Previously known as Libdemchild

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Is Britain Still Racist? What a stupid question...

One of the topics of the BBC's 'The Big Questions' this Sunday was 'Is Britain Still Racist'. I was sure that the general consensus would be that racism is very much alive in Britain but I was shocked to see so many people, some of whom were people of colour, denying the existence of racism in this country. How can this be when you consider Britain's history - it is a country built on imperialism, slavery and its current political atmosphere is defined by Brexit, a referendum that was largely shaped by racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. If you apply the concept of 'long-duree'it's clear that Brexit is merely a continuation of racist feelings.

Not only do I know that racism is flourishing in the UK because of things I see online, some of which is shown below, or because of hate crime statistics, also shown below, but also because of the behaviour that I see white people comfortably exhibit around me because, even though I am half Indian, I am white passing.

A while ago Lionel Richie's daughter, Sofia Richie, spoke about how people are racist around her because they don't realise that she is black due to her light skin colour. This is something that I have experienced all too often.

The most common thing that I hear are jokes that poke fun at Indian men for contacting women online. This kind of humour reduces Indian men to mere sexual predators as if they are an inferior species. Whilst I recognise that unsolicited sexual advances online are completely unacceptable the use of jokes such, "show bobs and vagene" (which is supposed to mean show boobs and vagina) implies this idea that Indian men are illiterate, primitive and inferior animals. I have included an image of one of these jokes below, note the caption on the right-hand side.

Whilst this may seem like a harmless internet joke the frequency of this kind of humour and the fact that is not met with outcry evidences the idea that racism in this country is rampant. I have also had friends tell me that they move away from "Indian or Asian looking people" on public transport because they fear terrorism.

Only a few weeks ago I was walking down the street with my Indian mother when a white man spat at her from his truck and shouted "scum" at her. What worried me the most about this was that my mother was barely shaken and it is because racism is part of her daily life. People have been moving away from her on public transport for years.

My white privilege is something that cocoons me from the true realities of racism but my ethnicity has allowed me to see that it most certainly exists, and it is an insidious force in this country. However, my experience barely scratches the surface because my daily interactions are not shaped by race in the same way that it is for people of colour. It saddens me greatly that my mother tells me she is thankful that I am not the same skin colour as her because it means that I will have more opportunities in life. That is just the scary reality of this country.

In 'BBC Big Questions' I also saw the extent to which the existence of racism is denied. The denial of racism is dangerous because it stops racism from ever being eliminated by preventing people of colour from even having a platform to discuss it. How can something ever be solved if we don't acknowledge that it exists? Racism is an uncomfortable truth but it is one that must be faced.

I saw this denial of racism come from an Asian woman on 'The Big Questions'. When Kehinde Andrews cited a statistic that 40% of young black men are unemployed an Asian woman on the show replied asking why the other 60% weren't unemployed if racism really did exist. This kind of ignorance amongst both white people and people of colour simultaneously supports the narrative that racism is non-existent and validates racist behaviour. Below I have included some tweets from the debate which angered me.

This next tweet (shown below), in particular, stood out to me because it reeks of white privilege in that it fails to recognise the truly insidious nature of racism in this country. The tweet refers only to overt and obvious racist acts which are only a minor form of racism. The reality of racism is that it is of a pervasive nature because of its deep historical roots. Racism is embedded in the institutions and mindsets of people in this country and only when it resonates deeply in the psyche of a racist individual does it manifest itself in violent behaviour. Normally, it is a simmering force that oppresses people of colour.

I, myself know this because of an interaction I had with my mother when I was very young. Somebody was taking a photo of me and I told my mum to take her hand out of the photo because I did not want a brown hand in the photo. I had heard this kind of thing around me at school, I remember a white boy telling a mixed race girl at my school that he did not want to hold her hand because it was brown. I did not even understand the ramifications of what I said but racism had already infiltrated my perspective of society and my white privilege was already manifesting itself. This is the reality of racism and white people have to unlearn this thought process and face this reality head-on if the problem is ever to be fixed. This process of unlearning is still something I have to do everyday because of how immense white privelege is.

Additionally, the tweet is factually inaccurate because even though racism is often met by retaliation, as it should be, there has actually been the highest rise in hate crime ever recorded immediately after the Brexit vote.  I recently wrote an essay for university regarding the rise of ethnocentrism in the Western world. All the evidence that I examined, particularly regarding hate crime, showed that ethnocentric ideas and outright racism are only on the rise in the West. The UK experienced a 27% rise in hate crime in the last year alone. Brexit and the idea that we should no longer be 'politically correct', just like Nigel Farage or Donald Trump who are the opposite of 'politically correct', has validated racist tendencies and behaviour.

What I am saying here is nothing new. However, the inability of people to even grasp that racism exists makes me feel like we are not even close to making headway on the issue. The everyday racism that I see from unapologetic white people, some happily say the N word around me or use other racial slurs thinking that I will not call them out, as well as the fact that people are happy to go on national television and deny the existence of racism entirely confirms the issue. When this is further evidenced by statistics it is so undeniably clear that Britain is still racist and it always will be until our political climate, language and behaviour do not consistently validate racism. 

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