Racism in the United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom, like most countries,[1] has racism between its ethnic groups. Relations between non-white immigrant groups and indigenous Britons have resulted in cases of race riots and racist murder perpetrated by extremists of all races.

Race riots[edit]

Pub damaged in the 2001 Bradford riots between White and Pakistani sectors

There were fierce race riots targeting ethnic minority populations across the United Kingdom in 1919: South Shields,[2] Glasgow, London's East End, Liverpool, Cardiff, Barry, and Newport.[citation needed] There were further riots targeting immigrant and minority populations in East London and Notting Hill in the 1950s.

In the early 1980s, societal racism, discrimination and poverty — alongside further perceptions of powerlessness and oppressive policing — sparked a series of riots in areas with substantial African-Caribbean populations.[3] These riots took place in St Pauls in 1980, Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side in 1981, St Pauls again in 1982, Notting Hill Gate in 1982, Toxteth in 1982, and Handsworth, Brixton and Tottenham in 1985.[4]

A 2004 report identified both "racial discrimination" and an " extreme racial disadvantage" in Britain, concluding that urgent action was needed to prevent these issues becoming an "endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society".[3] The era saw an increase in attacks on Black people by White people. The Joint Campaign Against Racism committee reported that there had been more than 20,000 attacks on non-indigenous Britons including Britons of Asian origin during 1985.[5]

Both the Bradford riots and the Oldham Riots occurred in 2001, following cases of racism. These were either the public displays of racist sentiment or, as in the Brixton Riots, racial profiling and alleged harassment by police forces. In 2005, there were the Birmingham riots between Asians and Blacks, as a black teenager had been allegedly raped by South Asian men, although no teenager came forward claiming she had been raped.

In politics[edit]

Since World War I, public expressions of racism have been limited to far-right political parties such as the British National Front in the 1970s, while most mainstream politicians have publicly condemned all forms of racism. However some argue that racism remains common, and some politicians and public figures have been accused of promoting racist attitudes in the media, particularly with regard to immigration. There have been growing concerns in recent years about institutional racism in public and private bodies, and the tacit support this gives to crimes resulting from racism.

The Race Relations Act 1965 outlawed public discrimination, and established the Race Relations Board. Further Acts in 1968 and 1976 outlawed discrimination in employment, housing and social services, and replaced the Race Relations Board with Commission for Racial Equality. The Human Rights Act 1998 made organisations in Britain, including public authorities, subject to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Race Relations Act 2000 extends existing legislation for the public sector to the police force, and requires public authorities to promote equality.

Although various anti-discrimination legislation do exist, according to some sources most employers in the UK remain institutionally racist including public bodies such as the police[6] and particularly the legal professions.[7][8] The situation with the implementation of Human Rights law is similar. The Terrorism Acts, which came into law in 2000 and 2006, have caused a marked increase in racial profiling and have also been the basis to justify existent trends in discrimination against persons of Muslim origin (or resembling such) by the British police.[citation needed]

There have been tensions over immigration since the early 1900s, especially from Russia, Poland, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Britain first began restricting immigration in 1905 under the Aliens Restriction Act. This was mainly aimed at Jews fleeing persecution in Russia. Before the Act Britain had a liberal immigration policy, most notably throughout the Victorian Period. Although the Act was extreme, Britain maintained an asylum policy for those fleeing religious or political persecution. However, asylum was curtailed in the 1930s to limit entry by refugees from Nazi policies. Despite restrictions, Britain was among the nations which accepted many immigrants prior to and following WWII.

Britain again restricted immigration in the early 1960s. Legislation was targeted at emigration from the Commonwealth of Nations, who had previously been able to migrate to the UK under the British Nationality Act 1948. Conservative MP Enoch Powell made the controversial 1968 Rivers of Blood speech in opposition to Commonwealth immigration to Britain; this resulted in him being swiftly removed from the Shadow Cabinet.

Virtually all legal immigration, except for those claiming refugee status, ended with the Immigration Act 1971; however, free movement for citizens of the European Union was later established by the Immigration Act 1988. Legislation in 1993, 1996 and 1999 gradually decreased the rights and benefits given to those claiming refugee status ("asylum seekers"). 582,000 people came to live in the UK from elsewhere in the world in 2004 according to the Office for National Statistics.

