It's time to root out racism, one weed at a time - YEP Editor Laura Collins

There was something special in the air as the Three Lions were on a roll during their Euro Cup campaign.

Monday, 23rd August 2021, 4:45 am
Leeds United have been vocal in their stance about no room for racism in society. Pic: PA Wire

Everyone came together for a common cause to help roar the young England team on as they started to head towards the finals.

It was the furthest the team had progressed in an international campaign for the first time for those of a certain age.

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Spirits were high and the country was left running on adrenaline as the nail-biting penalty shoot out would determine the team’s fate.

Sadly it wasn’t to be but that’s when the mood of a nation was left soured by the actions of a mindless minority.

Online abuse was soon swiftly hurled across the social media battlefield at three Black players Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

The English Football Association, FIFA, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince William all came together to issue solidarity statements to condemn the abusive behaviour of certain people online.

Yet despite over the last year racism being highlighted through the local, national and international headlines it demonstrated that we still have a long way to go.

What this shocking display of abuse exposed was there are still deep societal fractures that are going to take more than a sticking plaster to heal once and for all.

Leeds prides itself on being a richly diverse and multicultural city - let’s not forget it was honoured as a City of Sanctuary.

Yet today civic leaders still admit that despite our best efforts we live in a “structurally racist” society and more work needs to be done to remove barriers. That is why dozens of organisations have joined forces to sign a new anti-racism pledge to look at rooting out discrimination.

Health and political leaders say the pledge is needed due to institutional racism in the UK – often a structural and unconscious bias against those from minority ethnic backgrounds.

The deputy leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Jonathan Pryor, used examples such as school leadership and apprenticeships where more needs to be done to give an equal chance to BAME individuals.

And the pledge states that it is “everybody’s business” and we all have a role in challenging racism wherever we find it.

At the heart of the pledge is to ensure we are all having the challenging conversations about what we can do to not only eradicate racism and discrimination but to support those who have also bore the brunt of abuse over the years.

Sadly for many people living in Leeds this isn’t something new - it is a deep-rooted sense of discrimination faced down through the generations.

Cultural change takes time and changing attitudes isn’t something that will happen overnight.

But we need to make sure we are seeing actions and not just more empty words.

The calls to root out racism are not new and despite the best intentions it is still shocking to see abuse hitting the headlines as in the case of the Euros.

We all have a role to play in making sure we root out racism once and for all - one little weed at a time.

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