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A state of racism exists between some of the citizens of the United Kingdom. Studies taken by the BBC in 2014 and 2015 claim racism is on the rise in the UK, with more than one third actually admitting they are racially prejudiced.[1] Relations between different ethnicities within the United Kingdom have resulted in cases of race riots and racist murder perpetrated by individuals of all races.


See also: Alien (law)

Since the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the United Kingdom has never implemented any laws that officially discriminate or segregate on the grounds of race or ethnicity. Furthermore, it has never been an offence for persons of different ethnicities to marry one another. It has never been the case that a British citizen has been denied the vote on the basis of his race or ethnicity. In the 20th century, Britain began restricting immigration under the Aliens Restriction Act 1905. This was mainly aimed at Jews fleeing persecution in Russia.[citation needed] Before the Act, Britain was mostly a nation of long settled closely related European peoples: the Puritans fled to the Thirteen Colonies and the Lowland Clearances and the Highland Clearances of Scotland caused similar emigration patterns. Manchester and Bristol saw riots over early industrialisation conditions, and Victorian England is best described as Dickensian—it was unfriendly to the lower classes, and the welfare state was not invented until the time of Asquith and Lloyd George. Britain did have an ad-hoc asylum policy for cases of religious persecution but it was curtailed during the First World War by both the Alien Restriction Act 1914 and the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914.[citation needed] Despite restrictions, Britain was among the nations which accepted many immigrants prior to, during and following WWII.

Use of the word 'racism' became more widespread after 1936, although the term "race hatred" was used in the late 1920s by sociologist Frederick Hertz.

Although racial segregation and discrimination were never mandated or sanctioned by law in the United Kingdom, it was not until the 1960s that laws were passed that specifically prohibited the practice.

The Race Relations Act 1965 outlawed public discrimination, and established the Race Relations Board. Further Acts in 1968 and 1976 outlawed discrimination in employment, housing and social services, and replaced the Race Relations Board with Commission for Racial Equality[2] that merged into the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2004. The Human Rights Act 1998 made organisations in Britain, including public authorities, subject to the European Convention on Human Rights.[3] The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 extends existing legislation for the public sector to the police force, and requires public authorities to promote equality.

After 2000, some argued that racism remains common, and some politicians and public figures have been accused of promoting racist attitudes in the media, particularly with regard to immigration, however race and immigration although related are not the same concepts.[4] There have been growing concerns in recent years about institutional racism in public and private bodies. Although various anti-discrimination laws do exist, according to some sources, most employers in the UK remain institutionally racist including public bodies such as the police[5] and the legal professions.[6][7]

Public sector employers in the UK are somewhat less likely to discriminate on grounds of race, as they are required by law to promote equality and make efforts to reduce racial and other discrimination.[citation needed] The private sector, however are subject to little or no functional anti-discrimination regulation and short of self paid litigation, no remedies are available for members of ethnic minorities.[7] UK employers can also effectively alleviate themselves from any legal duty not to discriminate on the basis of race, by 'outsourcing' recruitment and thus any liability for the employers' racial screening and discriminatory policies to third party recruitment companies.[8][9]

The United Kingdom has been accused of "sleepwalking toward apartheid" by Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality. Philips has said that Britain is fragmenting into isolated racial communities: "literal black holes into which no one goes without fear and trepidation and nobody escapes undamaged".[citation needed] On the other hand, the UK was commended in 2014 for its lack of racism by another member of a minority group. In fact, the author says that, from her perspective, it is a haven for inclusiveness, but loses points for its culture of grievance.[10]

Race riots

Pub damaged in the 2001 Bradford riots between White and Pakistani sectors

There were fierce race riots targeting ethnic minority populations across the United Kingdom in 1919: South Shields,[11] Glasgow, London's East End, Liverpool, Cardiff, Barry, and Newport.[citation needed] There were further riots targeting immigrant and minority populations in East London and Notting Hill in the 1950s.