Some commentators[who?] believe that an amount of racism, from within all communities, has been undocumented within the UK, adducing the many British cities whose populations have a clear racial divide. While these commentators[who?] believe that race relations have improved immensely over the last thirty years, they still believe that racial segregation remains an important but largely unaddressed problem, although research[9] has shown that ethnic segregation has reduced within England and Wales between the 1991 Census and 2001 Census.[citation needed]

The United Kingdom has been accused of "sleepwalking toward apartheid" by Trevor Phillips, chair of that country's Commission for Racial Equality. Philips has said that Britain is fragmenting into isolated racial communities: "literal black holes into which no one goes without fear and trepidation and nobody escapes undamaged". Philips believes that racial segregation in Britain is approaching that of the United States. "You can get to the point as they have in the U.S. where things are so divided that there is no turning back."[10]

The BBC has reported that the latest crime statistics appear to support Phillips' concerns. They show that race-hate crimes increased by almost 600 per cent in London in the month after the July 7 bomb attacks, with 269 more offences allegedly "motivated by religious hatred" reported to the Metropolitan Police, compared to the same period last year.[10]

Public sector employers in the UK are somewhat less likely to discriminate on grounds of race, as they are required by law to promote equality and make efforts to reduce racial and other discrimination. The private sector, however are subject to little or no functional anti-discrimination regulation and short of self paid litigation, no remedies are available for members of ethnic minorities.[8] UK employers can also effectively alleviate themselves from any legal duty not to discriminate on the basis of race, by 'outsourcing' recruitment and thus any liability for the employers' racial screening and discriminatory policies to third party recruitment companies.[11][12]

Racism within the police and prison staff[edit]

Police forces in the United Kingdom have been accused[who?] of institutionalised racism since the late 20th century.[citation needed]

The National Black Police Association which allows only African, African-Caribbean and Asian officers as full members has been criticised as a racist organization because of its selective membership criteria based on ethnic origin.[13][14][15]

Prison guards are almost twice as likely to be reported for racism than inmates in the UK; with racist incidents between prison guards themselves being nearly as high as that between guards and prisoners. The environment has been described as a dangerous breeding ground for racist extremism.[16]

Racism in Northern Ireland

1.Definition and overview: Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race. It is the prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Alternatively defined as “the process of racialisation [which] can target groups on the grounds of physical characteristics such as colour or appearance; or it may focus on other external visible signs of appearance or dress; and in some cases it can be linked to other social indicators such as culture or socio-economic status.” “Racism is pervasive, permeating the fabric of everyday life and normalised in ways that render it invisible and neutral. The manifestations of it around the world make it one of the most powerful forms of structural violence”(Babacan et al. 2009:1) Racism can manifest itself in many differing ways within society, from hate graffiti to verbal and physical abuse. Where present it embodies hatred and differing conflict of interests usually influenced over a minority ethnic group. While the perpetrators methods chosen to intimidate such minorities may vary, the overall prevailing common factor is a direct intention to oppress and coerce that particular demographic ethnicity. Within the context of Northern Ireland there has been a reported increase in the proportion of racist attacks reported over the last number of years. While official figures vary dependant on the source and quantifying such a problem is an onerous task, a recent report issued by the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) reported an estimate of almost three racist related incidents daily. The annual Human Rights and Racial Equality Benchmarking Report 2013/14 reached similar conclusions, identifying 982 racist incidents in 2013/14 marking a significant rise from the previous year. The report issued by NICEM identified racism as an issue of growing prevalence in Northern Ireland, superseding the issue of traditional sectarianism for which the country’s history has been negatively associated.

2. Formal and substantive equality Formal equality is “giving content to equality.” This entails an objective standard which applies to everyone with no manoeuvrability. In the UK various formal equality measures have been enacted to prohibit racism which apply to Northern Ireland. These include the RRA 65 and 68 which set up special bodies such as the Race Relations Board to deal with problems faced by immigrants and paved the way for the Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA) which developed this protection. It is also forbidden by international law such as Article 26 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which are supplemented by the Covenant for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Furthermore, Article 27 creates a positive obligation to protect the rights of minorities to enjoy their own culture and the CERD prioritises the fight against racism and has a clause which holds contracting member states to account. As a member of the European Union, racism is also outlawed in Northern Ireland by EU law. This outlaws race discrimination in a wide range of areas such as employment and training; goods and services; education; social protection and social advantages. Domestically, it has also been barred by the enactment of the Race Relations (NI) Order (1997) which excludes discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origin. However, many researchers such as Lucas have criticised the formal approach exclaiming that it provides “no definite conclusion” and focuses on an objective standard which does not take into consideration an individual’s characteristics favouring a more substantive approach. This, conversely, involves achieving equality of outcome and procedures to ensure that they are the same. This approach can be supported by the case of Griggs in the US and Andrews in Canada which have shown that seemingly neutral institutional procedures and similar treatment may produce severe inequality. The vital importance of this distinction can be highlighted by examples of racism in Northern Ireland where formal equality through legislation has not proved effective.

