There was a comment made by a white male on BBC Question Time that has understandably caused quite some controversy: ‘The UK is one of the least racist societies across Europe.’ There are so many problems with this statement my fingers are itching in disgust as I type this article.
In the words of the woman in the audience that responded to this comment.
It’s funny that you’re a white man saying that.
It really is laughable but not haha funny, more heartbreaking that a portion of Caucasian people continue to feel justified in speaking out on the black experience that they simply have no way of understanding what this could feel like. We all hopefully have an empathetic bone somewhere in our bodies that enables us to try and put ourselves in the shoes of people with different experiences to our own but I hope that we are not fooled into thinking using our imagination could ever compare to actually hiking up the mountain in someone else’s shoes.
As I glanced through the internet to see what the world was saying on this matter I was amused to find that previously mentioned Question time attendee is technically right and here is a picture to prove it.
This map shows how easily people from different countries associate black faces with negative ideas. Technically the U.K. is among the least according to this measure of racism but let’s take a look at what that actually means for black people.
Negative idea number 1:
The black man is poor and all wealth is acquired fraudulently.
We all remember what happened to UK rapper Stormzy who had a run in with the police in Feb 2017, his crime…. working hard and becoming successful. Just a day after attending the Elle Style Awards, Stormzy woke up to the metropolitan police kicking down his door because they thought he was a burglar. Imagine being worth £1.5 million (at the time) and waking up to police breaking into your very nice flat because it seemed implausible that someone of your race could own something as nice. Just over a year later George The Poet is being stripped searched in a van outside of his parents house because they made another mistake in thinking he didn’t have car insurance.
Negative idea number 2
The black man is aggressive.
This has been a long a standing idea and black people continue to bear the brunt of excessive force used by police. In this BBC article published earlier this year, police are recorded to have used force equivalent to once for every 50 black people and once for every 200 white people in the population, making them four times more likely to use force against black people than whites. Reading this article was another sad reminder that we are still oppressed and the battle for equality is far from victory. There has been more than one occasion where someone has started telling me the story of a ‘big black man’ that actually turned out to be a real softie as if being a built black man suggests you can’t be kind hearted and friendly.
I’ve never lived in any other European country so I can’t comment on what it feels like to be black living there but I can say that which ever way the U.K. compares to the rest of Europe, the level of racism is still untenable and shouldn’t have to be tolerated. For anyone that thinks these are anecdotal examples of racism in the U.K. you need to talk to more black people and you will see these experiences are not the one offs you’d like to believe they are. We may be the ‘least racist’ across Europe but that simply isn’t good enough. The fight for equality continues and will do until these experiences go from common, to not often, arriving at never.