Racism protests: impactful or performative?


Over a year has passed since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The killing of an unarmed African American is not new. Racism from police against minority groups has always caused justified uproar and protest. However, the killing of George Floyd was something of a wake-up call.

Protests against racial inequality were held in the aftermath of the incident with millions attending, sending shock waves globally. Protests took place in the UK, calling for equal treatment of all races.

The perception is that the United Kingdom is separate from the US in terms of racial injustice, watching riots from afar in a happily multicultural society. While racism in the UK is likely less prevalent than in America, it most certainly is present in our society. Consequently, protests were necessary in raising awareness of the fact that racism is not an American issue – it is a worldwide issue.

While racism in the UK is likely less prevalent than in America, it most certainly is present in our society

The question following the protests is whether or not they made enough of a difference in the UK. Many would have hoped that racism in all its forms would have been eradicated by protests which raised awareness of the issue. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

Reports from the House of Commons library show that from 2019 to 2020 the number of reported hate crimes rose by 6%. The number of hate crimes in 2020 is reportedly 131% higher than in 2013. The rise of social media means that hate crimes can be committed more frequently and against anyone. Manchester United player Marcus Rashford recently commented that following his performance in the Europa League final he received “at least 70 racial slurs”. Rashford’s experiences are unfortunately common for those in the limelight and show that racism is far from being removed from society.

Less obvious forms of racism also exist in the UK. The black community has consistently had the highest rate of unemployment, with white Britons having the lowest. This may be due to perceptions of individuals dictated by racial differences. The European Social Survey conducted an investigation asking participants if “some races or ethnic groups are born harder working than others”, to which 44% of participants said yes.

This attitude was also the focus of a 2018 Guardian survey in which advertisements were published across the UK. One set of advertisements included the name ‘David’ while the other half were published under the name ‘Muhammad.’ The adverts including the name Muhammad received only eight positive responses for every ten that the David adverts did.

Racism still exists, just as it always has

As a consequence of persistent racism, a survey conducted by YouGov reports that 84% of BAME Britons believe that racism does still exist in the UK to some extent. Additionally, the ‘Community Life Survey’ shows that only 75% of the black community feel as if they belong in Britain, compared to 85% of the white community.

Awareness of racial inequality is not at the level it should be. Protests undeniably made people think about these issues within British society, but for the white community, it seems that the denial of issues of racism is more prevalent than the correction of those issues. 

Protests do work, but simply looking online shows that some still act in a racist manner, in spite of this increased awareness. Racism still exists, just as it always has. 

Issues of racial inequality are not reserved for those in the minority, and until the majority embrace protests against racism, it is unlikely to be completely dispelled from society.

Image: Nicole Baster via Unsplash

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