While Britain continues to promote multiculturalism and boasts of diversity and inclusion, we continue to read stories of racist attacks and incidents on a daily basis. Yet, people of colour play a vital role in contributing to the British economy, healthcare, and almost every sector. We asked some members of the community to reflect and react to the everyday racism stories that make headlines in Britain, their experiences, suggestions and take on the never-ending subtle racism, that has not spared the Royal Duchess as well the first lady of Britain.
Immigration expert Shoaib Khan told Asian Voice, “It is hard to escape the conclusion that racism is pervasive in British society. We regularly hear personal stories from people who suffer harassment and abuse due to their race in their daily lives, but even more, concerning is the attitude of state institutions and other organisations towards people from minority backgrounds.
“The police is frequently described as institutionally racist, and last week an independent inquiry found that the London fire brigade service is "institutionally misogynistic and racist". These are claims routinely made against other departments and organisations as well. People who were brought to the UK decades ago to cover labour shortages here and their descendants still face serious racism in the UK, including state-mandated racism, for instance through the Home Office. They are denied their basic rights and treated like no human should.
“This is all tolerated only because they belong to ethnic minorities. At work they are discriminated against, in education they are discriminated against, when it comes to state facilities and benefits they are discriminated against. Just this morning, Police Scotland was accused of racial profiling after it emerged that people from minority ethnic backgrounds were up to 20 times more likely to be stopped under counterterrorism powers, with 46% of those stopped under Schedule 7 belonging to an ethnic minority. A lot more needs to be done in raising awareness, educating people and creating opportunities. But the first step has to be to admit that this is a serious problem and one that needs to be urgently resolved, not just for those people who are the victims of racism, but society as a whole. As long as we keep denying it and blaming the victims, this will only get worse. The government needs to admit its mistakes and proactively and sincerely work towards creating an equal society.”
Chief Medical Office, Black Country NHS system, Dr Ananta Dave told the newsweekly, “I would say that many of Britain’s institutions in the public sector are structurally racist - their policies, procedures and their recruitment processes are discriminatory. The people working in these institutions and those in senior decision making positions are not representative of the communities we live in. Yes I have faced racism in my personal and professional life over the years - numerous instances to count. It was more in my earlier years in the UK. It still occurs but am in a better position to respond or call it out.”
When Britain needs labour amid a labour shortage or any staff, it turns to ethnic minorities and immigrants. Yet, the question of how they will be treated on the basis of their skin colour remains. Dr Dave said, “I agree. We have an inconsistent and discriminatory attitude to the workforce issue. We get people in when needed but do not do enough or are sometimes downright indifferent to the issues that people of colour face. We do not address issues of bullying & harassment, do not have fair retention policies and we do not think of the emotional impact and trauma of racism.
“I think we have moved forward so we are not back to square one. But we have not progressed at the pace we should have and there is still a great reluctance in many places to acknowledge or accept there is structural racism. People are speaking up more, there is legislation in terms of the Equality Act 2010 and some learning from Covid however we have a long way to go,” she added.
According to her, in the immediate and short term, we need senior decision-making leaders who are representative and have the right values, not just tokenistic appointments. People’s concerns about bullying, harassment and discrimination need to be taken seriously and investigated fairly. Developing a culture of allyship where people with privilege support those who are affected by racism is important too. In the long term we need to introduce education & conversations about racism right from primary school, change our curriculum and training in healthcare to de-colonise it and include people of colour in feedback, service design and research.