Racism in the United Kingdom
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Racism is experienced by some of the citizens of the United Kingdom. Studies published by the BBC in 2014 and 2015 claim racism is on the rise in the UK, with more than one third of those polled actually admitting they are racially prejudiced. Racism within the United Kingdom has resulted in cases of riots and racist murders.
Since the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the United Kingdom has never implemented any laws that officially discriminate or segregate on the grounds of race or ethnicity. Furthermore, it has never been an offence for persons of different ethnicities to marry one another. It has never been the case that a British citizen has been denied the vote on the basis of his or her race or ethnicity.
In the 20th century, Britain began restricting immigration under the Aliens Restriction Act 1905. This was mainly aimed at Jews fleeing persecution in Russia. Before the Act, Britain was mostly a nation of long settled closely related European peoples: the Puritans fled to the Thirteen Colonies and the Lowland Clearances and the Highland Clearances of Scotland caused similar emigration patterns. Manchester and Bristol saw riots over early industrialisation conditions, and Victorian England is best described as Dickensian—it was unfriendly to the lower classes, and the welfare state was not invented until the time of Asquith and Lloyd George. Britain did have an ad-hoc asylum policy for cases of religious persecution but it was curtailed during the First World War by both the Alien Restriction Act 1914 and the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914. Despite restrictions, Britain was among the nations which accepted many immigrants prior to, during and following WWII.
Although racial segregation and discrimination were never mandated or sanctioned by law in the United Kingdom, it was not until the 1960s that laws were passed that specifically prohibited the practice.
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 that merged into the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2004. The Human Rights Act 1998 made organisations in Britain, including public authorities, subject to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 extends existing legislation for the public sector to the police force, and requires public authorities to promote equality.
After 2000, some argued 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. However, race and immigration although related are not the same concepts. There have been growing concerns in recent years about institutional racism in public and private bodies. Although various anti-discrimination laws do exist, according to some sources, most employers in the UK remain institutionally racist including public bodies such as the police and the legal professions.
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. 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.
The United Kingdom has been accused of "sleepwalking toward apartheid" by Trevor Phillips, chair of the 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". On the other hand, the UK was commended in 2014 for its lack of racism by another member of a minority group. In fact, the author says that, from her perspective, it is a haven for inclusiveness, but loses points for its culture of grievance.
There were fierce race riots targeting ethnic minority populations across the United Kingdom in 1919: South Shields, Glasgow, London's East End, Liverpool, Cardiff, Barry, and Newport. 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. 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.
A 1981 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". 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 British people of colour, including Britons of South Asian origin during 1985.
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, derived from ethnic tensions between the British African-Caribbean people and British Asian communities, with the spark for the riot being an alleged gang rape of a teenage black girl by a group of South Asian men.
Racism by region
Northern Ireland had in 2004 the highest number of racist incidents per person in the UK, and has been branded the "race-hate capital of Europe". Foreigners are three times more likely to suffer a racist incident in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK.
According to police, most racist incidents happen in loyalist Protestant areas, and members of loyalist paramilitary groups have orchestrated a series of racist attacks aimed at "ethnically cleansing" these areas. There have been pipe bomb, petrol bomb and gun attacks on the homes of immigrants and people of different ethnic origins. Masked gangs have also ransacked immigrants' homes and assaulted the residents. In 2009, more than 100 Roma were forced to flee their homes in Belfast following sustained attacks by a racist mob, who allegedly threatened to kill them. That year, a Polish immigrant was beaten to death in an apparently racist attack in Newry. Police recorded more than 1,100 racist incidents in 2013/14, but they believe most incidents are not reported to them.
Kriss Donald was a Scottish fifteen-year-old boy 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.
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 fifteen years old, there is the sign that, "younger white pupils rarely drew on racist discourses."
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".
As of 11 February 2011, attacks on Muslims in Scotland have contributed to a 20% increase in racist incidents over the past twelve months. Reports say every day in Scotland, seventeen 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.
From 2004-12, the rate of racist incidents has been around 5,000 incidents per year. 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.
Racism in the police
Various police forces in the United Kingdom (such as the Greater Manchester Police, the London Metropolitan Police, the Sussex Police and the West Yorkshire Police services) have been accused of institutionalised racism throughout the late 20th and 21st centuries, by people such as the Chief Constable of the GMP in 1998 (David Wilmot); the BBC's Secret Policemen documentary 5 years later (which led to the resignation of 6 officers); Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe and the Metropolitan Black Police Association.
The National Black Police Association which allows only African, African-Caribbean and Asian officers as full members has been criticised as a racist organization by some because of its selective membership criteria based on ethnic origin.
Michael Wilkes from the British Chinese Project said that racism against them isn't taken as seriously as racism against African, African-Caribbean or South Asian people, and that a lot of racist attacks towards the Chinese community go unreported, primarily because of widespread mistrust in the police.
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.
- Environmental racism in the United Kingdom
- Institutional racism in the United Kingdom
- Antisemitism in the United Kingdom
- Racism by country
- Murder of Stephen Lawrence
- Murder of Ross Parker
- Murder of Kriss Donald
- Pavlo Lapshyn
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