3.The impact of Pastor McConnell's sermon Pastor McConnell founded the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, North Belfast in 1957. He served the congregation as Senior Pastor for 57 years and was known as a “hard hitting” preacher to a congregation of fundamentalist Protestants before his retirement in September 2014 aged 77. During an address in May 2014 he described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic”. He preached to his congregation that “a new evil had arisen” describing Islam as “a doctrine spawned in hell”. Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, defended Pastor McConnell’s statement, exclaiming he would not trust Muslims involved in violence or those devoted to Sharia law but he said he would "trust them to go to the shops" for him . Mr Robinson has come under fire for defending Pastor McConnell, especially as members of the Belfast Islamic Centre described the comments as “very offensive”. Pastor McConnell’s sermon has been linked to a rise in crime against ethnic minorities. A Pakistani home in Belfast was attacked in the days following the media coverage of his sermon. Windows were broken and two male residents of the house were physically assaulted. Although Pastor McConnell offered to pay for the damage to the property he has not accepted that his sermon provided the attackers with justification for their racially motivated attack. Academic critics have questioned whether Pastor McConnell’s comments have had any effect on the perception of ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland, instead blaming the media’s focus on race related crime since the end of the troubles. A higher awareness of crimes committed against ethnic minorities can be directly correlated with the increased coverage of these types of crimes in local media. Although Pastor McConnell was questioned by the police about his sermon no charges were brought against him. In Northern Ireland, legislation does exist to charge McConnell with incitement under the Prevention of Incitement to Hatred Act (Northern Ireland) 1970 .  

4.Statistics of prevalence: Shortly after the Pastor McConnell incident there have been a surge of racist attacks in the Belfast area, primarily in East Belfast. In July 2014, there were eight particular attacks within 24 hours, which consisted of cars and homes being damaged, and racist graffiti paints on walls in five homes. The PSNI have released a statement stating that they believe these attacks to be orchestrated. East Belfast, were the spike in racist attacks occurred over the Summer of 2014, is a predominately Protestant/Unionist area. Some critics have linked this to what Jonathan Tongue calls "post-Troubles paranoia." He argues that "These people are used to having a united identity and they are not used to outsiders…Catholics…are stunned by this recent wave of immigrants coming into their communities...[additionally]…the “old enemy” they previously fought isn't… [present]…now that the conflict is over, although sectarianism is far from dead….they have found, due to globalisation, a new imagined enemy in their areas." Statistics show that Racism in Northern Ireland is now becoming a real issue as they show a sharp increase in race crimes and racist incidents in the past two years. In 2012/2013 the PSNI recorded 470 racial hate crimes but that figure has risen to 691 in the year ending March 2014. In the same period incidents of racial abuse and intimidation rose from 750 to 982. A Guardian article in June 2014 examines a new study of racism in Northern Ireland which states that up to three race-related incidents are now being reported to the police in Northern Ireland every single day. However, only 12 out of a reported 14,000 race hate crimes in Northern Ireland over the last five years have resulted in successful prosecutions. More shockingly, some statistics state that racially motivated crimes in Northern Ireland have risen by more than 50% in just a single year. Furthermore, according to the PSNI racist incidents have increased by 30.9% in NI in the 2013/14 financial year.

Racism in Scotland[edit]

In 2005 and 2006 1,543 victims of racist crime in Scotland were of Pakistani origin, while more than 1,000 victims were classed as being "white British"[17] although the Scottish Parliament still has no official policy on "white on white" racism in Scotland.

Kriss Donald was a Scottish fifteen-year-old who was kidnapped and murdered in Glasgow in 2004. Five British Pakistani men were later found guilty of racially motivated violence; those convicted of murder were all sentenced to life imprisonment.[18]

However, there are indications that the Scottish authorities and people are well aware of the problem and are trying to tackle it. Among Scots under 15 years old there is the sign that, "younger white pupils rarely drew on racist discourses."[19]

In 2009 the murder of an Indian sailor named Kunal Mohanty by a lone Scotsman named Christopher Miller resulted in Miller's conviction as a criminal motivated by racial hatred. Miller's brother gave evidence during the trial and said Miller told him he had "done a Paki".[20]

As of 11 February 2011 attacks on Muslims in Scotland have contributed to a 20% increase in racist incidents over the past 12 months. Reports say every day in Scotland, 17 people are abused, threatened or violently attacked because of the colour of their skin, ethnicity or nationality. Statistics showed that just under 5,000 incidents of racism were recorded in 2009/10, a slight decrease from racist incidents recorded in 2008/9.[21]

