A Public Response from Wac Arts
Like many months over the last year, April was a challenging one for ethnic minority groups in the UK. The UK government’s report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, the police response to Richard Okorogheye’s disappearance, Stephen Lawrence’s anniversary and the George Floyd verdict all serve as stark reminders of the everyday racism and realities that face too many of us in the UK.
The report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities in particular can only be described as extremely disappointing and highly damaging to the fight against racism. More than that, the report becomes the latest in assaults on ethnic minorities contributing to the headlines that are neither hopeful or healing, with the only conclusion being that the UK has a long way to go before racial harmony, equality and justice are normalised.
Whatever the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities states, there is no doubt that institutional racism exists in the UK – the very way in which the report was commissioned, authored and published is evidence of this. As are recent failures of the state such as Windrush and the Grenfell Tower – the enquiries into both concluded institutional racism was present. So in the very strongest possible terms, we at Wac Arts reject the conclusions of the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and wish to let you know that we will do everything in our power to ensure that this charity does not contribute to the challenges facing ethnic minorities.
The creative sector unfortunately does not escape criticism with the Arts Council1 finding ethnic inequalities to be prevalent and persistent. A high-profile example was shared this month by the Bridgerton actor Regé-Jean Page who was rejected for a role because he is Mixed Race. With everyday racism so widespread and harmful, the last thing any of us want to see is our government denying the existence of the structural and institutional racism that has permeated through this country, largely as a result of its colonial past.
Structural racism presents many challenges in all aspects of life, one of which is the lack of diversity in leadership positions. Despite this, we are proud to say for the first time in Wac Arts’ history we have a leadership team, in the Chair, Chief Executive and Vice-Chair who are ethnic minorities. And this means that we understand the pain of reading news that diminishes the lived experiences of so many of us.
With our lived experience and our track records for working towards racial equality and dismantling the barriers that ethnic minorities face, along with the rest of the board who have placed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at the top of their agendas, we bring a new energy to Wac Arts to increase diversity in a way that has never been present in the charity. As such, you can be confident that Wac Arts is a haven, one where ethnic minority groups are welcomed, celebrated and supported. You can be assured that every decision we make is from a place of solidarity with all of you who face everyday racism. This is why, we are doing lots of firsts at Wac Arts – EDI is now an agenda item at every board meeting, the board and the Senior Leadership team is undergoing unconscious bias training and we are developing an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion working group whose only remit will be to examine and advise on diversity issues and who will be at the core of all decision-making at Wac Arts.
All of us can do better when it comes to advancing equality and removing the obstacles that ethnic minorities face. We believe our role at Wac Arts is an important one where we can and will go further, always challenging ourselves to be better allies and leaders of change.
We’ll continue to conduct surveys and engagement with you, so we can understand who makes up the very many diverse communities that participate in Wac Arts. The more we understand about who you are, the more we can ensure the work we do more effectively serves and empowers you. In the first instance, if there is anything you would like to share with us be that ideas or suggestions for how we can improve diversity at Wac Arts, then please do contact us via Feedback@WacArts.co.uk – being better allies starts with listening, and our doors are always open.
At Wac Arts we are allies to ethnic minorities everywhere. Whilst the UK report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities may have felt like a step backwards, your involvement and our actions will always be a step forward. Wac Arts is a place to celebrate young people, to provide new tools and skills for the future, to create opportunities that might not otherwise have been available, lifechanging support, lifelong empowerment. No report from the government will ever change that.
So for any of you who may feel underrepresented, undervalued and overlooked, know that at Wac Arts we hear you and we support you – you have a home to feel safe and treated with the dignity and respect and equality that you deserve.
Justina Cruickshank, Chair
Darius Khwaja, Chief Executive
1 Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case, A Data Report, 2017-2018