This blog is from Michelle Campbell, SNP councillor for Erskine & Inchinnan
In May 2017, I proudly became a councillor in my first ever election as a candidate. It was such a surreal experience being the face of a campaign, but also one of the most vulnerable moments I have felt. I would compare the difference between being an activist vs being the candidate to being a backing singer; essential but very different from being front and centre!
But for me I have always had to accept standing out. As a women in a male dominated arena and as a woman of colour. Being elected, especially in the currently climate feels like it means having to have a thick skin, as you will always have people who won’t like you or your representation purely due to political affiliation; that I have come to accept. But what is frustrating and difficult, is people not accepting me as an equal because I am a women and/or because I am a women of colour.
When you are sitting as women in a female dominant administration of a council, in which there is not true gender balance across all elected members and as the only person of colour, how can we say this is fair representation of our local communities?
Throughout my career, I have been subjected to numerous overt and covert examples of sexism and racism, I have had to share meetings with individuals who have been affiliated with far right groups. Racism is very much alive even though often (although not always…) it is carefully expressed. It may be more subtle, but it is still racism. It is simple; if I am judged for the way I look and I am made to feel uncomfortable for being from a mixed race background in context to the circumstance – that is racism.
People of BAME backgrounds just want to have the same forums and opportunities to flourish like anyone else. The systemic and societal racism my grandparents, my mother and myself have continued to experience needs to stop and our politics should be leading by example in this area. Beyond simply cries of outrage on social media status, we need more solidarity to call it out and take action in every arena of life. We need to change the narrative to change perceptions. In the same way, gender typical roles need to be challenged across all cultures to allow women to have the freedom to choose their own path without narrow stereotypes and sexism being an everyday experience.
Having representation with such a lack of diversity is inequality being further cemented into our democratic decision making and the consequences for us all and our battle for fair and meaningful equality continues to take one step forward and two steps back. To have a flourishing democracy we need to have full, barrier-free participation, access for all regardless of sex, race, religion, sexuality, disability and class. Let’s make it a reality.