The Welsh way of woke

Wales has an established church again: the religion of “anti-racism”

Artillery Row

Wales, where I am proud to work and whose ordinary people I like enormously, boasts a self-righteous if undistinguished devolved administration that presides over relative poverty, lacklustre educational attainment and some pretty dodgy NHS services. But never fret. When it comes to important matters (such as ensuring by 2030 the Principality can preen itself for its anti-racist zeal), an official report out this week makes it clear that Mark Drakeford’s government is mustard-keen.

The Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan makes interesting reading. The main thing you have to understand is that anti-racism Welsh-style isn’t simply a matter of equal opportunities, or non-discrimination. On the contrary: once you get through the flatulent pseudo-academic bureaucrat-speak it is mostly couched in, you will see that this is full-on theory-based, university-approved equal outcomes stuff. If we don’t agree then we are, in the words of Peter Simple’s Dr Heinz Kiosk, all guilty.

Racism is defined as if it were some physical microbe

We are solemnly told, for example, that racial disparities in Wales are not simply contingent facts with any number of possible empirical explanations. Whatever the ordinary benighted Welsh person on Stryd Fawr may think, the official government line is that they conclusively indicate deep-seated institutional racism as defined in the 1999 Macpherson report. All BAME, or Black and Minority Ethnic, Welsh people have a “collective experience of racism”. (Whether, say, an Indian and a Somali in Cardiff would agree with this is unclear, but let that pass for now.) We, moreover, are in mortal danger of condoning this experience unless we actively rid our minds of processes, attitudes or behaviours, however colour-blind, which in fact lead to disadvantageous outcomes for minority ethnic groups.

The exercise in re-education goes on. The racism to be eliminated is defined as if it were some physical microbe with a life of its own: it has, it is said, mutated from meaning prejudice to — you guessed it — behaviours and institutions that go to make up this new-model institutional racism. QED. 

If, like the majority of Welsh urbanites and almost all country-dwellers, you are white (sorry, White), your job is to be an active “ally” — that is, a respectful but slightly subservient coadjutor — to minority communities. Indeed, you were probably prejudiced against anyone non-white from the age of four and, as ex hypothesi you were also a possessor of power (no, me neither), guilty from then on of helping oppress them. You must atone by accepting their “lived experience”, especially when that indicates that they are the victims of the new racism. The government for its part must apply identity politics to its anti-racist efforts and never be satisfied unless representatives of minority groups give them the thumbs-up.

And, of course, while happy to promote the idea of a distinct Welsh culture, different from that east of the Severn, the report also advocates aggressive multi-culturalism, with respect for, and incorporation of, the large numbers of different “vibrant cultures and thriving languages” deriving from its racial minorities. Again, it’s not entirely clear how these ambitions mesh. Perhaps it’s something to do with the government’s expressed worry about the small number of non-white Welsh speakers (something one imagines no-one else, apart perhaps from language pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith, gives a hoot about); but that too we can leave to another day.

If this were the limit of the document, there would not be much to worry about. It’s not difficult to attack its insistence on resuscitating racial identity politics; its almost religious acceptance of a rather doubtful institutional racism; its approach to racism as a word that academics and bureaucrats can, like Humpty Dumpty, give any meaning to they please; and the use of a warmed-up version of French postmodernist ideas that our political positions merely reflect the distribution of some disembodied collective notion of “power”. Indeed many writers on the culture wars, such as Douglas Murray and Helen Pluckrose, have made these points better than I ever could.

Unfortunately, there are also plans to apply these ideas in a concrete way, in a fashion that if taken seriously has the potential to do serious harm to the Welsh body politic.

Take the Welsh civil service. Every senior manager will have to adopt an active anti-racist performance objective. Public employment policies will have to take account of “expert consultancy support with appropriate lived experience” and be ”explicitly anti-racist”. And there is a plan for — let’s not beat about the bush — old-fashioned quotas, with a target of 20 per cent of employees to be chosen on the basis of skin colour until the workforce is seen to be racially representative. The Welsh people already have very mediocre public services; they can do without their civil servants facing yet further distractions from their real jobs and a further layer of political micro-management.

In other words, appoint teachers with one eye on their pigmentation

Education is another worry. The Curriculum for Wales, mandatory in all state schools, would have to include an explicitly racial element, namely “the teaching of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and contributions”. Teacher training would become politicised, under a requirement to develop “anti-racist professional learning resources to support the teaching of the new curriculum”, and to support increased numbers of non-white teachers. So too with further education, where there is a plan to “revise the current FE curriculum to embed anti-racist principles and develop a revised curriculum in co-construction”. Perhaps most worrying, universities would risk having have their funds cut off unless they agreed to abide by Universities UK’s Race Equality Charter — a disturbingly political and controversial document. They must also “review existing recruitment policies and procedures through an anti-racist lens” (in other words, appoint and promote university teachers with one eye on their pigmentation or their views on racial equality). Parents: you have been warned.

It continues. On culture, any body receiving public funds would have to “adhere to performance requirements for anti-racism”; any public body would have to have a working environment “highly inclusive and anti-racist, including anti-racism training as a core component of professional learning and development”; and any supported museums would have to “tell stories through the lens of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people’s experiences (past and present)”. 

On health, there is approval of an initiative from Cardiff University’s medical school on “coproducing anti-racist curricular and culture changes informed by lived experiences” (again, me neither), and a requirement on all NHS boards and trusts to appoint “executive equality champions” and implement a “leadership and progression pipeline plan for BAME staff”. Pity if your operation is put off because the money for it is being spent on promoting a leadership pipeline plan: but it’s all in a good cause, don’t you know.

If an elected government insists on producing and acting on a report that reads like an essay from a further education student told that they will gain maximum marks according to the number of mentions they make of “anti-racist”, “lived experience” and other buzz-phrases, that is its right. But it is also the business of the people of Wales to read that report and note the curious things their administration is doing in their name. If you live in Wales, you should perhaps file a copy of this screed carefully against the next Senedd election in 2026. In four years’ time it might just give you some inspiration about where to put your crosses.

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