Brighton & Hove City Council pledge to be an anti-racist council

Speaking ahead of global protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the council’s lead councillor for equalities, Councillor Carmen Appich today gives her commitment to becoming an anti-racist council. 

Councillor Appich also sets out a clear set of actions as a starting point and asks for peaceful and safe protests in Brighton & Hove this weekend. She said:

“Following our promise earlier this week to review all plaques, monuments, statues and street names on public land to ensure that we’re celebrating legacies that reflect our city’s values. I will be taking a statement to a meeting of all councillors which commits Brighton & Hove City Council to becoming an anti-racist council. 

“This will go much further than ensuring we are fair and inclusive as an employer and public service provider. 

“This is about recognising who does and doesn’t have privilege and how those with privilege can use their power and influence to enable silenced or ignored voices to be heard, remove barriers, and ensure opportunities are open to all, so that everyone gets to live a full life free from discrimination and harm. 

“This council must amplify its actions and commit itself to action for the long-term.”

We will:

  • Reach out to and work with BME communities to create and deliver an anti-racism strategy
  • Focus on supporting BME businesses through council procurement and encouraging local support
  • Work collectively with other public bodies especially the Police on challenging each other to improve diversity and eradicate racism in our organisations

Working with BME communities

“As a predominantly white council we must recognise what we don’t know, what we don’t experience and see. We need to openly discuss the language we use and understand what different words mean to different people. 

“We can empathise with our BME residents and work with them to make things better and challenge ourselves. Therefore, they must have a voice in decisions that affect their lives, and this should be a direct voice as well as through representation and consultation. 

“We should also be mindful that many BME residents have already told us of the challenges and barriers they face – we want to work with BME residents, but it shouldn’t be just their fight.” 

We will:

  • Ensure a BME representative sits on the council’s main decision-making committee (Policy & Resources)
  • Create and deliver a civic leadership programme aimed at increasing participation in local decision making within under represented communities
  • Improve our collaboration with BME communities
  • Resource BME groups to have stronger voices and influence
  • Educate councillors and officers on white privilege, on language and structural racism

Black Lives Matter

“We must recognise that as a Georgian town our wealth and comfort is built on the sugar trade and enslavement. We pride ourselves on being a leading city on diversity and a place of sanctuary where people from all backgrounds can call home. 

“We can’t be blinkered to the fact that moving around the city our BME residents see memorials to historic racism and oppression. We will not sweep this under the carpet. 

“We need to recognise and educate ourselves and our visitors. As a major UK tourist destination, we can influence and educate many.”

We will:

  • Work with BME communities and groups to agree our approach to different statues, plaques and street names; removing some, retaining some and erecting educational information boards and/or walks.
  • Celebrate the legacies which fully reflect the city’s values and population

Black Lives Matter protests

“We’re calling for peaceful protests this weekend – similar to those we saw last year on climate change.

“If you’re protesting – and we fully support the right to protest – please maintain safe physical distancing and take the right precautions to keep your family and community safe from Covid-19. 

“We advise avoiding public transport if possible, washing your hands before leaving home and when you return, keeping a physical distance of two metres from people outside of your household, and staying home if you or someone in your household has symptoms of Covid-19. Wearing a face covering could also help protect others.

“As a white woman, I can empathise, discuss and inform myself, but I have no lived experience, so can never fully understand what impact statues of people like Edward Colston have on people whose ancestors were enslaved.

“Some may be against the action taken in Bristol by people last weekend to forcibly remove Colston’s statue, but I think it’s understandable and is a result of the abject failure of the systems in place and the lack of discussion about statues associated with any form of oppression and bigotry.

“I ask people not to target monuments or memorials in Brighton & Hove this weekend and to trust us to take any appropriate action following discussions to review all plaques, monuments, statues and street names on public land, with our communities.

“These discussions aren’t about ‘re-writing / changing history’, this is about ensuring that values associated with freedom are reflected in our city not oppression and bigotry.

“It is important to remember our history. We are not erasing history. We must acknowledge the contribution the sugar trade played in the growth of the city.

“But this is a history to be studied and learnt from, not to celebrate.”