Cardiff City Council has been heavily critisised for its bizarre decision to ban a local anti-racist group from taking part in MAS Carnival that took place last weekend.
The Carnival which, ironically, has its roots in the celebration of enslaved Africans during the period of the transatlantic slave trade where the slaves paraded as their masters on the one day off they were allowed each year, is normally a place where multiculturalism is celebrated and where communities of all races, faith, creeds and colours come together in a celebration of unity.
So, it’s incomprehensible that a local group Cardiff Communities Against Racism should have been banned from taking part this year. Cardiff Council said the Carnival was “not a vehicle for political protest”. The fact that racism is a fundamental violation of human rights seems to have by-passed the Council in addition to their statutory duties to promote good relations between people of different groups. The Council said:
“While Cardiff council supports the sentiments behind Cardiff Communities Against Racism, the inclusion of any non-performance group or organisation would change the whole artistic ethos of the carnival.”
“The MAS carnival is a multicultural community arts project that celebrates the diversity and multiculturalism of Cardiff. It is not a vehicle for political protest.”
Cardiff Communities Against Racism spokesperson, Joe Fathallah, said the group’s ethos was precisely to bring diverse communities in Cardiff together and that is what the MAS carnival is about;
“We made a banner and printed leaflets so people knew what we were about. We put in a lot of time and effort, but on Friday morning we had a phone call telling us that the council wouldn’t allow us to come along to the parade.
“They claimed it would be against the ethos of the carnival and politicise the event.”
Clearly Cardiff City Council got this wrong and will need to review their decision in future years. The fight against racism is essential a struggle for human rights. If anti-racism is politicized in this way then the implications for grassroots campaigning groups seeking to challenge racism will be compromised.
This decision reflects a growing trend across the country and in politics in general that devalues multiculturalism, underplays the existence of racism and views anti-racism as deeply problematic.