Runnymede Race Debate – Do racists have a right to be heard?

The Runnymede Race Debate: Do racists have a right to be heard? Took place on 
Wednesday on 30th January 2013, at the Royal Society of the Arts in London. The discussion provided for a timely platform for an interesting if somewhat safe debate around the provocative and divisive question – Do racists have a right to be heard? Following a year of high profile racism in sport allegations and London’s Olympic summer which projected an image of a nation at ease with itself, united in diversity belying any easy assumption that we are living in a post-racial age this was indeed a timely event.
The debate included a panel of Speakers: Sunder Katwala, director, British Future and Catherine Fieschi, director, Counterpoint and chaired by Rob Berkeley, director, The Runnymede Trust.
I attended the event and was interested to hear the diverse views of the speakers and also the public – pitching a human rights angle of free speech against the crushing and massive negative impact of racism and promotion of race hatred by far right organizations as dehumanizing and unacceptable. Perhaps one of the most grounding contributions from the floor was David Neita’s comment: ‘If racists didn’t have the right to talk we’d live in a silent nation’
Rob Berkely expertly chaired the discussion and made the point point that he wouldn’t engage with the leader of the BNP Nick Griffin for example but ‘racism massively affects our society and these questions need to be asked as we have to find a way to get rid of it and do we do that by engaging with people or ignoring them? And that’s the question we are constantly struggling with’
This event, held in association with the RSA and Trust for London, follows research carried out by the Runnymede Trust and projects supported by Trust for London with potential perpetrators of racist violence, which has found that many institutions and practitioners are fearful of engaging with racists.

To listen to the event and hear more follow these links: