Earlier this month almost 10,000 young people from across Europe were hosted at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, for YoFest and the third annual European Youth Event, that debates issues affecting youth people. In this series, Ellen Butler explains the key issues that came up.
The event focused on how society can mobilise to become more inclusive of all genders, sexualities and ethnicities. One panel was organised by the European Youth Forum, with appearances from the European Women’s Lobby and Seyi Akiwowo, a councillor from East London and speaker on active citizenship, soft skills, social integration and sustainable development.
The discussion included ways to challenge traditional behaviour towards sexuality, race and interpersonal relationships. Institutional racism is so ingrained in our lives and the way we operate that it often goes unnoticed – except, of course, to those who endure it. For example, the feeling of isolation when you are the only member of a minority group in the workplace, or feeling that you are making a fuss or being difficult by having different needs to your colleagues.
There was also discussion on the language we use when speaking about minority groups and the role that plays in reinforcing stereotypes. Seyi Akiwowo suggested simply asking someone how they describe themselves, for example black or a person of colour, rather than making assumptions. She urges us to “be each other’s microphones”, by retweeting and sharing, and openly promoting and discussing social issues, to bring them to the forefront of our conversations.
For more on this conference, see here.