Saturday 17 September sees the first all–Scotland Stand Up to Racism conference called ‘Confronting the Rise in Racism’. It is open to all who want to combat this key problem that disfigures our society. As austerity intensifies racism is being used to divide us and scapegoat innocent and often vulnerable people.
Since the EU referendum there has been a significant surge in reported hate crimes in Scotland and across the rest of Britain. At the same time we see racism and xenophobia on the increase elsewhere – with the populist, anti-immigrant presidential campaign of Donald Trump, the widespread police racism in the US inner cities and in the appalling mistreatment of refugees and asylum seekers here and across Fortress Europe. The latest outrage sees racist French politicians seek to deny Muslim women the right to wear the ‘burkini’ on Mediterranean beaches.
Here, the government ‘Prevent’ strategy and its Extremism Bill threaten our human rights and civil liberties. Yet there is growing opposition to these draconian measures – especially in the EIS teaching union. We have also seen growing resistance to the rise of racism and incredible outbursts of solidarity as hundreds of thousands of ordinary people stand with those fleeing war, terror and famine by initiating local aid and food collections.
Some leaders on both sides of the EU referendum campaign peddled racism and nationalism to create fear and division. There were also people on both sides who stood out against them. However people voted in the referendum, we now need to unite and fight austerity, stand up to anti-immigrant racism and show our solidarity with refugees and migrants.
In March this year, thousands demonstrated in Glasgow, London and Cardiff to mark UN anti-racism day and say ‘refugees are welcome here’. Similar events took place across Europe. Here we urgently need to build upon those successes. One way to do that is to campaign for both the Westminster and Holyrood governments to welcome more refugees to Scotland.
The Glasgow conference will bring together organisations, campaigns, community groups and individuals from across Scotland to discuss how together we tackle racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism; and how we defend civil liberties. The conference will be about building local organisation, practical activity and delivering solidarity and will elect a steering group to help assist in that. Racism can only be driven back by anti- racists standing up and confronting it.
Dave Sherry is a retired public sector housing worker. Still active in the Unite union, he is a long standing SWP member.