The most hilarious statement a white British person has ever said to me is that they don’t “see race”.
The second was “I forget that you are black sometimes”.
I looked at them and thought, why are you always lying? The first thing you noticed about me upon introduction was my skin colour and it isn’t a problem, so there’s no need to lie about it.
With these statements in mind, the question that springs to mind is this: Why does British society as a whole, attempt to completely evade conversations regarding racial and cultural differences?
Some answers to Britain’s attitude to racial and cultural differences can be found in the history of mass multi-culturalism in Britain. Masses of people from the commonwealth country India and the Carribbean island of Jamaica, were invited to England to partake in the effort to re-build Britain post-WWII. The ethnic minority population increased the most in the 1950’s and 60’s. This is known as the windrush.
However the British public were not prepared (and were not warned) that the migrants arriving would be so ethnically and culturally different to themselves, nor were they informed that there would be quite so many ‘different’ people arriving. The windrush saw Britain rear it’s head in protest to multi-culturalism and the racial tensions between UK nationals and the migrants reached great heights in all aspects of society.
Despite this opposition to a diverse Britain presented by it’s nation, the Asian and black migrants showed no signs of returning to their native countries anytime soon. As more migrants arrived from other parts of the world, the anti-immigrant slurs, overt racial abuse and “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish signs” over time simmered down to anti-immigrant grumbles, replacement of the word black with the term ‘urban’ (which still makes me laugh to this day), and the conservative yet still very real continuation of resentment towards ethnic minorities and their cultures.
I watched an interesting channel four documentary earlier this year, titled Britain’s racist election, which provided insight into race relations in Britain in the 1960’s after the influx of black and Asian migrants. The documentary detailed how racially-centred the 1964 UK election became in the city of Smethwick Birmingham, and showed how xenophobia was used by politicians to manipulate the British public to hold hatred and contempt for ethnic minorities.
The documentary is no longer available to view in full online, however I shall post it’s trailer below.
A relationship between the white British and black and Asian migrants built upon the negative broad-brushing and demonising of a whole ethnicity of people, has created a British attitude (no matter how subdued), towards ethnic minorities that is deeply-rooted in racial stereotypes and judgement.
It is these relationships that need to be de-constructed and rebuilt, as the British attitudes to race that were created are a societal ailment that a dose of colour-blindness isn’t going to cure unfortunately.
Britain considers itself to be multi-cultural and diverse. However, it appears that it is truly just a society with people of various ethnicities and cultures, pretending that other people with different ethnicities and cultures to themselves do not exist, and then labelling it colour-blindness, and even worse than that; Categorising this as post-racial behaviour.
Ethnicity and race are not dirty words. I do not wish for others to pretend they cannot ‘see’ my ethnicity.
It is not colour-blindness that is required here, It is the acknowledgement of racial and cultural differences, without the application of inferiority or superiority to these differences from any one side.