Cardiff’s first black Lord Mayor ‘mistaken for security guard or waiter’

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People imagine a councillor being white, middle aged, in a grey suit, says Dan De’Ath

Cardiff’s first black Lord Mayor says he is often mistaken for a security guard or a waiter at official events.

Reflecting on his experiences to mark Black History Month, Dan De’Ath says he enjoys the role but still faces what he sees as unconscious racism.

“People conjure up in their mind a councillor as being white, middle aged, wearing a grey suit,” he says.

Mr De’Ath, 40, says he feels good progress had been made since the 1960s to make society less prejudiced.

A Labour councillor since 2012, the mayor said he would experience casual racism and racial abuse as the norm while growing up in Warwickshire.

However, he praised Cardiff as a “good place to live as a non-white person”, having moved to the city to work at the Welsh Assembly.

“In some ways [racism] is buried and obscured,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“Social norms have dramatically changed. In the ’50s and ’60s it was part of the fabric of political debate, whereas today it’s quite the opposite.

“The problem today is it’s not just how we’re treated, but how society is structured.”

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Dan De’Ath was named the 115th Lord Mayor of Cardiff in May

Mr De’Ath, named Lord Mayor in May, said he still experienced what he called “micro-aggressions” because of the colour of his skin, such as supermarket security guards “eyeing me because I’m a tall, looming black man”.

The Plasnewydd councillor, born to a white mother and a black father from Antigua, said a highlight of his ceremonial role was visiting schools and speaking to children.

“I find young people today are so funny, confident and articulate in a way kids weren’t and I wasn’t when I was at school,” he said.

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Urging black and minority ethnic people to enter politics, he said: “It’s worth it, it’s important. We need you to come in and help make the change.

“I thoroughly enjoy it – I love being a councillor. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.

“You make a difference at the individual level and at the city level as well.”

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