Racism in the United Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

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


Since World War I, public expressions of racism have primarily 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.[citation needed] 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.[2] 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.[3] The Human Rights Act 1998 made organisations in Britain, including public authorities, subject to the European Convention on Human Rights.[4] 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[5] and particularly the legal professions.[6][7] 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[8] 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."[9]

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.[9]

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.[7] 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.[10][11]

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,[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

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".[13] 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.[15]

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 country[edit]



Human rights activist Peter Tatchell campaigned on the issue of the Constitutional status of Cornwall. In November 2008, The Guardian carried an article by him entitled Self-rule for Cornwall,[16] in which he said:

Like Wales and Scotland, Cornwall considers itself a separate Celtic nation – so why shouldn't it have independence? [...]

[Cornish] Nationalists argue that Cornwall is a subjugated nation, in much the same way that Scotland and Wales once were. Not only is the historic Cornish flag – a white cross on a black background – excluded from the Union Jack; until not so long ago Cornish people needed planning permission to fly it. Comparisons with Scotland and Wales are valid. After all, Cornwall has all the basic cultural attributes of a nation: its own distinct Celtic language, history, festivals, cuisine, music, dance and sports. Many Cornish people perceive themselves to be other than English. Despite the government's resistance, under [the] Commission for Racial Equality and Council of Europe guidelines, they qualify for recognition as a national minority. [...]

Cornwall was once separate and self-governing. If the Cornish people want autonomy and it would improve their lives, why shouldn't they have self-rule once again? Malta, with only 400,000 people, is an independent state within the EU. Why not Cornwall?[16]

This article received the largest number of comments to any Guardian article, according to This is Cornwall.[17] Over 1,500 comments were made, and while some comments were supportive, Tatchell found himself "shocked and disgusted" by the anti-Cornish sentiment shown by many commenters.[17]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Since the end of the Troubles, Northern Ireland's immigrant community has tripled[18] and there has been a sharp rise in racist incidents. It has the highest number of racist incidents per person in the UK,[19][20][21] and has been branded the "race-hate capital of Europe".[22] Foreigners are three times more likely to suffer a racist incident in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK.[23]

Most racist incidents happen in loyalist Protestant areas. Police say members of loyalist paramilitary groups have orchestrated a series of racist attacks aimed at "ethnically cleansing" these areas.[24] There have been pipe bomb, petrol bomb and gun attacks on the homes of immigrants.[25][26][27][28][29] Masked gangs have also ransacked immigrants' homes and assaulted the residents.[20] 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.[30][31][32] That year, a Polish immigrant was beaten to death in a racist attack in Newry.[33] Police recorded more than 1,100 racist incidents in 2013/14, but they believe most incidents are not reported to them.[24]


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"[34] 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.[35]

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."[36]

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".[37]

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.[38]

From 2004 to 2012 the rate of racist incidents has been around 5,000 incidents per year.[38] 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.[38]

Racism in the police[edit]

Police force[edit]

Various police departments in the United Kingdom (such as the Greater Manchester Police, the Metropolitan Police Service, the Sussex Police and the West Yorkshire Police services)[39] 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);[40] Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe[41] and the Metropolitan Black Police Association.[42]

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.[43][44][45]

Michael Wilkes from the British Chinese Project said that racism against them isn't taken as seriously as racism against African-Caribbean or Asian people, and that a lot of racist attacks towards the Chinese community go unreported, primarily because of widespread mistrust in the police.[46]

Prison staff[edit]

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.[47]

