To mark Black History Month, Welsh Finance Minister Vaughan Gething writes about the actions of the Welsh Labour Government to tackle racism in the country.
As the end of Black History Month approaches, in Wales the learning will not stop.
That’s because in Wales, under a Welsh Labour Government, we are committed to teaching Black history all year with our new curriculum which ensures that the teaching of the histories of all Wales’ ethnic minority communities is mandatory in classrooms all over the country.
And those changes are only one part of our Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan, which threads anti-racism throughout the work we are doing in government.
But it is worth rewinding and understanding why this is so important and relevant to Wales.
Wales is home to some of the oldest migrant communities in Britain. Greeks, Norwegians, Yemenis and people from many more nationalities found work, friendship, and a home in Cardiff. In my constituency in Cardiff South and Penarth, the Docks became known the world over as a place where people of all races, faiths, and nationalities would be welcomed. It was, and remains, a truly diverse place – with over 50 languages and nationalities over not much more than one square mile. Our Somali community dates back well before the middle of the 19th century, with records of Somali weddings as early as 1833. Men and women who had fled from slavery in other parts of the world settled in Wales – including William A. Hall, a man who fled captivity in Tennessee and found his way to Cardiff, publishing his memoir from Bute Street in the Docks area.
But we have also been blighted with the racial injustice that people are familiar with across the UK.
The last man executed in Wales was Mahmood Mattan, a 28-year-old Somali man living in Cardiff. He was later found to be innocent.
The longest murder trial in British legal history at the time saw Tony Paris, Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi, John Actie and Ronnie Actie stand trial for the murder of a young woman in Cardiff. Paris, Miller and Abdullahi were convicted and jailed. John and Ronnie Actie were in jail for two years whilst the trial went on. They were all later found to be innocent when the real culprit, a white man, confessed to the murder.
And these high profile cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Flashpoints in our history that speak to a deeper problem that still exists today.
In 2020, nearly 75% of BAME people polled in Wales reported that they had suffered racist abuse. Black women are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. And in 2019, 63% of Black people were in employment compared to 76% of white people.
The causes of this sort of inequality and injustice are threaded into the fabric of Wales today by our past, and only by fully understanding that past can we unpick those threads.
Our new curriculum starts that job, teaching future generations an honest history of Wales’ relationship with Black people and all people of colour - from Wales’ active role as a beneficiary of the British Empire and the enslavement of Black people, to modern day Wales where we have a growing number of positive stories about Black achievement in the arts, business, sports and many other areas.
But we are going further.
Our Anti-Racist Wales Action plan has many actions but one goal: to create an anti-racist nation.
The actions we will take cover the whole span of Welsh society. They will include building ethnic minority leadership in the public and private sector, helping to develop role models across Wales, increasing access to the jobs market for ethnic minority job seekers, realising the ambition of making Wales a true Nation of Sanctuary, and ensuring workplaces, schools, and public services are inclusive environments for all people to thrive in.
This is, of course, a huge ambition. But it is one that can only be pursued with a Labour government like we have in Wales. It is a model not only for tackling racism, but inoculating society against it – a model that we can hope to build on with a Labour government across the UK.
Vaughan Gething is the Welsh Labour MS for Cardiff South and Penarth, and Minister for the Economy in Wales. He tweets at @vaughangething.
Cover image from Senedd Cymru, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.