In the early 1980s, societal racism, discrimination and poverty — alongside further perceptions of powerlessness and oppressive policing — sparked a series of riots in areas with substantial African-Caribbean populations.[12] These riots took place in St Pauls in 1980, Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side in 1981, St Pauls again in 1982, Notting Hill Gate in 1982, Toxteth in 1982, and Handsworth, Brixton and Tottenham in 1985.[13]

A 1981 report identified both "racial discrimination" and an "extreme racial disadvantage" in Britain, concluding that urgent action was needed to prevent these issues becoming an "endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society".[12] The era saw an increase in attacks on black people by white people. The Joint Campaign Against Racism committee reported that there had been more than 20,000 attacks on British people of colour, including Britons of South Asian origin during 1985.[14]

Both the Bradford riots and the Oldham Riots occurred in 2001, following cases of racism. These were either the public displays of racist sentiment or, as in the Brixton Riots, racial profiling and alleged harassment by police forces. In 2005, there were the Birmingham riots, derived from ethnic tensions between the British African-Caribbean people and British Asian communities, with the spark for the riot being an alleged gang rape of a teenage black girl by a group of South Asian men.

Racism by region

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland had in 2004 the highest number of racist incidents per person in the UK,[15][16][17] and has been branded the "race-hate capital of Europe".[18] Foreigners are three times more likely to suffer a racist incident in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK.[19]

According to police, most racist incidents happen in loyalist Protestant areas, and members of loyalist paramilitary groups have orchestrated a series of racist attacks aimed at "ethnically cleansing" these areas.[20] There have been pipe bomb, petrol bomb and gun attacks on the homes of immigrants and people of different ethnic origins.[21][22][23][24][25] Masked gangs have also ransacked immigrants' homes and assaulted the residents.[16] In 2009, more than 100 Roma were forced to flee their homes in Belfast following sustained attacks by a racist mob, who allegedly threatened to kill them.[26][27][28] That year, a Polish immigrant was beaten to death in an apparently racist attack in Newry.[29] Police recorded more than 1,100 racist incidents in 2013/14, but they believe most incidents are not reported to them.[20]


In 2006, 1,543 victims of racist crime in Scotland were of Pakistani origin, while more than 1,000 victims were classed as being "White British".[30]

Kriss Donald was a Scottish fifteen-year-old boy who was kidnapped and murdered in Glasgow in 2004. Five British Pakistani men were later found guilty of racially motivated violence; those convicted of murder were all sentenced to life imprisonment.[31]

However, there are indications that the Scottish authorities and people are well aware of the problem and are trying to tackle it. Among Scots under fifteen years old, there is the sign that, "younger white pupils rarely drew on racist discourses."[32]

In 2009, the murder of an Indian sailor named Kunal Mohanty by a lone Scotsman named Christopher Miller resulted in Miller's conviction as a criminal motivated by racial hatred. Miller's brother gave evidence during the trial and said Miller told him he had "done a Paki".[33]

As of 11 February 2011, attacks on Muslims in Scotland have contributed to a 20% increase in racist incidents over the past twelve months. Reports say every day in Scotland, seventeen people are abused, threatened or violently attacked because of the colour of their skin, ethnicity or nationality. Statistics showed that just under 5,000 incidents of racism were recorded in 2009/10, a slight decrease from racist incidents recorded in 2008/9.[34]

From 2004-12, the rate of racist incidents has been around 5,000 incidents per year.[34] In 2011-12, there were 5,389 racist incidents recorded by the police, which is a 10% increase on the 4,911 racist incidents recorded in 2010-11.[34]

Racism in the police

Police force

Various police forces in the United Kingdom (such as the Greater Manchester Police, the London Metropolitan Police, the Sussex Police and the West Yorkshire Police services)[35] have been accused of institutionalised racism throughout the late 20th and 21st centuries, by people such as the Chief Constable of the GMP in 1998 (David Wilmot); the BBC's Secret Policemen documentary 5 years later (which led to the resignation of 6 officers);[36] Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe[37] and the Metropolitan Black Police Association.[38]

The National Black Police Association which allows only African, African-Caribbean and Asian officers as full members has been criticised as a racist organization by some because of its selective membership criteria based on ethnic origin.[39][40][41]

Michael Wilkes from the British Chinese Project said that racism against them isn't taken as seriously as racism against African, African-Caribbean or South Asian people, and that a lot of racist attacks towards the Chinese community go unreported, primarily because of widespread mistrust in the police.[42]

Prison staff

Prison guards are almost twice as likely to be reported for racism than inmates in the UK; with racist incidents between prison guards themselves being nearly as high as that between guards and prisoners. The environment has been described as a dangerous breeding ground for racist extremism.[43]

