Are we any closer to tackling racial inequality in the UK?

Even small amounts of progress are being met with increasingly fierce resistance

8th October 2020

The year 2020 has brought racial dialogue to what may be its apex, decades of inequality reaching what could be considered a boiling point. Numerous cases of race-related police brutality have led to worldwide protests with every aspect of the media also being called into question.

But while the spotlight placed on racial injustice should be wholly positive, the reality has been much grimmer. For every voice that condemns the treatment of minorities, there is another that excuses it. For every group toppling statues erected in the name of racist oppressors, there is another group guarding them. And because many government officials refuse to entertain the idea that Britain has an equality problem, nationalists are encouraged to join in gaslighting the movement.

“This isn’t America”, “that doesn’t happen over here”; a common thought among those who look to devalue a struggle that they have not experienced. All Lives Matter as a concept was created in response to Black Lives Matter, as if the latter were suggesting that non-black lives are any less important. The notion that the system we live in benefits some and puts others at a disadvantage on the basis of their skin colour threatens the privilege that too many are quick to deny the existence of. 

All Lives Matter acts as a vessel for them to air their racial grievances without needing to admit that the mere possibility of Britain having serious race issues threatens them. Why though?

In June, Conservative MP Ben Bradley accused the BLM movement of being divisive and admitted writing to the Premier League to complain about their decision to show support of the movement by having its slogan on the back of the players’ shirts. His argument was that by supporting the movement, people are being pushed to identify themselves by the colour of their skin. 

What he fails to recognise, however, is that this flawed society already forces minorities to identify themselves by the colour of their skin by putting them at a disadvantage to their white counterparts. Be it employment, housing, on the street or within the judicial system people of colour are marginalised in such a way that they have no choice but to identify themselves by their ethnic origin. 

These people feel more confident sharing their controversial opinions knowing that they aren’t alone

Bradley is just one of several politicians to speak against the protests up and down the country, as well as the media’s support of them. Boris Johnson dismissed the idea that the UK is a racist country and condemned the deposing of slave trader Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol. While he did make it clear that it was everyone’s right to peacefully protest, his words and apparent lack of authentic empathy for the disenfranchised acted as a prompt for people opposing the movement. 

These people feel more confident sharing their controversial opinions knowing that they aren’t alone with the government not willing to take a stand with the black community. No longer feeling the need to be covert, it has progressed to the point that any display of solidarity with the cause, regardless of how harmless it may be, is met with public disdain and animosity. Bradley is far from alone in criticising the Premier League for its decision to sport the BLM slogan on players’ kits as well as their decision to have players take a knee before the start of every fixture.

Twitter as a platform is known for its toxicity and this is on full display in the replies of any big company or influential individual tweeting against racial discrimination. Labour MP Dawn Butler received a barrage of racist abuse after defending this summer’s protests in a newspaper article and Diversity’s BLM dance routine on Britain’s Got Talent saw Ofcom receive thousands of complaints.

Change threatens the dynamic they have grown comfortable with for decades

Ordinarily, gestures made for the progression of true British equality would never be so widely berated, however in the last nine months these people have had their privilege called out by those who have lived for so long without any. They’ve become defensive and as the voices asking for equality have got louder, theirs have got louder to match, boosted by a government yet to take any real steps towards erasing discrimination in the country.

With far too few voices from the top demonstrating genuine commitment to reshaping this hierarchy that favours one skin colour over another, every stride towards equality taken in this year of deep discussion has been met by the large number vocally opposed. Change threatens the dynamic they have grown comfortable with for decades and they now have the confidence to stand in direct opposition to it, feeling justified in their reason because BLM is a “violent” and “divisive” movement. As long as this is the case, despite the protests and the important dialogues being had, we will continue to run in place.

8th October 2020