“Looking Like a Drug Dealer” – Institutional Racism in the UK?
Currently, there is a debate going on in the UK about systemic and institutional racism, partly fueled by the BLM movement, but also due to Britain’s very own (historical) issues.
Thus, on 28 April 2021 the British newspaper TheGuardian announces: “UK Universities are institutionally racist”. There are not isolated incidents happening, but “systemic issues that are impacting disproportionally on particular members of your community.” The article, for example, cites a first-year student of colour being harassed by university security staff claiming he looked like a drug dealer.
There is a long history of discussions of racism in the UK and there have been many inquiries since the now famous Stephen Lawrence Inquiry from 1999, (very flawed police investigation of the 1993 racially motivated murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, only two of the group of white teenagers involved were convicted in 2012).
The latest 2021 government-commissioned report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities found that although anecdotal evidence of racism exists, “We no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.” This sparked wide controversy, with, e.g., Prof Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, calling the report “complete nonsense” and going against existing evidence. Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of race equality think tank Runnymede Trust, finds the report “deeply worrying”, calling it a “whitewash” and cites the four-times higher risk of Black mothers to die in childbirth and the 60% of NHS staff who died from Covid being from ethnic minorities.
Further examples (by no means complete) supporting the criticism of the report would be the recent (2018) Windrush scandal as well as reports on racism in British schools. The “Empire Windrush” was a passenger ship arriving in the UK in 1948 from the Caribbean, carrying workers recruited by the UK government. In 2018, the Home Office told many of these immigrants that they were illegal, threatened them with deportation and actually deported some.
For racism at British schools see: