York is a cathedral city in northern England, located at the junction of the Ouse and Foss rivers. It is home to two universities as well as a burgeoning ethnic population. In 2021, the city council adopted an anonymous motion expressing the City’s intention of being an anti-racist city. There is much to say about the motion’s process, procedure, and politics, but I will save that for another time.
People should first question why a city like York, which takes pride in being the United Kingdom’s first UN Human Rights city and the City of Sanctuary, needed to pass a motion such as an anti-racist city motion.
The City of York is plagued with racism, which manifests itself in every sector: housing, hospitality, churches, parks, and politics. No sector is immune to racism.
Allow me to give some examples of racism that I have heard from individuals; a black Muslim single mother who relocated to the City under difficult circumstances experienced months of racism from her neighbour. The city council took a conventional approach. The months of trauma and suffering the lady endured still horrify her. Allow me to emphasise that this black Muslim single mother is not an average person; she is marginalised, which exposes her to the racism that another black Muslim wealthy individual may not encounter.
Readers must focus on this specific issue of financial inequality since refugees and ethnic minorities are always sent to impoverished neighbourhoods. The city council may have ready responses concentrate on affordability and a lack of houses. Nonetheless, I would say that it is engineered in such a way that ethnic minorities living in social housing are pushed towards disadvantaged regions, where there is an increase in racism.
Some readers may inquire about the source of the data supporting my claims. I would argue that the City of York council has been ignoring these areas and concerns for years. There is a critical need for intensive academic study in these areas.
Allow me to direct your attention to the main point that I wanted to explore in this article: is York racially segregated? I would say that it is fundamentally divided based on race and ethnicity.
There are areas in York where ethnic minorities dread living; some residents of social housing are unable to avoid it or are forced to do so owing to financial constraints. For months and years, ethnic minorities living in York’s epicentre of racism have been exposed to prejudice, and city council leaders have continued to instruct them from pillar to post. And some political leaders will find any occasion to extol the virtues and efficiency of their colleagues on the city council, prompting concerns such as where is the racism? For them, it might be anything, including anti-social behaviour, rather than racism. I would suggest that racism is ingrained in the unwritten policies and practises of the City of York council, as well as the unconscious preconceptions of the City’s political leaders, which mirror those of the majority population.
The Tang Hall is one such place that may be considered York’s epicentre of racism. Prior to moving to York, a family recently relocated from a south Asian nation was aware that Tang Hall is an unwelcoming place for ethnic minorities, with pervasive racism. The family had a list of schools to avoid in the Tang Hall area and sites to avoid visiting unless absolutely essential. The family is not like the single black Muslim mother; they are wealthy and work in a very reputable and well-paid profession, which allows them to easily escape Tanghall.
Another PhD student from a West African country who came to York to study said that after hearing news of harassment and racism directed against students in Tang Hall and the adjacent communities, the student made a point of not living in Tang Hall, even if it meant paying a higher price.
I’ve just mentioned a few stories; it’s common knowledge among ethnic minority students in the United Kingdom that they should avoid Tang Hall due to racism, and other students have their own reasons for avoiding Tang Hall or the nearby locations.
In 2021, city leaders commemorated Tang Hall’s centennial. Nevertheless, the narrative glossed over the history of racism and subjugation of ethnic minorities in that part of the City.
I am sure some would argue that not all people in Tang Hall are the same; although this is true, the good people – anti-racist people – need to step up and express their outrage that a pandemic of racism has plagued Tanghall for years.
A public hearing of persons who have been victims of racism in the Tang Hall neighbourhood and York as a whole is required. The history of a people’s suffering, subjugation, and racism in the area must be recorded down because the system has no intention of doing so.
William Gomes is a British Bangladeshi freelance journalist and human rights activist based in York, North Yorkshire.