Oxford City Council is today launching an Anti-Racism Charter aimed at tackling the systemic racism that affects many people across our city.
This builds on the motion agreed by Full Council on 9th August 2019, for Oxford to become an Anti-Racist city.
Oxford is one of the first cities in the UK that is bringing together definitions on Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia & Anti-black racism in one place and to adopt them in full in an Anti-Racist Charter. This will embody a commitment between leaders, stakeholders and communities to practically work towards making Oxford an anti-racist city.
Oxford is a diverse city, with approximately 22% of the population from non-white or mixed race background in the 2011 census. In launching the Charter, the Council recognises the importance of developing an environment within which people can have sometimes difficult conversations of what it means to be anti-racist. In doing so, this will support all communities, but particularly ethnic minorities, faith groups and people of colour to have fairer opportunities in life and fulfil their potential free from discrimination in Oxford.
What anti-racism means for Oxford
The Charter outlines the principles of anti-racism, and each signatory commits to undertaking practical actions to achieve this. Signatories will include councils, universities, schools, businesses and individuals who will pledge to help build a city, free of racism, and that advances equality of opportunity. For the city to fulfil its potential, it is imperative that all sections of the community live and work in a safe environment that enables people to thrive. That is why the principle of “city of sanctuary” has been included in this charter.
Why an Anti-Racist Charter?
Although racism does happen individually, it often happens institutionally too, affecting the life opportunities of those impacted. The consequence of this can be wide-ranging; the evidence in terms of life outcomes for ethnic minorities and people of colour is clear for all to see. The current pandemic has shone a light on the disproportionate impact of policies on the health, housing and working lives of ethnic minorities and people of colour.
In developing the Charter the City Council invited a number of community organisations, activists, and people of colour that have lived experience of racism. Seven focus groups were held with representatives from diverse backgrounds and people of faith and no faith too. The ‘lived experience of racism’ has ensured that the definitions and principles within the charter reflect the issues that need to be tackled in the city. The Council is clear that this charter is the beginning of a conversation, and the charter will need to evolve over time to ensure that year on year progress is being made.
Digital launch event
An online launch event will be held at 11am on Friday 30th October to celebrate the City’s adoption of the Anti-Racism Charter. The event includes presentations from Council Leader Susan Brown, Councillor Shaista Aziz, Race and Equalities Champion, Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities, a music performance from young people in Oxford and official recognition of the signatories of the new charter. Representatives from schools, universities, businesses and communities will formally sign up to the charter at the event.
A link to the livestreamed event will be made available on our Facebook page or directly on YouTube.
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.
We want to start to have those important but difficult conversations about what racism is and how it is expressed and experienced. Only then can we begin to address it effectively. To make sure the conversation continues we will reaffirm our commitment every year.
“By signing the charter, organisations are committing to take action, so that together we can tackle racism in all areas of life. We look forward to working with institutions and individuals from across the city to make Oxford the best place to live, work and grow up in that we possibly can.
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council
For Oxford to become a truly anti-racist city a lot of hard and uncomfortable work has to be undertaken by everyone - because anti-racism is work everyone needs to do and own. There must be no hierarchy of racism.
Racial justice is social justice, we are seeing this more clearly than ever with the Covid-19 crisis and the disproportionate deaths of black people and ethnic minorities across the country. It is only correct that the council states its clear intent to action and embed anti-racism in all its functions and the council opens an ongoing dialogue with the residents of Oxford. This is what is being launched today in the form of this charter. Today is about starting a conversation not concluding a conversation. As Oxford City Council’s Race and Equalities Champion, I look forward to seeing this work evolve and working to ensure a plurality of voices and representation comes through. Anti-racism work belongs to everyone.
Councillor Shaista Aziz, Race and Equality Champion
For this city to fulfil its potential, it is imperative that all sections of the community live and work in a safe environment that enables them to thrive.
Doreen Lawrence has, in her Review published this week, made a powerful rallying cry to end structural racism. Our Charter is an important step in collectively committing to doing this, to being proactive, in making Oxford an anti-racist city. We hope organisations and institutions across the Oxford will join us and sign it.
Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities
City Council commitments
Oxford City Council has made the following commitments as its actions to support the Charter’s principles:
- Every October we will review this Charter, review the definitions and reaffirm our commitment to be an Anti-Racist city.
- Every year we will showcase the talent and achievements of ethnic minorities and people of colour across the city – at awards ceremonies, through arts and cultural events, exhibitions and storytelling conversations.
- In the first year of the Charter we will launch an Oxford specific Anti-Racist City Quality Mark that organisations and community groups can download and incorporate in their stationery, after they have signed and committed to the principles set out in this Charter.