Mohammad Asghar MS: “I would have expected and hoped the world had moved on from the days of direct and violent racism, and it saddens me to say, this is not the case”
News, Opinion | Mohammad Asghar | Published: 17:39, Wednesday June 17th, 2020.
Last updated: 10:10, Thursday June 18th, 2020
Mohammad Asghar was the first ethnic minority member of the Welsh Assembly, which is now the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru.
Representing the South East Wales region, which includes Caerphilly County Borough, the Conservative politician recently penned this article for Caerphilly Observer in the days before his sudden and unexpected death.
The past week has been incredibly emotional and heartbreaking for citizens across the world.
The death of George Floyd has triggered a movement that no-one could have predicted.
It saddens me to see and hear the stories coming from America of innocent citizens being brutally assaulted and killed, even innocent joggers like Ahmaud Arbery are not safe whilst going for a jog.
I despise the term BAME. I do not believe that it makes much sense and would prefer that the world referred to ‘people of colour’ as just that.
There has been a lot of unfair and unjust cases being brought against people of colour and for a long time this behaviour was considered the ‘norm.’
Being 2020, I would have expected and hoped the world had moved on from the days of direct and violent racism, and it saddens me to say, this is not the case.
Racism does exist, call it ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’, in places of work, in places of worship, educational institutions and even everyday life.
I have experienced racism at times through my life, from being made to add up all of the numbers in the yellow pages as part of a job interview, to washing my then bosses car. A task no one else was asked to do.
I was the first politician in the Welsh Assembly to defect from one party to another due to a number of reasons, but the primary reason was racism. To date no-one has ever asked me about it. There have been a number of theories about it.
But not one single journalist has sat me down and asked me, ‘why did you really do it?’
The struggles people of colour experience is not only unpleasant but it’s heartbreaking for someone like me, who is over 70 and was under the impression that, with the advancement of technology and science, people’s mentality would have changed as well.
In no way am I saying ‘the whole wide world is racist’ – not at all. It’s only because prejudicial behaviours and actions are being filmed and brought to our attention via social media that people from all countries, backgrounds, and faiths are seeing the realities of the experiences that people of colour go through.
As a parent I hoped that the world would be more welcoming and open to my child.
A British-born Asian, a person with a neutral accent, an education and even a hard-working attitude.
Like so many immigrant parents I worked hard to send my child to the best school and university to have what every parent wants for their child – a great start in life.
But the discrimination she experiences due to her skin colour and the child of a politician is beyond comprehension. I will never forget the two days that she called me in tears on the phone.
The first was after she went to the biggest British television network and met the head of entertainment. It was at this interview she was told ‘we only want celebrities, or children/Godchildren of the DG,’ and ‘why would you want to work for us? When you have channels like ZEE TV,PTV etc for people like you.’
Brokenhearted she went on. Like many, she struggled and eventually hosted her own daily chat show on the very same ZEE TV that was looked down upon by said network.
She worked hard, got enough experience behind her that most presenters would never have and she went on to do that successfully for years. Even now, her experience is not considered by the ‘mainstream’ because of the colour of her skin.
As with most front of screen media jobs, I discovered that those jobs are not advertised, unless there is a specific quota to be filled. They are filled by word of mouth, recommendations and more importantly who you know rather than what you know.
After five or six years she asked a connected friend to recommend her for a job as a presenter on the Radio. Her media friend called her to tell her that ‘they think you are great. But they think you are too political because your father is a politician and they don’t want any drama because of that.’
It’s the first time that I saw with my own eyes how my British-born and educated child lost faith in equality. That made me very sad as a parent and as a human.
I chose to enter politics because I wanted to make a change and see a change within British politics.
Having worked as an accountant in my own practice for years, I became a councillor and within a couple of years a Member of the Welsh Assembly, now the Welsh Parliament.
It was my desire to follow the lines of Gandhi and ‘be the change that I wanted to see in the world.’
Even when I entered the Assembly no-one expected me to, and three terms later, many still question how I got there? I hoped more people of colour would be inspired to become politicians in Wales. But when I meet and see people I am often told ‘we cannot handle the amount of flak that you have faced. We want a peaceful and simple life.’
It’s true, I have experienced times of inequality which none of my other colleagues experience nor will ever have to face. None of them can possibly understand the hurdles I have had to jump over to keep my job and no-one can even begin to comprehend the levels of discrimination and hardship my family have experienced due to simply being my wife and child and supporting me.
I adore Wales and always have. I wish to see it develop to be on a par with London and Scotland when it comes to its economy, education, health care and skills.
I see, hear and understand the desire for equality coming from people across the country.
I have and will continue to support freedom of speech and protest, but I was rather taken aback that the protests that took place this weekend [June 6 and 7].
We have spent the past three months battling the coronavirus, which has resulted in the passing of so many people across the globe.
We are still not out of the woods and my biggest fear was the spread of it once again resulting in an increase in the ‘R Rate’ and increased pressure on the NHS staff – who have been working tirelessly with great dedication to eradicate this virus and help those still infected.
I can never support violence, vandalism and antisocial behaviour resulting in damage to property and looting that we are seeing all over our news channels.
It does not set a good example. It is criminal behaviour and will never achieve positive results. To achieve a positive change we have to ensure change is brought about peacefully and properly.
Racism should not be seen as a ‘topic of the day’ or an issue that makes executives roll their eyeballs.
Many people, businesses and organisations are waking up to the injustices that have taken place and are taking place towards people of colour. It is each individual’s responsibility to accept that injustices have taken place and we must now work together to bring about positive social change together.
Hand-in-hand we can do this. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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