As the month of October commences, the members of the Black History Society have placed concession stands in the main hall. Amidst the stands are not only the people who fell victim to police brutality, but also the faces of black world leaders, faces that are hopeful with promises they make to achieve equality.
Countries like America and South Africa have their respective civil rights activists, a great reminder of the suffering they had endured for the face of equality. Every so often, we see running American headlines: ‘The KKK are back at it again’ or ‘neo-Nazis march through town’, and then we, at the comfort of our British homes, say ‘Thank God racism isn’t as bad here.’ Unfortunately, that’s where we are wrong; everyone seems to forget that issues that take place on a small scale are just as important as those that are going viral. Sure, there aren’t many videos of police flooring unarmed black teenagers in London, but one really does have to consider the bigger picture.
The teaching of history in the U.K. is heavily biased; anything we learn of British history is often oversimplified and fails to take into account the terrible exploitations of the British. For example, we learn about the African slave trade and the abuse they endured from their white American slave owners, but we are never told the full extent of the contributions made by the British.
Not only did Britain profit immensely off the enslaved Africans, but factories in England also produced shackles and chains, common items in the slave trade. This can also be applied to the teaching of British colonialism in history; again, it is oversimplified and we are not taught about the ways the British empire exploited its colonies of its resources and its wealth. If anything, history often focuses way too much on the achievements of the white British rather than giving an objective perspective of history.
The media also does a poor job at portraying ethnic minorities in a positive manner. Black British people are often reduced to gangsters who live in the working class South London; their defining qualities are almost never their intelligence or their efforts, but rather their passion for grime art and involvement with drugs and their lack of desire to have academic success.
South Asians are also subject to this type of racism in the media, as they are often portrayed as belonging to a retrospective, intolerant culture, and women appear to be oppressed by the constraints of Desi culture. Because South Asians are often associated with having an affiliation to Islam, the rise of Islamophobia in the last few years means that they often fall victim to hate crimes to hate groups like the EDL (English Defence League). They are often presented as an adversary to British values who therefore threaten British society unless they assimilate.
Sometimes we even forget that racism is just as prominent in Parliament; how is it that political parties like UKIP and the BNP are allowed to sit in the House of Commons, and throw around statements about how they believe that Parliament ‘should ban the burqa’? We often lay back and say ‘we don’t have that problem here’ until we remember that Mark Duggan was shot dead by Tottenham police in 2011, or that there is a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities that die in police custody than white people.
The problem is that the experiences of people of color are constantly sidelined, and no one seems to be listening to these experiences until yet another tragedy takes place. Britain is so in denial about racism that we forget that a large portion of British society is deeply rooted in racism; we need to destroy the illusion of innocence that Britain has and have these issues addressed by the state and the public.