UNISON Councillors pledge to tackle racism in Gateshead

UNISON Councillors Catherine Davison and Paul Foy are very proud very proud that, Gateshead Councillor’s voted unanimously to support a motion calling for unequivocal action to end racism, xenophobia and hate crime in all its forms. There is no place in society for the discrimination which unfortunately is still too commonplace. We must all stand up and be counted, never turning a blind eye and calling out wrong whenever we see and hear it.

The continued rise of hate crime that we have seen over recent years in the North East is shameful. Figures from Northumbria Police show a 48% increase in recorded hate crimes in the 5 years to 2019. Fortunately, the charity Show Racism the Red Card exists to educate and inform.

UNISON was delighted to support and celebrate Wear Red Day last month with Gateshead staff  and across the region, not to mention the Mayor of Gateshead supporting the day, resplendent in her red robes!

Councillor Davison first encountered Show Racism the Red Card in 2004 as a new employee to school where they spent two days in school with all 1500 pupils and over 100 staff – She said “the difference in people after their session was palpable, and once she had got over the feeling of being completely starstruck at meeting Gary Bennett – one of my childhood football heroes, I very quickly realised the value and importance of their work and she has been a supporter ever since.”

Councillor Davison has seen first-hand in Birtley, the ward she represents, through the Local community Fund and the work done in the schools and local community, how vitally important their work continues to be.

Councillor Foy who also represents Birtley Ward has never been a victim of racism but was brought up in a family with a strong commitment to social justice and the common good. Councillor Foy said “I have always known that racism is wrong and that it must be called out.”

Unfortunately, many of our young people today don’t know this. Councillor Davison told Gateshead Councillors of an incident a few weeks ago on a school bus that some college students on the bus “had been horrid” to some of her son’s new friends, who just happen to be Polish, telling them to go home” and that they “shouldn’t be taking up seats on the bus for people who belong here.”

One of the boys went to move, keen to avoid confrontation and to try and get away from the racist bullies – these older students being college age 16-18 were picking on new year 7 pupils aged just 11. Her son told his friend not to move and that he had every right to be there, in fact more so because he wasn’t a vile racist. He told them he didn’t know why they had college lanyards on as they clearly didn’t have any education and that if you can’t learn to be kind to people then it’s pointless learning anything else.’ Councillor Davison said “I’m very proud of him”

None of us can have failed be horrified and moved by the testimony of Azeem Rafiq over the last few days, hearing how he thought his only way to escape the horrors of the racism he faced was to take his own life – thank God he didn’t and has had the courage to speak out, hopefully leading to more education and preventing others from suffering as he has.

We must, now, make sure that we do not let this moment go – that we hear first had from Show Racism the Red card and that more importantly we do everything we can to provide the resources needed to make sure that every child and young person in Gateshead can benefit from their education programme whilst in school. And that we take action to combat racism, xenophobia and hate crime at every opportunity.

UNISON congratulates Show Racism the Red Card for their 25 years continued work, in educating, informing, and supporting those who oppose and fight against racism, xenophobia and hate crime in all its forms.