“Where are you really from?”: A question I’ve been asked an unbelievable number of times. A question I’ve been asked because, for some strange reason, the UK isn’t a good enough answer. How could I be British right? I’m not white.
WRONG. Yet this is the mindset of so many people. So many more than you would dare to imagine. And despite the fact that I am British, I’m still not an equal in the eyes of those that run our system because I just don’t quite fit the bill.
I’m not sure why, but one of my first memories of being subjected to racism revolves around this question and the pure ignorance of children shouting the racial slur for Pakistani at me across the playground. Clearly, I am not from Pakistan; but I am brown. And even at such a young age (my first recollection being from the age of 8) I was attacked because of it. Where have our children heard this word? Why do they think that this is a word, along with others such as the N-word, that should be coming out of their mouths? Better yet, why do they know that these are words that have been, and are continually, used to attack POC? This isn’t something they just come up with by themselves; they have heard them being used, or have been taught to use them, by influential adults in their lives.
I genuinely believe that if I asked every single POC that I am currently or have ever been friends with, they will have experienced the same torment as me at least once before the age of 10. Is this not testimony enough to the fact that the UK is not innocent? Surely, when it comes down to our children being attacked at such a young age, it proves that racism is something that is ingrained into our society?
It would be nice if it were true; if the UK really was innocent. But it’s not. And what makes it worse is that there are people out there who make statements such as: “At least it’s not as bad as the U.S” or “It’s so much worse over in the States”. Is that really how you view us? Do you genuinely think that making statements such as these is in any way beneficial? Is in any way OK? You are basically telling us that we are LUCKY. That we should be thankful because it’s “not as bad here as in America”?!
These kinds of statements are so undeniably wrong. It should be an issue NOWHERE. Not at any level.
This is just one example of the many racially fuelled experiences that I have had to deal with whilst growing up, but even writing this down won’t be enough to make some of you believe that we do not live in an innocent country. So, I’m going to present you with the facts. This blog is a lot less of me giving my thoughts and opinion and a hell of a lot more about the statistics that prove how systematically racist the UK is as a country.
But before I get all factual, I have a few questions based on the events of the past week:
Do you truly understand how deeply rooted the racism in our country has to be for the media to be re-covering old information on the Madeline McCann case; plastering it all over the news just to cover up what is going on with the BLM movement? Just so that they don’t have to address how our people are being treated all over the world? Just so that they don't have to acknowledge that this is an issue in the UK. Do you not see how blatant that is???
How can you not see the drastic change in the language being used by the media over the past week when referring to the BLM protestors compared to the “counter-protestors” who have been physically attacking the police, inciting hatred and creating such awful scenes and demonstrations around the country? Why were so many BLM protests being referred to as ‘’riots” but the displays of blatant racism and anger that these “counter-protestors” demonstrated this past weekend have been referred to as “scuffles”? This is racial bias and it is not acceptable in any form.
I want to point out that racism is not just an issue in the UK because of the people who are being outwardly and openly racist, or even because of those who stand by silently. It’s not just an issue because the “counter-protestors” (who have all happened to be white in every video that I have yet seen) could throw punches at the police without the fear of being beaten up, detained or arrested as a result of the privilege their skin carries. It’s not even an issue because of the way in which the media chooses to present “us” vs “them”. The racial inequality in the UK is so much more than this.
I count myself lucky that I have parents who worked as hard as they did to provide for me and my sister and did all that they could to ensure that I would not be as affected by this inequality as so many other POC are. But not all minority families have this opportunity and it doesn’t matter how hard they try.
Now for the facts:
How many of you are aware of the fact that for every £1 of White British wealth, Black Caribbean households have 20p and Black African households have 10p? How many of you know that 1 in every 5 children from a Black household is in persistent poverty compared to 1 in 10 children from White households? Did you know that all Black ethnic groups are disproportionately likely to live in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England? In 2015, whilst less than 10% of the White British population were living in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in England, between 15-20% of EVERY Black minority and mixed Black and White ethnicity group were doing so.
And some of you may sit there and say that this could be the result of a number of other factors such as career choice, rather than it being related to race. Which could well be the case. Until you then look at the statistics within the British work force and you are able to see more clearly how this is in fact directly related to the colour of our skin.
Were you aware that on average, people from minority ethnic backgrounds have to send around 80% more job applications than people of White British origin in order to receive a positive response? Eighty percent!!
