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  • Oliver Barsby

Racism in Britain is here to stay

In 2018, there were a record 1,652 number of anti-Semitic crimes reported, an increase of 16% from 2017. Over half the registered religious hate crimes in 2017/18 targeted Muslims, with 2,965 cases reported. Yet there is still a reluctance by British people to admit there is a problem with racism, and until the country accepts this, it will continue.

One of the primary sources of racism is the lack of socialisation that takes place in areas of high segregation. Many areas of the UK still primarily consist of one race.

Blackburn is the perfect example of a town that suffers from such a problem, with the Mill Hill area of the town (95% white) and Whalley Range area (a majority Muslim population) frequently clashing. Two different communities can lead parallel lives right next to each other. These cultural differences are not celebrated, but in fact, feared as being at odds with British values.

Chuka Umunna, Chair of the APPG on Social Integration, called segregation a "national crisis" because of government mishandling. By treating these areas as dangerous places with potential for extremism, it marginalises and vilifies those living there. It makes these groups fearful of others, and others fearful of them. These perceptions do not just appear on their own, however. Blatant stereotypes and misinformation about Jews and Muslims remain prevalent.

Furthermore, news agencies are keen exploit these issues for financial gain, as the issues are highly contentious. According to the University of Alabama, terror attacks committed by Muslim extremists are 357% more likely to receive press coverage compared to those committed by non-Muslims. These events lead to an increase in racist attacks, with anti-Muslim attacks increasing by 700% in the week after the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017. Despite having no connection to extremists aside from their religion, Muslims are being blamed for these attacks by far-right extremists to embolden their political rhetoric, and it has worked.

Stereotypes of Jewish people supporting anti-Palestinian messages and decisions made by the Israeli government are just as impactful. The opposition undermines their legitimate criticisms of leaders when accusing whole races or religions of supporting their actions, strengthening such regimes instead.

Social media has contributed dearly towards the increase of racist behaviour. By using anonymous profiles, individuals can easily harass celebrities on the grounds of their race, with Rachel Riley increasing her security detail after receiving abuse and threats on Twitter because of her Jewish heritage and comments on Anti-Semitism in the Labour party. It is not just the anonymity, however, that makes the internet a breeding ground for racism. Sites that place ‘free speech’ at the top of their banner excuse content that displays racist attacks. The Christchurch mosque shooter live-streamed his attack, and those clips are now easily accessible online, with these racist individuals heralded as heroes with ‘high body counts’. Such spreading of hateful content legitimises the behaviour, leading to more and more white supremacist attacks taking place.

The main reason Britain still suffers from racism is because of a reluctance from the two main political parties to end their own internal racial prejudices. Instead, Labour and the Conservatives play their racism off against each other, as if it was some derogatory racism competition. They are missing the point. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are not the same issues, nor can we compare in the same way. Rather than confronting these internal problems, the two parties dismiss their existence. The Conservatives have consistently rebutted calls from Baroness Warsi and the Muslim Council of Britain for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party, after accusations made towards key figures such as Boris Johnson, Michael Fabricant and Sajid Javid. To deal with this racism is to admit your party is imperfect, giving the political upper hand to your opponents. Power, in this situation, is more important. This is why some MPs and Councillors, despite expressing Islamophobic or Anti-Semitic views, still remain in their positions.

Both parties will continue such rebuttals for fears it will damage election chances. By not acting on racism, political parties may secure legislative victories, but this comes at a cost. Until parties put tolerance and equality above their policies and reputation, Britain will remain an epicentre for racism.

Image - Unsplash

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