Welsh Not – Anti-Welsh Racism In Britain

The nationalistic press in Britain is currently lathering itself up into paroxysms of anglophone outrage over alleged “discrimination” against English-speaking children attending schools in Wales. According to several right wing newspapers pupils attending classes in the majority Welsh-speaking region of Ceredigion – a “Welsh-speaking stronghold” in the militarised language of the Daily Mail – have been instructed to speak solely in the Welsh language by their teachers. Or at least this is the accusation made on a rather mysterious website claimed to have been set up by concerned local parents. Parents who remain entirely anonymous despite the fact that they have been briefing a number of journalists about their concerns.

According to the BiLingo website the evidence for discrimination includes:

  • Reports of children being admonished for speaking English in the classroom.
  • Reports of children being admonished for speaking English socially in the playground in their break time.
  • The use of such devices as ‘traffic light’ systems in some schools, where pupils ‘caught’ speaking English face punishment.
  • The refusal or reluctance of some schools to provide contact to parents in English.
  • The advice from some teachers that parents stop reading to their children in English at home because it ‘hinders’ their Welsh reading.
  • Reports of young children being too scared to speak English to their parents and family at home for fear of punishment.

So far no one has seen any of these “reports” which seem to be little more than anonymous, unsourced, online hearsay. The Daily Telegraph claims that the Children’s Commissioner for Wales has been contacted in an email by the parental group and he will look into the stories of supposed abuse. But so far no one has presented any actual facts to back up the claims.

Of course this is not the first time that Ceredigion has been in the news recently. Back in April I reported on a campaign by anglophone business people in the area which threatened jobs and the local economy over the use of the Welsh language in preference to the English one by the region’s predominately Welsh-speaking population. Again this centred on the education system and demands by English-speakers that indigenous Welsh-speaking pupils be taught entirely through the medium of English.

With the Welsh-speaking citizens of Wales increasingly on a level footing with their English-speaking peers is it any surprise that this sort of “culture war” is taking place in the country? For centuries speakers of the Welsh language were discriminated against as the norm in Britain, both legally and socially. Anti-Welsh racism remains virulent in British society, especially in the media, and any opportunity to engage in it is eagerly seized upon. No matter how dubious the circumstances.

When inequality is threatened by equality there is always a reaction. And when those who formerly exercised unchallenged power now find themselves without it – well, just look to the reaction of those who greeted with dismay the re-election of a black man to the White House.

UPDATE 16/11/12: More on the mysterious BiLingo website.

9 comments on “The Culture War In Wales Hots Up

  1. Thesse groundless allegation have been cropping up every few years since Welsh medium education began to grow. Glennys Kinnock was the first to raise the lie about children not being allowed to the toilet, and other anti-Welsh bigots have added their own twists on the theme over the years. It is sad that a group of ‘anonymous’ ‘parents’ (probably BNP trolls) have been given space in these papers.

    • Unfortunately the fact that the site is via a third-party host, Weebly, means we cannot do a look-up to see who is behind it. The anonymous nature of it all is strange and just adds to the impression of anglophones who are supposedly in fear of a local Welsh-speaking majority. Deliberately so, I suspect. Nothing like some black propaganda. As I indicated in the post I see this as part of a wider conflict over language, culture and identity in Wales, similar to what is happening in Québec.

  2. I’m amazed that major English newspapers should have used this ‘story’ without accreditation and reliable sourcing. This lax and unprofessional approach would have been unthinkable on almost any other issue. But as you say, “Anti-Welsh racism remains virulent in British society”.

  3. Eifion Williams

    These articles have reported as fact from an anonymous website, which has made unsubstantiated and outrageous claims about Welsh medium schools in Ceredigion. As a parent of child who goes to such a school, many non-Welsh speaking parents send their children to them without any problems and every school goes out of their way to accomodate those who dont speak Welsh.

    I find it incredible that such poorly researched articles could be published in papers and online without a shred of evidence to support these bigoted slurs. One only has to look at the comments on both webpages to see the trouble and division this has caused and will only serve to create ill feeling towards Welsh speakers like myself. I am disgusted as are so many others who feel that we have been unfairly demonized by these misleading and wholly inaccurate artilcles based on a malicious website.

    Here’s some facts results of GCSE 2012. So education in Ceredigion isn’t suffering because of Welsh, just the opposite.
    A*-A: Cymru/Wales 19.2%, Ceredigion 22.6%
    A*-C: Cymru/Wales 65.4% Ceredigion 71%
    A*-G: Cymru/Wales 98.7% Ceredigion 99.4%

    • I quite agree. The Comments’ sections beneath the online articles are astonishing in their display of anti-Welsh sentiment. Indeed, outright racism.

  4. reilly morgen

    Most Americans didnt object to his re-election because he’s black. We objected because he’s not proven he’s an American citizen. Thats not racism…it’s called Patriotism.

    • Yes, but his citizenship is hardly a genuine question. More of a political club to beat him and the Democrats in times past. And by his repeated election to the White House the American people as a whole have made their view on the “Birther” allegations clear. Whatever one’s opinions he undoubtedly has a democratic mandate and one superior to any opponent he has faced.

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