Liberal Democrats, the largest opposition party on Kent County Council, today put forward a motion against racism.
The Liberal Democrat motion said:
- a) is mindful of the recent death of George Floyd in the United States and of the demonstrations that followed;
- b) is aware of the depth of public concern expressed during recent weeks in Britain about ingrained institutional racism directed against non-white persons; and
- c) is conscious of the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on black and minority ethnic residents.
Therefore, this Council places on record its unequivocal support for BAME people in Kent. In particular, this Council re-affirms its commitment to promoting equality, valuing diversity and combatting unfair treatment and all forms of racial injustice."
The proposer, Antony Hook, county councillor for Faversham, and his Liberal Democrat colleagues urged the Kent County Council to take this chance to make a stand against racism.
In his speech proposing the motion, Mr Hook said,
"Racism is a pernicious evil. It rests on a false belief that people of different skin colours or national origins or heritage can be pre-judged rather than judged as we all should be, on the content of our character and our actions as individuals.
"We know that explicit racism was once legal and practised openly just a few decades ago. Discrimination in work, a place to live or access to education. Outlawing racial discrimination has helped. But it continues as an experience for people in Kent and throughout the UK. There are people who will use derogatory, racial epithets.
"If you have non-white skin, there are people in positions of power who will, for example,
not invite you to a job interview,
tell you that house you wanted to rent has gone,
that the restaurant is fully booked.
"And this is not supposition. Research in academia and the media has proved this happens. Or some times it is violence, harassment or criminal damage. There were over 4000 hate crime recorded in Kent in 2018/19. An average of 12 per day. Many of my black colleagues at work have been stopped for no reason by police. Very few of my white colleagues have had that experience.
"Kent has seen the grotesque presence of small but explicitly racist groups like Tommy Robinson's EDL and BNP.
"Lately, Covid has had a disproportionate effect on black and ethnic minority Kent residents. The Office for National Statistics found then after accounting for factors like age and geography, black people are dying from Covid at a rate of 1.9 for every 1 white person. Research into why this is, is desperately needed, whether medical or social.
"Racism attacks the freedom of us all. Our lives benefit each other. Although I am white, if my neighbour, friend, relative, colleague or some future non-white descendant of mine has their life restricted on account of race, then my life, all our lives are restricted too.
"Across the world people are saying "Black Lives Matter" because parts of the state act as if they do not. The murder of George Floyd hit a nerve. People could relate to it. You do not need to say "All Lives Matter" because that ignores the issue in front of us. That racism is especially compromising the lives of black people and needs to be stopped.
"Defeating racism requires action, determination and resolve already taken and more in future. But when we say we are against racism that sends out a powerful message. It sends hope to the people who are suffering racism. Encouragement to change for others."
The Conservative Group, which holds a majority of sits on the Council put forward an amendment deleting every reference to black and ethnic minority people from the motion and removing the reference to institutional racism.
Every single Conservative present voted for the amendment.
Following the meeting, Antony Hook said,
"Kent residents will be shocked by the Conservative's actions today. We have to stand up to racism and they could not have watered down this motion more. A motion on racism amended not to refer to the people who suffer racism is absurd."
The people of Kent, who mostly oppose racism, have been badly let down by the council today and it just goes to show we badly need change in how and who runs Kent."
Ida Linfield added,
"I was delighted to second the Liberal Democrat motion, especially as it specifically referred to the appalling and tragic effect that Covid 19 has had on the BAME residents in Kent. To simply delete this section is a complete insult to all those who have died.
"Sadly, this doesn't seem to matter to the Tories at County Hall.
"Then to cap it all the Labour Group voted for the Tory motion!"