Javid: I was attacked by racist bullies too

Outrage: This video of a Syrian refugee being bullied in Huddersfield went viral last week.

Is Britain a racist country? Home Secretary Sajid Javid has claimed he was bullied for being Asian. His comments come after an attack on a Syrian refugee was filmed in a British school.

“I saw the video like anyone else,” Sajid Javid said in an interview on BBC Radio 4 yesterday. “I was clearly absolutely outraged and, to be frank, it reminded me of an incident I had myself when I was 11 at school.”

“Because I was Asian I was punched to the ground,” he recalls. “That’s the immediate memories that came back for me. Obviously, I hated it, and I thought how that young boy must feel.”

The young boy he is referring to is 15-year-old Jamal, a Syrian refugee who fled to Britain. Last week, a shocking video emerged of him being attacked by a playground bully. The footage shows him being pushed to the ground, choked, and having water poured on his face.

Viewed millions of times, the video caused outrage. Prime Minister Theresa May stated that “people were sickened and angered” by the scenes.

The attacker, a 16-year-old boy from Huddersfield, was arrested and charged by police. Meanwhile, an online fundraiser to help Jamal and his family was set up by the public. So far it has raised over £100,000.

While some have praised the public’s generosity following the attack, others worry about what the incident reveals about modern Britain. As Javid himself asked: “How can this kind of thing still be going on in our country?”

According to government figures, there were 71,251 racial hate crimes in Britain in 2017-18 — a 14% increase on the previous year.

Furthermore, subtler forms of racism persist which do not show up in police figures. On Sunday, The Guardian published an investigation into the “everyday racial bias” experienced by black, Asian and minority ethnic citizens in modern Britain.

According to the study, 43% of ethnic minority people had unfairly missed out a work promotion in the last five years, compared to 18% of white people. Ethnic minorities are also more likely to be wrongly suspected of shoplifting, suffer abuse from strangers, and be asked to leave a restaurant, bar or club for no good reason.

Is Britain a racist country?

Bigoted

Yes, some people argue. The data speaks for itself. If the spike in hate crimes did not make it clear enough, this new evidence of everyday racial bias puts the question beyond doubt. Politicians must do more to listen to ethnic minorities, and start taking their concerns and experiences seriously.

Not so fast, others respond. As Kenan Malik argues, incidents like that in Huddersfield are “not characteristic of British society today in the way they would have been a generation ago.” The attack was abhorrent, but we have made great strides in fighting racist abuse that was once much more commonplace.

You Decide

  1. Is Britain a welcoming country to immigrants?
  2. Should the bully be forgiven?

Activities

  1. Individually, think for a moment about any times that you have come across racism. The incidents may have impacted you personally or somebody you know, or they could be stories you have heard. If you want to, share your thoughts with your classmates.
  2. Read Kenan Malik’s piece for The Guardian by following the link in Become An Expert. In the piece, he argues that racism in Britain was worse in the past. List the main points that he uses to make this case. What words and phrases does he use to persuade the reader to agree with him?

Some People Say...

“We must learn to live together like brothers, or perish together as fools.”

Martin Luther King Jr

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
A 16-year-old boy has been charged with assault in connection with the incident. The boy cannot be named for legal reasons. He will appear in youth court in due course. He has also written a letter in which he “fully accept[s] responsibility” for what happened, and claims that the incident was not racially motivated.
What do we not know?
The wider impact the bullying incident will have. Jamal’s father has said the attack has left his son “very tired psychologically”. Meanwhile, Jamal himself has urged people not to take revenge on the bully: “I am very concerned about the violent comments going out on social media about the bully,” he said. “I don’t want anything terrible to happen to him at all. I just don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone.”

Word Watch

Sajid Javid
He is the first black or ethnic minority to hold the post of home secretary. He has also been tipped as a possible future prime minister.
Refugee
Someone who has been forced to leave their home country to escape war, persecution or a natural disaster.
Praised
Prime Minister Theresa May said the public’s generosity represents the “true spirit of Britain”.
Figures
Published by the Home Office.
Increase
According to the report, this increase is “largely driven by improvements in police recording, although there has been spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017.”
Study
Based on a survey of 1,000 people from minority ethnic backgrounds. See The Guardian link in Become An Expert for more.
Shoplifting
In this case, 38% of people from ethnic minorities said they had been wrongly suspected of shoplifting, compared to 14% of white people.