We must call out any racism for what it is and send a message that it has no place in Leeds - Laura Collins, YEP Editor

Conversations around race are difficult - but this must  not be a barrier that stops us from having them. In fact, it proves how much they are needed.

Saturday, 17th October 2020, 6:00 am
We believe in free speech and we should have the right to protect that. But there is a marked difference between free speech and freely spewing hate. Picture: PA

There is still a strong sense of injustice in society as racism and discrimination are as prevalent today as they ever were.

Leeds is a proudly diverse and multicultural city. It is home to more than 170 different ethnic groups with over 104 languages spoken and is rightly proud to hold the title of being a City of Sanctuary.

It’s a place of safety and security no matter where you live, your age, your gender and, most important of all, your ethnicity.

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Earlier this year, as part of Leeds City Council’s #8for8 initiative, civic leaders and Leeds sporting legends came together and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to end racism and discrimination.

It was a unifying voice in the face of the senseless death of George Floyd in the United States which sparked a much wider debate about the true extent of discrimination in our thriving 21st century city.

This great city pledged to play its role in tackling racism and discrimination, to challenge injustice and to create a fairer society.

It lit the blue touch paper to a debate around Black Lives Matter, but the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Eileen Taylor, told the Yorkshire Evening Post that all too often events like this are a “talking box and nothing gets done”.

And she speaks a truth from the heart. She doesn’t want to be just known as the city’s first black Lord Mayor, she wants to be celebrated for being a woman of power, no matter the colour of her skin.

But here we are six months on after the death of George Floyd and what has changed?

For the city of Leeds, it cannot be about holding tokenistic gestures around events such as Black History Month and then putting the issues back on hold again until next October.

Racism is an issue that is seen day in day out – and the Yorkshire Evening Post’s own Facebook page is no exception to this.

Quite frankly, some of the comments posted on the platform are nothing short of a disgrace. They are from a minority but the reverberations of their venomous words are felt loudly and widely.

Our journalists have been forced to delete, hide and rigorously monitor these comments as we continue to shine a spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement and try to facilitate debate over what should be done to tackle the issue of racism in modern day Leeds.

Our profanity filter includes hundreds of offensive words that have been manually inputted by the team as Facebook users continue to find outrageous ways to get around using nasty terms.

And we have been wielding the ‘ban hammer’ against any user that oversteps the line.

Yet platforms, like Facebook, and those who use them must also play their part in supporting publishers to deal with the onslaught of offensive comments. We cannot do this on our own.

Here we are in a vibrant progressive city like Leeds in the 21st century still discussing how we can get a grip on racism.

Our city has been renowned for leading the way on so many different things over the years – and the response to the ever changing threat of the pandemic is no exception.

We’ve seen thousands of people join together in a way like never before to support our most vulnerable residents when they needed it the most.

An army of volunteers was immobilised to make sure that nobody got left behind.

And we need to rally that collective spirit and ensure that our city comes together to fight racism head on.

Other cities should be following our lead to call this out for what it is. It’s wrong and it won’t be tolerated.

The Yorkshire Evening Post will not shy away from this. We take our responsibility as a trusted local news publisher seriously.

We believe in free speech and we should have the right to protect that. But there is a marked difference between free speech and freely spewing hate. As the Lord Mayor said: “We have to stop looking at each other as a colour – we are all different and should accept everyone”.

And the only way we can start to turn the tide is by continuing to call this out for what it is. It is wrong and we all have a role to play in keeping the conversation going so that we can collectively eradicate injustice for future generations who are proud to call Leeds their home.

The Call It Out campaign by the Yorkshire Evening Post was launched in July. It is sharing real life experiences of people from all walks of life who have encountered abusive online behaviour and asking our readers to help play their part in reporting it to account admins, social media platforms and, where needed, the police. The campaign was also highlighted by MP Holly Lynch in Parliament earlier this month.

A message from the Editor:

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