Is modern day Britain a racist society?

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Richard Overington                22/10/2002

General Studies Coursework: “Is modern day Britain a racist society?”

        Whether or not modern day Britain forms part of a racist society is a very complex question to answer. This is because first and foremost it needs to be established what defines a racist society. In order to reach a conclusion should we compare levels of racism in modern day Britain to those of British society say, fifty years ago or should we compare them to other contemporary societies? Further more, the issue prompts the question of whether or not a non-racist society is in fact an achievable ideal. Is racism and prejudiced in fact part of human nature or it is a concept that we ourselves have helped to create by our constant focus upon the matter?

        Regardless of such questions one thing is for sure, whether or not it encapsulates the majority of our society racism still exists to varying degrees within Britain. Almost daily we are able to hear news of discrimination in the workplace and racially motivated crimes . There have been over twenty-five racially motivated murders in mainland Britain since 1991 and in a survey carried out in 1995 over 15% of blacks or Asians were said to believe that racism was a motivating factor in crimes committed against them. This is in comparison to a figure of 1% of white victims of crime.

In 1997/1998 figures given by the commission for racial equality show that police recorded just fewer than 13,900 racially motivated crimes in Britain. The worry is that this figure could in fact be much higher due to the high proportion of victims who feel too frightened to report such incidents for fear of retribution. Although the bulk of racial crimes were of low importance, in terms of police rankings incidents such as verbal abuse and low cost criminal damage can in fact be the most hurtful to the victim. This is because such a type of crime can be found to recur on a frequent basis. Author of “Challenging Racism” Craig Donnellan writes,

“Children suffering racism and abuse can often find it as hard to talk about as those suffering physical or sexual abuse.”


And this it seems is a problem that exists across the board. Even though in past decades laws and regulations have been put in place to eradicate racism in all walks of life, in reality many of the victims of such abuse are still to afraid to speak out and thus the problem is swept under the carpet.

However these facts do not prove that we live in a racist society. It has to be said that despite the apparently large amount of racist hate crime in Britain today the state of affairs we see today, still represents progress. Although racism does still exist in many schools and work places today, compared to Britain as it was in the early part of the 20th Century we can observe a drastic change in attitudes towards racism. This is mainly due to the massive shift in the attitudes of society as a whole since that time. In the 1930’s for example it would not of been frowned upon to refer to an Afro-Caribbean as a “nigger” nowadays the use of such derogatory language to describe another ethnic race would be deeply frowned upon, in fact it is an arrestable offence especially in such public institutions as sports stadia where the previously problematic issue of racial abuse from the terraces has been almost completely wiped out in this country.  Further more, children in schools are no longer taught uniquely about the Christian religion in Religious education. Its now mandatory for all pupils to learn about the many different cultures and religions that exist across Britain and indeed the World. It is hoped by the government that a better understanding between the races will in turn lead to better relations between them. The Commissioner for racial equality in Wales, Ray Singh is quoted as saying,

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“It has to start at the very bottom in education, where teachers should have the education and training to deal with racism and bullying and educate children that they are all the same.”  

This of course is not to be seen as a one-way effort. Mr. Singh adds that willingness is needed also on the part of Britain’s ethnic minorities to try and conform to a more British way of life,

“Bangladeshi girls are told to do domestic science at school because they will be getting married soon and there will no point becoming a ...

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