The Oxford City Council has launched an Anti-Racism Charter to contend with the “systemic racism” within the city.

The Charter defines Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Anti-black racism, while making a commitment to work towards making Oxford an Anti-Racist city. 

Three commitments are given as initial actions to be taken: an annual review of the Charter, showcasing the talent and achievements of ethnic minorities and people of colour, and launching an Anti-Racist City Quality Mark that groups can adopt after signing and committing to the principles within the Charter.

Preceding the Charter, the Oxford City Council has been working to tackle racism more actively for over a year, having pledged to make Oxford an Anti-Racist city in August 2019. This has been further supported by the Council adopting definitions of both Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism and deciding to become a City of Sanctuary by making a commitment to supporting asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

The Charter begins with the Council’s aim: “Our vision is: Collectively committed to being proactive, in making Oxford an anti-racist city.”

This is followed by statements promising to “have difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about what it means in practice to be anti-racist”, to recognise institutional racism, and to understand that racism includes “unconscious, unintentional and indirect actions”.

The Council adds: “Without understanding the root causes of racism and how it affects people we cannot dismantle the institutional structures which give rise to it.”

The Council involved individuals from different groups and people of colour who have lived experience of racism. Seven focus groups have also been held, where issues like suitable terminology were discussed.

Launched digitally, the celebration included presentations from Councillors, an Oxford youth music performance, and recognition of those who have signed the Charter. In a press release, the Council stated that “representatives from schools, universities, businesses and communities will formally sign up to the charter at the event”.

A coalition of societies to fight racism has criticised the City Council for not dealing with racism in the city.

It said: “Currently as a result of pressure from below all our major institutions are announcing anti-racist charters and race equality action plans. The obvious danger here is that without sustained pressure from the grass-roots demanding greater accountability to local communities what we get left with is rhetorical ethics, tokenism and symbolic representation.”

Councillor Susan Brown, leader of the City Council, said: “Oxford’s Anti-Racism Charter is a step forward to tackle issues associated with structural and institutional racism. By understanding these issues, why they exist, we have the opportunity to ensure we are a city that works for everyone. It’s a challenge for us all to do things better, to be just and fairer, and a commitment from some of our biggest institutions to go further to tackle racism.”

Image credit: SJPrice/ Pixabay

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