Race has been ever constant in the UK, with the extent and type changing over time. The concept of racism first started in 1869 with colonisation and the spreading of the British Empire It was erroneously based on a debased form of ‘social Darwinism’ which was advocated for Cecil Rhodes. He, and many others of the time, believed that they were the ‘forefront of progress and civilisation’ with Africans being ‘primitive’ and ‘backwards’. Both world wars also led to a spike in racism. In 1919, for example, saw white and minority groups rioting at the docks as a result of the ‘surplus of labour’ after WW1. So does racism still exist today?
Despite race lacking any scientific validity, the concept of race has kept a hegemonic place in the public consciousness. This has led to high levels of racial prejudice with ‘one in four people in Britain admitting to being prejudice towards people of other races’ . Racism is thus still active in all areas of life with employment, education and politics being affected. Employment, in particular is heavily afflicted by racism. Legally, there should be no boundaries on employment for BMW employees in the UK. Nonetheless, a study conducted in 2017 showed that an 8.3% employment pay gap still exists between black and white workers. Those who are in employment are also more likely to be trapped in temporary or zero – hour work, with BME employees being 1/3 more likely to have this type of employment .
The education system is another area in society where racism is still highly active despite governmental polices from ‘national policies to school level decisions about discipline about academic selection’ . This is evident in higher education with offer rates for white applicants being double as high than application from black students, at 54.7% compared to 23.3% .
In politics, problems with racism still exist, with white politicians still being the dominant force. However, there have been some strong improvements in political racism with with 51 BME MPs, 7.8% of the new parliament, being elected in 2017 compared to only 27 – only 4.2& of the parliament- in 2013, problems still exist.
There have been government policies on both a national and local scale to tackle racism. At a national level, legislation has been passed to ensure the safety and equality of racial minority groups. The first piece of legislation was introduced in 1965 with the Race Relations Act. This landmark piece of legislation banned ‘racial discrimination in public places’ and also made the ‘promotion of hatred on the grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins an offense’. Even a Race Relations Board was established to cerebrate on complaints of racial discrimination, leading to 327 complaints being heard in the first year . This was crucial in seeing how the government’s attitude to racism was shifting, as it was the first piece of legislation to ever be passed on the issue of racism and was the first time that racism was seen as a crime. However, there were still major issues, with the bill being castigated for not focusing on the areas where racial discrimination was most extensive. Specifically, problems over employment and accommodation was not addressed in the bill . This subsequently led to the setting up of the 1968 Race Relations Act and later the Equality Act of 2010. Both these acts concentrate on protecting minority groups in education, employment and services. The fact that these acts are constantly being developed and improved demonstrates the changing nature of racism in the UK. Even today, acts are being developed to combat racism in the future. The Hate Crime Action Plan, 2016 – 2020, for example, aims to not only tackle hate crime, but also improve the reporting, the response and support for victims of hate crime. These acts not only show that racism is still an active issue, but also highlight the changing nature of racism, with the most recent acts focusing on hate crime and less on problems of employment.
Locally, communities have also tried tackling racism at a smaller scale. One of the main ways this is being done in schools. Projects such as the Initial Teacher Training project, 2009-2018 (ITT) and the Free hate crime resources train teachers how to deal with hate crime and racism in schools and also providing funding to raise awareness about hate crimes in schools .