While the U.K. can often appear less racist than the USA, the statement that “Racism doesn’t exist in the UK” just simply isn’t true. Today’s post is taking a look at racism in the UKDo you know how many times I have read that statement online? Heard it said, or variations of it, on the news? The general public and politicians alike frequently question why we protest here in the U.K. when something happens in the states. I’ve heard family and friends use this. But they are so wrong it’s embarrassing. Racism does exist in the UK, and today’s new post is all about it.
First up, we have to acknowledge that white privilege and supremacy have been an economic driving force for centuries, and the UK has a terrible history of atrocious crimes. But these acts are not simply in our history. Yes the near/actual acts of genocide and pillaging nations appears to have stopped, however there are many other things we must address as a nation alongside these historical atrocities before we can even consider moving forward. It is within these historical acts that the racism of the UK is embedded.
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Actually, before we even begin to talk about the past, let’s look at the recent news. Look at how quickly the people of the UK responded with hate towards the Black Lives Matter protesters, compared to the anger shown when people broke lockdown to lie on the beach. Let’s talk about the charges being brought against those in Bristol for pulling down the statue of Edward Colston. Or the fines being handed out to the protesters here in Belfast during the Black Lives Matter protests at City Hall. Let’s talk about the fact that petitions and protests had to be arranged in order to fight for justice over what can only be described as the murder of Belly Mujinga – a ticket officer in London who died of covid-19 after being spat at while on duty. The police closed the case without charging the man who purposefully infected Mujinga and her colleague. Or the fact that racism is still a major storyline in our soaps and radio shows. Let’s discuss the Windrush Generation. Or the fact that our Prime Minister actually called citizens of the Commonwealth “flag-waving piccaninnies.” back in 2002. During his time as shadow arts minister (2004), he wrote the novel Seventy Two Virgins: A Comedy of Errors, using the n word and racial stereotypes in passages. And to top it all off, the man the UK elected as our prime minister in 2019 compared Muslim women to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes,” and said he would ask a person with a niqab to remove it before speaking to him just one year previously. I still can’t believe he is our Prime Minister.
So don’t tell me the UK isn’t racist. Not when our very own government isn’t helping to rid the country of its racism.
People have been followed around shops by sales assistants purely because they have a different colour of skin. They’ve had people cross the road to avoid walking past someone from a different ethnicity. Questions like “No, but where are you really from?” or “Oh, well where are your parents from?”.
The main message behind Brexit was racist: people voted because they wanted to stop freedom of movement within the EU. They didn’t want the UK to be expected to take refugees. The comments “if you’re in the UK you should speak our language”, followed by these people taking a holiday or moving to Spain and only ever speaking English. Shouts of people “coming in and taking British jobs”, and anger that someone from another country or ethnicity could have more money than someone who is a “True British Person”. The surprisingly angry crowd when Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because “Hermione can’t be Black”. Well, who said she couldn’t?
The way the media portrayed Meghan Markle both before her marriage and after. She and Prince Harry never stood a chance. I remember at the time reading an article comparing the way the British media reported about the Duchess of Cambridge compared to their reports on the Duchess of Sussex. Hell, even Stormzy was accused of being too rich to experience racism, despite the fact his door was kicked in by police called to his house because neighbours were suspicious that a black man had let himself into a lovely home in a wealthy neighbourhood.
The survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire – most of them are still waiting for permanent housing. That fire was June 2017. It has been 3 years. Would the same be the case if it had been a fire tearing through Mayfair or a more affluent area?
On a summer’s day in 2008, Sean Rigg, a 40 year old Black man, died at the entrance of Brixton police station in London. Rigg was in the midst of a mental health crisis, and was pinned to the ground, while officers piled on top of him, somehow able to ignore every basic instinct that tells a person not to allow a fellow human being to be crushed under their weight. The Rigg family have still to see justice for Sean.
And only 2 weeks ago Bianca Williams and her partner were forcibly removed from their car and handcuffed in front of their baby. At the time, the officers said “there’s a lot of youth violence and stabbings in the area and that the car looked very suspicious.” They saw a black male driving a nice car, an all-black car, and they assumed that he was involved in some sort of gang, drug, violence problem.
I could go on and on and on. All you have to do is a quick search online for “UK Racism” and you’ll be swamped with results. Listen to podcasts. Read “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge [AFF], or “No Problem Here: Understanding Racism in Scotland” by Neil Davidson [AFF]. Watch the documentaries, and just consume as much as you possibly can to educate yourself.
Racism In The UK – What Can You Do?
Now you may be asking what you can do to help the fight against racism in the UK. First thing’s first, you can take part in this survey (link correct at time of writing). The Conservative party – the ones in control of the UK government at this time – are doing a survey to get the public’s opinion on their new racist immigration bill. However, the algorithm is only showing the link to the people who follow their accounts. It takes less than a minute to do.
You can sign petitions. Donate. Protest. Have conversations with friends and family. Continue to learn and educate yourself. Read. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Watch films, documentaries, series, YouTube videos and vlogs. Share. As long as we keep talking and fighting for change, we will keep making consecutive small steps towards a better future.