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. ^ Green, Chris (1 March 2015). "Immigration policy led to 'new forms of racism', says new study". The Independent. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "1965: New UK race law 'not tough enough'". BBC On This Day. BBC. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Human Rights Act 1998". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "Racism 'still exists' in police". BBC News. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "SRA accused of institutional racism | News". The Lawyer. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  7. ^ a b "EHRC - Is it easy to bring a racial discrimination case?". Equalityhumanrights.com. 2010-10-01. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ a b Freeman, Simon. "Britain urged to wake up to race crisis", The Times, September 22, 2005.
  10. ^ "Barriers to employment for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Britain and constraints". Research.dwp.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  11. ^ As in Iteshi v British Telecommunications PLC UKEATPA/0378/11/DM
  12. ^ "BBC - Tyne Roots - Black History Month - The story behind Britain's first race riot". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Q&A: The Scarman Report 27 BBC Online. April 2004. Accessed 6 October 2002.
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ Law and Order, moral order: The changing rhetoric of the Thatcher government. online. Ian Taylor. Accessed 6 October 2006
  16. ^ a b "Peter Tatchell: Self-rule for Cornwall | Comment is free". guardian.co.uk (London: Guardian). 23 January 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2009. 
  17. ^ a b "Tatchell's in town to back home rule for the Cornish". Retrieved 28 August 2009. 
  18. ^ "NI migrant population triples in decade, says study". BBC News, 26 June 2014.
  19. ^ "Race hate on rise in NI". BBC News, 13 January 2004.
  20. ^ a b Chrisafis, Angelique. "Racist war of the loyalist street gangs". The Guardian, 10 January 2004.
  21. ^ "Bitter tide of violent racial hate recalls the worst of the Troubles". Irish Independent, 8 August 2004.
  22. ^ "Ulster 'is race hate capital of Europe'". BreakingNews.ie. 26 June 2006.
  23. ^ Leach, Anna. "Northern Ireland: minorities three times more likely to be targets of racism". 17 June 2014.
  24. ^ a b "The complex rise in Northern Ireland racist hate crime". BBC News, 11 September 2014.
  25. ^ "Two arrested over racist pipe bomb attacks in Londonderry". BBC News, 10 March 2014.
  26. ^ "Loyalists hit out at racist attacks". BBC News, 3 July 2003.
  27. ^ "Police probe after bomb attacks". BBC News, 2 June 2005.
  28. ^ "Mother of South Belfast racist attack to leave home". Belfast Daily. 25 May 2013.
  29. ^ "Gun attack: Family at home during 'hate crime' in west Belfast". BBC News, 24 April 2014.
  30. ^ "Belfast racists threaten to cut Romanian baby's throat". The Guardian, !& June 2009.
  31. ^ "NI Racists' Bomb Threat To Immigrants". Sky News, 10 July 2009.
  32. ^ "Romanian migrants flee their homes after Belfast race attacks". The Telegraph, 17 June 2009.
  33. ^ "'Racist motive' in Pole's murder". BBC News, 9 April 2010.
  34. ^ "Almost 20 race-hate crimes a day in Scotland". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  35. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Scotland - Glasgow and West - Kriss attacked 'for being white'". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  36. ^ "Minority Ethnic Pupils' Experiences Of School In Scotland (MEPESS)". Scotland.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  37. ^ "Race hate murder man found guilty". BBC News. 10 November 2009. 
  38. ^ 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. 
  39. ^ "Police forces confess to racism". BBC News. BBC. 16 October 1998. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  40. ^ Scheerhout, John (4 December 2013). "A familiar tale: 'Institutional racism' at Greater Manchester Police". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  41. ^ Dodd, Vikram; Evans, Rob (7 March 2014). "Lawrence revelations: admit institutional racism, Met chief told". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  42. ^ Muir, Hugh (21 April 2013). "Metropolitan police still institutionally racist, say black and Asian officers". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  43. ^ "Tory MP addresses National Black Police Association annual conference... and blasts THEM as racist". Mail Online. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  44. ^ "MP mix-up as wrong David Davies accuses National Black Police Association of racism". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  45. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Wales - South East Wales - MP defends police race criticism". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  46. ^ Thomas, Emily (6 January 2015). "British Chinese people say racism against them is 'ignored'". Newsbeat. BBC. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  47. ^ Roweena Davis; Paul Lewis (7 February 2010). "Complaints of prison racism rise among staff and inmates". The Guardian. 

External links[edit]