UK (York St John University) Academics partner on strategy for York to become the first anti-racist city in the North of England

Academics from the Institute for Social Justice at York St John University have worked in partnership with campaign group Inclusive Equal Rights UK (IERUK) to develop a five-year strategy to help York become the first anti-racist city in the north of England.

IERUK works to create and maintain safe and inclusive spaces for all members of the community, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability. They have operated out of the Enterprise Centre on our Lord Mayor’s Walk campus since their launch in October 2022.

The five-year strategy is a response to quantitative data collected by IERUK from council, schools, higher education, policing, healthcare, social care, housing, government agencies and the private sector.

Dr Steven Hirschler and Dr Cíntia Silva Huxter from York St John University conducted a qualitative study of people’s interactions with health, education, and policing services. These preliminary findings shared with IERUK have been incorporated into the strategy.

Haddy Nije, Chair of IERUK, said: “This work matters because the data widely documents that racism in York is casual, systemic, and structural. It is manifested in many forms that disproportionately and negatively impacts the lives and livelihood of people of colour.”

IERUK’s initial data research show that York City Council is entirely white and the York contingent of North Yorkshire Police has less than 10 minority ethnic police officers.

Police stop and search data shows that black residents have approximately 90 times more stop and search rates as white residents. Those of Asian or Asian British background are 18 times more likely to be stopped than white people.

In the health sector, just 5% of the 734 staff at the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Mental Health Trust, the second largest health organisation serving York, are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. None of its senior managers in the York area are BAME, even though evidence shows that people of colour overwhelmingly use the mental health services more than any other racial groups.

In 2022, hate crime incidents in the North Yorkshire Police force area exceeded 1000 for the first time. Approximately, two-thirds were race-related hate crimes.

Matthew Reason, Director of the Institute for Social Justice at York St John University, said: “York St John University is committed to addressing inequalities, injustices and challenges facing society today and we are proud to have provided research that has helped IERUK to develop this important strategy. Tackling systemic racism requires a sustained, collaborative approach. We hope this five-year plan provides a solid foundation for our city to become more inclusive and equitable for everyone.”

The working group of IERUK, made up of members of York’s different communities, identified key areas of concern to develop a plan of action to address institutional racism and unconscious bias, promote cultural diversity and inclusion, and improve access to education and employment opportunities for marginalised groups.

Key initiatives of the strategy include asking public and private sector employers to sign an Anti-Racist Pledge, targeted outreach programs for underrepresented communities, the establishment of a racial equity commission to review city policies, and the implementation of unconscious bias training for all city employees.

The City of York Council who funded the work has welcomed the strategy and pledged to work closely with York St John and IERUK to implement its recommendations.

Councillor Katie Lomas, City of York Council’s Executive Member for Finance, Performance, Major Projects and Equalities, said: “We very much value the work done by IERUK, and the independence that they bring to this work. We recognise the challenges for organisations across the city of ensuring a genuinely anti-racist environment, and we are happy to restate our commitment to becoming the North’s first Anti-Racist city.

“We would encourage people and businesses across the city to consider how they can support that ambition.”

The motion to be the North’s first anti-racist city, emulating Brighton, and Oxford, was approved by all City of York councillors in October 2021; it was put forward by the chair of IERUK, Haddy Nije.

The five-year anti-racism strategy launches on Thursday 6 July, and is available on the City of York Council and IERUK websites.

We encourage partners across the city to sign the anti-racist pledge.

Photographer credit, Lorne Campbell Guzelian Media.