See also


  1. ^ Article by the British Broadcasting Corporation
  2. ^ "1965: New UK race law 'not tough enough'". On This Day. BBC. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Human Rights Act 1998". The National Archives. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  4. ^ Green, Chris (1 March 2015). "Immigration policy led to 'new forms of racism', says new study". The Independent. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Racism 'still exists' in police". BBC News. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  6. ^ "SRA accused of institutional racism | News". The Lawyer. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
  7. ^ a b "Is it easy to bring a racial discrimination case?". Equality and Human Rights Commission. 2010-10-01. Archived from the original on 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2012-05-29. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  8. ^ "Barriers to employment for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Britain and constraints". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2012-05-29. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  9. ^ As in Iteshi v British Telecommunications PLC UKEATPA/0378/11/DM
  10. ^ "Britain has many major problems - racism isn't one of them", 15 Feb 2014
  11. ^ "BBC - Tyne Roots - Black History Month - The story behind Britain's first race riot". Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  12. ^ a b Q&A: The Scarman Report 27 BBC Online. April 2004. Accessed 6 October 2002.
  13. ^ A Different Reality: minority struggle in British cities Archived 2011-09-26 at the Wayback Machine University of Warwick. Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations. Accessed 6 October 2006
    ° The 1981 Brixton riots Archived 2005-03-08 at the Wayback Machine "The Riot not to work collective". "...What has changed since last year's riots". London 1982. Accessed 6 October 2006
  14. ^ Law and Order, moral order: The changing rhetoric of the Thatcher government. online. Ian Taylor. Accessed 6 October 2006
  15. ^ "Race hate on rise in NI". BBC News, 13 January 2004.
  16. ^ a b Chrisafis, Angelique. "Racist war of the loyalist street gangs". The Guardian, 10 January 2004.
  17. ^ "Bitter tide of violent racial hate recalls the worst of the Troubles". Irish Independent, 8 August 2004.
  18. ^ "Ulster 'is race hate capital of Europe'". 26 June 2006.
  19. ^ Leach, Anna. "Northern Ireland: minorities three times more likely to be targets of racism" Archived 2015-04-01 at the Wayback Machine. 17 June 2014.
  20. ^ a b "The complex rise in Northern Ireland racist hate crime". BBC News, 11 September 2014.
  21. ^ "Two arrested over racist pipe bomb attacks in Londonderry". BBC News, 10 March 2014.
  22. ^ "Loyalists hit out at racist attacks". BBC News, 3 July 2003.
  23. ^ "Police probe after bomb attacks". BBC News, 2 June 2005.
  24. ^ "Mother of South Belfast racist attack to leave home". Belfast Daily. 25 May 2013.
  25. ^ "Gun attack: Family at home during 'hate crime' in west Belfast". BBC News, 24 April 2014.
  26. ^ "Belfast racists threaten to cut Romanian baby's throat". The Guardian, !& June 2009.
  27. ^ "NI Racists' Bomb Threat To Immigrants" Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine. Sky News, 10 July 2009.
  28. ^ "Romanian migrants flee their homes after Belfast race attacks". The Telegraph, 17 June 2009.
  29. ^ "'Racist motive' in Pole's murder". BBC News, 9 April 2010.
  30. ^ "Almost 20 race-hate crimes a day in Scotland". The Scotsman 28 March 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  31. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Scotland - Glasgow and West - Kriss attacked 'for being white'". Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  32. ^ "Minority Ethnic Pupils' Experiences Of School In Scotland (MEPESS)". Retrieved 2012-05-29.
  33. ^ "Race hate murder man found guilty". BBC News. 10 November 2009.
  34. ^ a b c "High Level Summary of Statistics Trend Last update: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 Racist Incidents". Retrieved 2013-05-25. ((cite web)): External link in |publisher= (help)
  35. ^ "Police forces confess to racism". BBC News. BBC. 16 October 1998. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  36. ^ Scheerhout, John (4 December 2013). "A familiar tale: 'Institutional racism' at Greater Manchester Police". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  37. ^ Dodd, Vikram; Evans, Rob (7 March 2014). "Lawrence revelations: admit institutional racism, Met chief told". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  38. ^ Muir, Hugh (21 April 2013). "Metropolitan police still institutionally racist, say black and Asian officers". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  39. ^ "Tory MP addresses National Black Police Association annual conference... and blasts THEM as racist". Mail Online. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  40. ^ "MP mix-up as wrong David Davies accuses National Black Police Association of racism". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  41. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Wales - South East Wales - MP defends police race criticism". Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  42. ^ Thomas, Emily (6 January 2015). "British Chinese people say racism against them is 'ignored'". Newsbeat. BBC. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  43. ^ Roweena Davis; Paul Lewis (7 February 2010). "Complaints of prison racism rise among staff and inmates". The Guardian.