PROMOTING THE WELSH LANGUAGE AND RACE EQUALITY: NOT A MATTER OF “EITHER / OR”.

Dyfodol i’r Iaith has called for a national discussion on how to ensure that the needs of the Welsh language and racial equality can be harmonised and promoted. This is in response to the recent report on the opportunities provided by the Arts Council of Wales and the National Museum Wales for black people and people of colour.

In the press, particularly the English press, the report’s conclusions were reported as being an indictment of the Welsh language, as if language requirements are invariably a barrier to equality and diversity within these sectors.

Heini Gruffudd, Dyfodol’s Chair said:

“The press’s interpretation of this report was provocative and erroneous, suggesting that it is not possible for a black person or person of colour to speak or learn Welsh. We know, of course, that this suggestion is both offensive and nonsensical and that many more appropriate and flexible opportunities to learn the language are needed.

Promoting the Welsh language and ensuring racial equality is not a matter of choice or prioritisation; both must go hand in hand if the Welsh language is to flourish and be enriched by becoming the medium for diverse experiences.

Neither is the Welsh Government free from this fallacy. They have rightly decided to include the history of black people and people of colour within the National Curriculum, but have not acknowledged the need to learn about Welsh history. Once again, this is not a matter of either / or. History is key to our understanding of the present, and without the specific context of Welsh history, the history of black people and people of colour in Wales is deprived of the framework which is essential to our understanding of that history.”

Equalities and the Welsh Language

A recent report by the Welsh Anti-Racist Union concludes that the procedures and policies of the Arts Council for Wales and National Museums Wales are fundamentally racist and place barriers to the participation of black people and people of colour in the arts and cultural activities in Wales. Such a report is timely and important and seeks to address inequality within two areas that can only flourish through encouraging a diversity of perspectives and experiences.

It is galling to note however that these conclusions have been presented and reported in way that confirms the fallacy that no black person or person of colour can or would want to speak the Welsh language. Even worse is the implication that the interests of two minority groups (black people and Welsh speakers) must be pitted against each other, without acknowledging that this is a false dichotomy, The Welsh language is a skill which can be learnt: black people and people of colour across Wales already speak it and more importantly, there should be acessible and inclusive opportunities for all to learn it.

The irony of this necessary report is that it has led to the media focusing solely on the Welsh language as being a barrier to equality, while ignoring the centuries of unjust ideology which is totally unrelated to the efforts to win civil rights for the Welsh language and its speakers.

This suggests an urgent need to initiate a far-reaching discussion on how to balance and integrate race equality (and all other equality strands) with the needs of the Welsh language in public life. It is frankly heart-breaking that it is currently easier to scapegoat other minorities than to challenge the status quo.

LINKING THE FUTURE OF THE PLANET TO THE FUTURE OF OUR COMMUNITIES

Following reports that a company based at the Shard in London has bought farms in Carmarthenshire for planting forestry, Dyfodol i’r Iaith has called upon the Welsh Government to adopt comprehensive environmental policies which protect communities as well as the planet, based upon the principles of its own Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

On behalf of Dyfodol, Cynog Dafis said:

*Burning fossil fuels has undoubtedly been the main cause of global warming, and while accepting the pressing need for more forests to capture carbon, it is a sorry situation that these large companies are now trying to greenwash their activities while accumulating grants and profit at the expense of Welsh communities, their culture and assets.

We therefore call upon the Welsh Government to keep in mind the principles of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and acknowledge that sustainability is based upon consideration of the environment, communities and the key role played by the economy. It should adopt policies which protect the prosperity of the community rather than selling local assets to those that, through greed, are mainly responsible for the precariousness of the planet.

We insist that the Welsh Government develops policies that are genuinely sustainable, and work hand in hand with rural communities to protect their ownership of the land while ensuring maximum carbon capture and carbon neutral use. Wales has an abundance of Agri-ecologists, who are as knowledgeable about the needs of the planet as the contribution of food producers and the local economy. This is the kind of extensive and balanced expertise that needs to inform policy-making, not a retread of the old disastrous route of prioritising the interests of those who are mainly responsible for the damage.”