And this is not only an issue in lower ranking jobs. We suffer discrimination and are represented at a significantly lower rate in some of the most important and forefront jobs in the country. For example, in 2018, 85.9% of teachers in state-funded schools in England were White British. Less than 3% of teachers were Black or Mixed White and Black.
More than 9 out of 10 of our head teachers were White British.
In 2016, 94% of prison officers in England and Wales were White.
Around 1 police officer in every 17 was from a non-White ethnic group. And even then, the few police officers from non-White minority groups were more concentrated in lower ranks.
Of all applicants shortlisted for NHS jobs in England, White applicants were more likely to be appointed.
14% of NHS staff from a non-White background reported having experienced discrimination at work from either a manager or colleague compared to 6% of their White colleagues.
Non-White NHS staff were also more likely to be entered into formal disciplinary procedures than White staff.
The boards of many trusts do not reflect the diversity of the NHS workforce: only 7% of trust board members in England in 2016 were from a non-White background while the remaining 93% of board members were White.
Now let’s talk about our criminal justice system.
In 2015/16, figures from the Race Disparity Audit demonstrated that White people were among the least likely to become a victim of crime or to fear becoming a victim. And the risk of being a victim of crime was highest for people from Mixed, Black and Asian adult populations.
The White population were also the only ethnic group to see a statistically significant fall in the levels of crime over the 3 years from 2013/14 to 2015/16.
As of the most recent data (April 2018 - March 2019), Black people are over 3 times as likely to be arrested and 9 times as likely to be stopped and searched in the UK than White people are. Mixed race ethnicities are nearly 2 times as likely to be arrested and almost 3 times as likely to be stopped and searched in the UK than White people are.
As of 2017, White people who committed an offence were more likely to receive a suspended sentence than were offenders from Black or Mixed backgrounds. They were more likely to receive a community sentence for an offence they committed than people from Black and Mixed backgrounds. Yet they were less likely to receive an immediate custodial sentence than people from Black and Mixed backgrounds.
Did you know that in the general adult population, common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are most prevalent amongst Black women? Or that suicide rates are almost 3 times higher among Black African and Black Caribbean women aged 25-39 than among their White British counterparts. Were you aware of the fact that it is estimated that mental health disorders are more than ten times as prevalent among Black men compared to White men in England?
But despite these facts, recent reports have shown that there is still a strong need for a drastic increase in the cultural competency in mental health services available in order to support people from Black and Minority ethnic communities. Some examples of these improvements being the need for practical improvements in language interpretation and literacy and increasing the ethnic diversity of staff.
I could go on and on about the facts and figures that demonstrate the structural racism that our country is built upon, but I won’t. Because ultimately, it’s not my place to educate you. The information is out there, and it is readily available. With all of the resources that we have access to, there is absolutely no excuse to be ignorant, misinformed or uneducated. Please take the time to read up on this.
This is not something that people should take lightly. I hope that it’s surprising and shocking and eye-opening for some of you. I hope that this post will encourage you to educate yourself and your families further, and gives you some understanding of the many ways that the UK is in fact not innocent.
When racism is so deeply rooted in the foundation of our country, it is impossible for us to be innocent. And the more people that come to learn about this, the better. Say it louder for those in the back: The UK is NOT innocent.
Below you will find links to a handful of articles, videos and books that many of you may find useful and insightful:
https://www.parenttoolkit.com/social-and-emotional-development/advice/social-awareness/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-race-and-racism; https://bouncebackparenting.com/resources-for-talking-to-kids-about-race-and-racism/ -
Both of these links give advice on ways to address racism with children
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qERapcZz6zs - Dr William Ackah briefly summarises the Institutional Racism in Britain
https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/cjm/article/implicit-racial-bias-and-anatomy-institutional-racism - A publication discussing Implicit racial bias and the anatomy of institutional racism within the UK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrHIQIO_bdQ&feature=youtu.be - this short video gives a very basic explanation on systemic racism in the United States but is still relevant in many ways and educational
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAQ11iNknoU - Paul Rucker’s TED talk on symbols of systemic racism and how to take away their power
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1408870584/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 - A link for “Why I’m No Longer Taking to White People About Race”, a book that many people are finding extremely educational and eye-opening.
Statistics quoted in this blog have been taken from the following sources: