “Wales is less threatened in terms of its national identity and not aligned to the defensive and protectionist ‘little Britain’ visioning of England. There is evidence of an openness and willingness to re-shape Welsh national identity in the new democracy.”

She concluded: “We are preparing a de-colonising agenda within education. This re-fashioning of Welsh ways of life is really what will make these policies travel.”

Professor Michael Woods, Co-director of the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society, said; “The murder of George Floyd a year ago, the Black Lives Matter movement, and debates around the legacy of slavery have raised awareness of racial injustice around the world. Wales is no exception and Charlotte’s lecture provided an important contribution on how we can build a more racially just society.”