A SENIOR councillor has said Basingstoke has “a long way to go” regarding racism, after posting a video message to the town to mark Black History Month.

Speaking to the Gazette, Cllr Simon Bound, borough council deputy leader and cabinet member for communities, culture and partnerships, said: “I think there is a long way to go, and the change in people’s behaviour is often entrenched in a fear of the unknown, if they haven’t met someone who has an experience that they don’t know and don’t understand. When people get to know each other it is like a weight is lifted. I strongly believe we all like each other, generally, as human beings.”

He added: “I think it is important for everybody to remember our history. All members of our community have a part to play in that history.

“I think it’s one of those things that we should not forget as far as injustice in our community. It is over 30 years since the race discrimination act, but we still have people experiencing it, it still exists.

“What is most important as organisations is that we identify more that we can do. As a council, we make sure that light is shone on that, but also as individuals. This starts at a very individual, personal level. Understanding what impact those experiences can have on people. That can be as simple as being a good neighbour. In some respects, even lockdown brought people together so much more.”

When asked about the recent accusations of poor handling of racism at The Vyne School, Cllr Bound said: “I think we all have to understand that, even if we think that something we said was with the best intentions, it can cause harm and we should listen to people, because obviously we should be incredibly aware of the impact.

“[That incidents like this are still happening] is not a good sign, but there is something, for me, that we can all learn from that. If somebody has positive intentions, we all have a role to play to ask what could have been a better way of doing something. I am passionate about doing it in a positive way.”

In the video, posted by the borough council to Youtube and Twitter, Cllr Bound spoke about 2020 as a year “full of events that we should not forget” and urged people to work together to “dismantle barriers” and continue the “heartening” collective community efforts of the pandemic.

He said: “I am very happy to be supporting Black History Month, because I think it's important for us all to have a sense of where we have come from, to understand and inform where we are going.

“Our borough is a wonderful place to live, work and visit, but I have heard the voices of those people who continue to have bad experiences, of prejudice, harassment, bias, or straightforward injustice. The consequences and impact of these should not be underestimated.

“Our borough is a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, and we all need to work together to purposefully dismantle any barriers that currently exist that stop that from happening.”

Summing up what he wants members of the community to take away from the current discussions, Cllr Bound said: “The biggest message from me is we should not be looking for what other people can do, but what we can do as individuals.”