The first ever Anti Racist Cumbria Summit was held at the Brewery Arts in Kendal last Tuesday and Carlisle United and CUSG were proud to be invited to take part, with first team players Josh Dixon and Magnus Norman joined by chief executive Nigel Clibbens, Equality, Diversion & Inclusion officer Nigel Davidson and the club’s media team as special guests at the event.
Nigel Davidson hosted a stall on the first floor of the Brewery Arts complex throughout the day, with attendees from all backgrounds keen to discuss issues of racism and discrimination in football, in particular the way in which these problems are being tackled in light of recent high-profile cases.
“It would be remiss of us if we weren’t involved in an important event like this with us being such a big community asset,” Nigel said. “It’s a great opportunity for Carlisle United to show and demonstrate that we understand what anti-racism is all about and that we want to be part of the solution going forward.
“CUSG is a great forum for supporters and as a group we look to take initiatives forward, particularly when it surrounds what we feel are incredibly important or challenging issues.
“In my role as EDI officer I think that’s even more important again, and the fact that we’ve made so many links with different organisations is already a step forward.
“Add to that the initiatives like My Club My Shirt, and our link-up with Anti Racism Cumbria, and it demonstrates that we’re at the start of a long journey of building strong relationships with organisations that really matter in so many different ways, particularly when it comes to dealing with something like this.
“I honestly didn’t expect there to be as many people here, but we’ve literally had hundreds of people come through. There are a lot of different talks and presentations and it’s been amazing to see the spread of people who have come along.
“I’ve certainly learned a lot, there is so much I didn’t know, and everyone is coming away from the sessions they’ve attended with a really positive mindset. It’s been good for the club to have been part of this.”
The Summit looked to address and provide talking points on key questions such as how is anti-racism relevant in Cumbria? Does it even matter to our all-white communities? How can you contribute to an anti-racist county? What does an anti-racist county even mean, and how will we know when we get there?
Janett Walker, CEO & Co-founder of Anti Racist Cumbria, said: “It’s really important to get people to start to understand that it’s no longer enough just to be not racist.
“Most of us don’t go around attacking each other because of the colour of their skin, or using racial slurs, or being angry towards people who don’t look like us. Racism is more than that, it’s often more subtle, it’s more every day, and when you think about racism in society you can see the evidence of it in our structures, in our institutions, in our communities and in our schools.
“We need to disrupt that, we need to shake it all up and we need to be talking about how we change those cultures. Only by talking, having conversations, creating safe spaces, but also by being resilient and being prepared to feel uncomfortable as we deal with the role we all play in this - only then can we really start to make real transformational change to the cultures within our society.
“That’s what this summit is about; it’s about sending out those messages, getting people to recognise those issues and to start asking themselves what they can take away from here that will help us all to move forward.”
But can we really achieve a completely anti-racist county, considering the genuine concerns some hold over perceived political aims.
“It’s so frustrating because Anti Racism Cumbria is not about anything like that, and we aren’t linked with anything like that,” Janett explained. “Hopefully by talking to us people will really start to understand where it is we’re coming from.
“Look, I think an anti-racist county is achievable if we start from here. It’s a standing start, and so many things have happened in the last year that have helped to show up some of the inequalities that exist within our society.
“We’ve seen how different people are more disadvantaged and how opportunities aren’t open for everybody, but people who weren’t talking about it before are now talking, and that’s so important.
“We live in a 98% white county but we have 250 people from all kinds of organisations backing this event. We have leaders from county councils, huge businesses like Sellafield, banking institutions like the Cumberland, Carlisle United Football Club – so many people are saying that now is the time to really start to tackle this problem, and that gives us all a chance.
“I think we can achieve it, but it’s going to take time. This isn’t just about paying lip service, this is about real change in terms of the way we think about things. The legacy issues we’ve been left from hundreds of years need to be shifted away, and it’ll take a long time and a lot of working together for that to happen, but that’s ok, because dealing with this together is how we’ll get there.”
And as for those who say ‘it’s 2021, are we really still having to talk about this’ …
“As a black person who has seen it, witnessed it and has been at the heart of it, yes, I can believe we still have to talk about it,” Janett responded. “The reason for that is all of the things we’ve just been talking about, because so much in society hasn’t changed.
“Some people don’t see or recognise that there’s even an issue there, because what they see is what they’ve always known. That’s why we haven’t had change yet – but it’s coming!
“With so many people having visited us at this summit, it energises me and it makes me feel that it’s worth carrying on with what we’re trying to achieve.
“People are hearing, and they’re starting to listen as well. The next step is for people to start doing, and events like this allow that to happen.”