The last few months have seen endless, complex discussions about racism play out online and on mainstream media platforms.
It has been, frankly, exhausting.
There was the furious online backlash when it was reported that Stormzy said the UK was ‘100% racist’ – which wasn’t even what he said.
Swathes of Twitter users jumped to defend the UK, furiously asserting that this is not a racist country – telling Stormzy he should be ‘grateful’ for being here, and claiming that he is actually the ‘racist’ for saying that Britain is racist.
The mental gymnastics are almost impressive.
Next, there was #Megxit – the announcement that Harry and Meghan would be stepping back from their official royal roles and splitting their time between the UK and Canada.
Despite Prince Harry pointing out the disproportionately hostile treatment of his wife in the press, and the overtly racist online comments in the wake of the announcement – endless TV and radio segments pedalled out white, middle-aged ‘experts’ to debate the existence of racism and deny the lived experiences of people of colour.
Black and Asian journalists were subjected to horrific trolling, rape and death threats for even suggesting that racism played a part in Harry and Meghan’s decision.
Then, we had the rise of Laurence Fox after his appearance on BBC’s Question Time went viral, due to his assertion that it was ‘racist’ to call him a privileged white man, and his exasperated eye-rolling towards any perceived ‘wokeness’.
Again, the outrage centred on denying racism and the blind insistence that racial inequality is improving or no longer exists in this country – despite people from ethnic minorities repeatedly providing evidence to the contrary.
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For people of colour, these denials of racism have been hard to watch.
The vehement clapping and nodding from audience members when people like Fox are given a platform, the willful inability to see racism where it is so blatant for people who have experienced it, the sickening self-congratulation in the claim that the UK is ‘one of the least racist countries in Europe’.
It’s unsettling and suggests a fundamental shift from covert hostile attitudes to open aggression. Once you’re on that slippery slope, it can be near impossible to stop.
One thing to take away from the events of the last few months is that as a country, we really struggle to talk about race. We don’t seem to have the language for it.
Any productive conversation or analysis about race, racism or racial inequality, is immediately shut down with an impenetrable barrier of defensiveness – as though even acknowledging the existence of racism would somehow be an admission of guilt.
But this deep fear of being accused of racism is effectively silencing minorities in this country and making it impossible for progress to be made.
It is no longer good enough to just not be racist. In order to push back against the growing swell of hostility towards ethnic minorities in this country, you have to be actively anti-racist.
And the only way to do that is to have the difficult, uncomfortable conversations.
The State of Racism is our first step towards building a language to talk about the realities of living in the UK as a person of colour as we enter a new decade.
This eight-week series will delve into the true, undeniable experiences of minorities from all walks of life – and take a closer look at how racial inequalities continue to impact education, career prospects, healthcare and quality of life.
We want to make it harder for people to keep denying the existence of racism in the UK.
From explaining key terminology to investigating research that wouldn’t normally make headlines, we hope to provide a clearer picture of racism in Britain and encourage more people to have these uncomfortable but necessary conversations.
The onus has been on people of colour to explain why racism is a problem for too long. It’s up to everyone to look at the facts, the stats and research, and listen to those with lived experiences.
As Dave said in his monumental Brits performance: ‘They say you should be grateful we’re the least racist, I say the least racist is still racist.’
We hope The State of Racism will act as a good starting point or provide points for contemplation for those who need to have those conversations.
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