EQUAL rights campaigners in York say they will NOT be silenced by a backlash against plans to launch an anti-racism strategy in the city.

York-based campaign group Inclusive Equal Rights UK (IERUK) says it received ‘racist and threatening responses’ on social media after details of a five-year anti-racism strategy for the city were unveiled last week.

The strategy, recommended for approval by senior York councillors on Thursday with the aim of making York the ‘first city in the North of England to be anti-racist and inclusive’, is based on data collected by researchers at IERUK alongside a qualitative study by academics from York St John University.

Announcing details of the strategy last week, IERUK chair Haddy Njie said: “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.”

But the strategy sparked a backlash over the weekend, with several national newspapers picking up the story.

One tabloid ran an article headlined: “Outrage as city of York is branded a place of ‘casual, systemic and structural racism’ in study funded by Labour council”- despite the fact the report was commissioned under the previous Liberal Democrat/ Green administration and supported by all parties.

IERUK said its social media platforms were bombarded with racist responses in the aftermath.

READ MORE: York bid to be first North of England city to be anti-racist

Comments included: 'Yet you hate white people sooo much'; 'Presumably this is code for ethnically cleansing York of white people'; and 'We will not let you re-write our history for the benefit of Africans who are relative newcomers'.

Haddy said staff at IERUK had reported several far worse racist comments directed at her personally.

York Press: Haddy NjieHaddy Njie (Image: Lorne Campbell Guzelian)

She said: “We are disappointed and dismayed about some of the abusive responses we have had to the publication of the report.

“We would like to make it very clear; we are not saying that all of the people of York are racist or that York is a racist city. But our evidence-based research has demonstrated that the city has some serious issues of casual and systemic racism.

“It is also important to say that we have received a great deal of support from many people and organisations in York, as well as the acknowledgement that these issues exist and need to be addressed.”

She strongly defended the study’s research data, which she said was based entirely on official sources, and which asserts that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups in York are under-represented on the city council and in the police, and yet massively over-represented when it comes to issues like stop and search.

One national tabloid accused IERUK of distorting the figures by including non-British white people in the BAME category.

But Haddy insisted that the BAME category DOES include both non-white people and white people from an ethnic minority, such as traveller communities, white Irish and ‘white other’ (including, for example, east Europeans).

All these groups could experience discrimination, she said.

She said IERUK had expected a ‘reasoned, constructive challenge’ to its report. “But not this level of hatred that we have seen.”

But she remained defiant.

“We are not going to be silenced when we know that we are right,” she said.

The five-year anti-racism strategy expected to be approved by the city council’s Executive on Thursday includes an anti-racism pledge.

This commits the council – all of whose 47 elected councillors are white - to analyse data to understand barriers facing BAME employees, and to increase representation of BAME employees.

City council leader Cllr Claire Douglas said: “When this issue was first discussed at City of York’s October 2021 council meeting, it received unanimous support from across the political spectrum.

“It was about acknowledging some of our residents and visitors experience racism, and talked about constructive ways to tackle the problem. It therefore saddens me to hear that those volunteering their own time to carry out this work have been the targets of racist abuse.

“York is a friendly and welcoming city. The IERUK report focusses constructively on areas where the city can improve to become more inclusive. As council leader, I... welcome it in helping make the council more representative of the communities it serves.”

Cllr Chris Steward, leader of the Conservative group on the council, accepted that all sitting councillors were white, but denied that York was in any way a racist city.

And he questioned the value of the IERUK report – and of the planned anti-racism strategy.

“It will have cost thousands of pounds,” he said. “And will there really be benefits for the people of York?”