There is no place for racism in our society, and Wokingham Borough Council has a long-standing commitment to tackling the problem and will be increasing its efforts in response to recent global events.
The borough has an active BME Forum that is supported to be a critical friend and advisor to the council and a strong voice for the black, Asian and minority ethnic community. This forum has been in place for about 18 years and is regularly consulted by the authority.
But in the light of the international outcry over the killing of George Floyd and the protests in the UK, the council is strengthening its commitment to tackle racism. The council will be wanting to hear from residents across the community about experiences of race and racism and also asking if there are any monuments, places or road names which cause offence.
Council leader John Halsall said: “We have a proud record of tackling racism through our work with the BME Forum and of celebrating the BAME community’s contribution to our society and history during the annual Black History Month events.
“But we recognise that, like others across the world, we can do even better and we are committed to doing so. We will do this with our established BME Forum and by listening to everybody in our community.”
Ramnik Saund, chair of the BME Forum, said: “The tragic slaying of the unarmed black American George Floyd by police in Minneapolis has once again raised the inequality and injustice that exists in society. This has provoked anger around the world. Wokingham BME Forum has worked in partnership with the Council to encourage the adoption of policies that treat everyone equitably, fairly and without discrimination.
“This sad event has created an urgency to act and the Forum is encouraged by the Council’s commitment to removing racism. It welcomes the initiative to remove such relics in public, which may cause offence to the heritage of BME communities. The Forum supports the Council in its endeavours to promote equality and remove racism. It is committed to working with the Council to achieve this.”
The council will work with the BME Forum to make sure it hears all voices and engages with the community and have created an online portal for people to give their experiences.
The comprehensive survey of black and minority ethnic people’s experiences of life in the borough will be used as a starting point to tackling the blight of racism head on.
The survey invites all people to share their experiences of race and community cohesion in the borough and detail any specific racist incidents.
We will use the information collected, with representatives of the BAME community and the Wokingham Black and Minority Ethnic Forum, to create a comprehensive action plan that will provide real change where necessary.
Cllr Parry Batth, vice-chair of the BME Forum, said: “The BME Forum has been a strong champion for the community for more than a decade and I know we will be able to work with it and other groups in the community to gather a wide range of experiences and views. We are particularly interested to know if there are any monuments, places or road names that cause offence so we can open up a proper debate on this issue.”