From 2004 to 2012 the rate of racist incidents has been around 5,000 incidents per year.[21] In 2011-12, there were 5,389 racist incidents recorded by the police, which is a 10% increase on the 4,911 racist incidents recorded in 2010-11.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berg, Wendt (1 Dec 2013). Racism in the Modern World: Historical Perspectives on Cultural Transfer and Adaptation. Berghahn Books. p. 1. ISBN 978-1782380856. 
  2. ^ "BBC - Tyne Roots - Black History Month - The story behind Britain's first race riot". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Q&A: The Scarman Report 27 BBC Online. April 2004. Accessed 6 October 2002.
  4. ^ A Different Reality: minority struggle in British cities University of Warwick. Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations. Accessed 6 October 2006
    ° The 1981 Brixton riots "The Riot not to work collective". "...What has changed since last year's riots". London 1982. Accessed 6 October 2006
  5. ^ Law and Order, moral order: The changing rhetoric of the Thatcher government. online. Ian Taylor. Accessed 6 October 2006
  6. ^ "Racism 'still exists' in police". BBC News. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "SRA accused of institutional racism | News". The Lawyer. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  8. ^ a b "EHRC - Is it easy to bring a racial discrimination case?". Equalityhumanrights.com. 2010-10-01. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ a b Freeman, Simon. "Britain urged to wake up to race crisis", The Times, September 22, 2005.
  11. ^ "Barriers to employment for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Britain and constraints". Research.dwp.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  12. ^ As in Iteshi v British Telecommunications PLC UKEATPA/0378/11/DM
  13. ^ "Tory MP addresses National Black Police Association annual conference... and blasts THEM as racist". Mail Online. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "MP mix-up as wrong David Davies accuses National Black Police Association of racism". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Wales - South East Wales - MP defends police race criticism". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  16. ^ Roweena Davis; Paul Lewis (2/7/2010). The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/feb/07/complaints-prison-racisim-staff-inmates.  Check date values in: |date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "Almost 20 race-hate crimes a day in Scotland". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  18. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Scotland - Glasgow and West - Kriss attacked 'for being white'". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  19. ^ "Minority Ethnic Pupils' Experiences Of School In Scotland (MEPESS)". Scotland.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  20. ^ "Race hate murder man found guilty". BBC News. 10 November 2009. 
  21. ^ a b c "High Level Summary of Statistics Trend Last update: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 Racist Incidents". http://www.scotland.gov.uk. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 

External links[edit]


Oxford Dictionaries, (1st, Oxford University Press, 2014) 
Nicholas Bamforth, Maleiha Malik and Colm O’Cinneide, Discrimination Law: Theory and Context (Sweet & Maxwell, London: 2008)  p. 755 [8-11].
Fiona Haughey, 'Racism In Northern Ireland: The Racial Equality Strategy From Policy to Practice ' [2010] 3,
Henry McDonald, Ireland Correspondent, 'Racism In Northern Ireland' (theguardian.com 2014) <http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jun/17/racism-northern-ireland-race-related-incidents-reported-daily> accessed 31 October 14
Nicholas Bamforth, Maleiha Malik and Colm O’Cinneide, Discrimination Law: Theory and Context (Sweet & Maxwell, London: 2008) p. 178
Ibid (n1) 779
Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1969)
European Convention on Human Rights Article 14,  the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Race Equality Directive under Art.13 EC
as amended by the Race Relations Order 1997 (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2012
J.R.Lucas,”Against equality” (October 1965) XL Philosophy
Griggs v. Duke Power Corp., 401 U.S. 424 (1971)
Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia [1989] S.C.R. 143 (Can.) 
 The Metropolitan Tabernacle Belfast, “Pastors”[1 November 2014] [2] Accessed: 01/11/2014
 BBC News, ‘Peter Robinson under fire for backing Pastor James McConnell’s Islamic remarks’ [28 May 2014] [3] Accessed: 01/11/2014
 BBC News Northern Ireland, ‘Pastor James McConnell’s Islamic remarks investigated by police’ [21 May 2014][ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27501839] Accessed: 01/11/2014
 Section 1
 ITV news, ‘Police investigate eight “orchestrated” racist attacks in East Belfast’ [29 July 2014] [4] Accessed: 29/10/2014
 The Guardian, ‘Racism in Northern Ireland: ‘They called our children monkeys’’[12th June 2014]  [5]

Accessed: 29/10/2014

 The Guardian (Henry McDonald (Ireland correspondent) ), ‘Racism in Northern Ireland: up to three race-related incidents reported daily’[17 June 2014] [6] Accessed: 29/10/2014
 BBC News Northern Ireland, ‘Racism in Northern Ireland: Paper sets out equality plan’ [12 June 2014] [7] Accessed: 29/10/2014
 BBC News Northern Ireland, ‘PSNI crime statistics: Racist incidents rise 30% in 2013/14’[8 May 2014 [8] Accessed: 29/10/2014