Having read the words of my colleague Jenny at Bristol Courses I wanted to put pen to paper, so to speak. This is a personal message from myself supported by the Community Learning team in response to the ongoing protests.
I pretty much hit the jackpot in terms of privilege. I’m a middle class, middle income, middle aged white man. In spite of this I grew up unaware of that privilege. I was in a working class family and times were not always easy and I was aware of the inherent unfairness of our society when it comes to class.
Working for Community Learning has been life changing. I have had the true privilege of meeting hundreds of people from more varied backgrounds than I could ever have imagined. We are incredibly lucky in Bristol to have a large population of people from other countries. It is astonishing how many of these highly qualified immigrants are happy to work hard in low paid jobs whilst working to improve their English and all the while suffering horrible, casual, racism. The fact that many of these people have fled war torn countries that we, as a country, had a hand in creating has only heightened my angst and guilt over their treatment. Not only are these people not represented in positions of power but neither are people from the poorer wards of our city. We have thousands of people suffering in poverty through multi generational unemployment whether white or black. We need to represent these people and give them a voice.
Only in the last few years have I had occasion to realise how lucky and privileged I am to be able to feel guilty about the crimes committed by my country. I feel that the best I can do is to be aware of all of the times I haven’t spoken out or done more and aim to try harder in the future.
Like many people who live in comfort, it is never pleasant to see violent clashes on the streets or acts of vandalism. I feel that we must remember this violence is sometimes the only language that has been left to the under-represented and a minority do express their anger in this way. If we continually ignore those we claim to represent we must not be surprised when they take matters into their own hands to resolve issues we have left for decades.
So, although I feel proud of the work we do in the council, we care and we truly want to change but it clearly isn’t enough and we must do more. We must all pledge to work harder to represent and reflect our community.