Racism ‘large part’ of why we left, says Duke

Pay gap: people of colour in the UK earn much less than White people on average

Is Britain a racist country? As Harry and Meghan talk openly about the prejudice they faced in the UK, many say it is time to take a good, hard look at the country’s relationship with race.

For many, the most shocking part of Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah was her claim that a member of the royal family expressed “concerns” over the colour of her unborn baby's skin.

For many in Britain, this was not surprising. For them, the interview is proof that Britain is a racist country.

Some say British attitudes have become less racist. They argue that the UK has demonstrated people of colour can rise in politics.

Critics say even if individuals are less racist, institutional racism is still rife and is embedded in society.

In 2019, 46% of Black households lived in poverty, compared with 20% of White households.

Black Caribbean students are 3.5 times more likely to be excluded in school.

Many people of colour report that simply having a non-White name is enough to keep employers from hiring them.

People of colour are more likely to suffer from poor healthcare. Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth. People of colour are affected disproportionately by Covid-19.

Overt racism exists in the UK. Racist hate crimes are on the rise.

Police racism is a problem. Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched.

Is Britain a racist country?

A house divided

Yes. Meghan’s experience has exposed an undercurrent in British society. Black and Asian people face racism and are often mistreated by police. Their lives are shaped by institutional racism, which holds back their academics, shuts them out of jobs and makes them more likely to die of diseases.

No. There are still problems in British society, but the majority of people no longer express racism, and people of colour have risen to some of the most important positions in society. Instead of dismissing the whole of the UK as racist, we should identify where racism exists and unite against it.

You Decide

  1. Is positive discrimination (such as allocating a certain number of jobs for ethnic minorities) the best way to tackle inequality?


  1. With a partner, discuss your experiences of racism. Have you seen it in your school? In your town? In the news? Report your findings to the rest of the class and compare experiences.

Some People Say...

“What I realized the moment I got to Oxford was that someone like me could not really be part of it. I mean, I could make a success there, but I would never feel it was my place.”

Stuart Hall (1932 – 2014), Jamaican-British cultural theorist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most people agree that Britain’s racist history does not end with the empire. Unlike the USA, it never introduced formal segregation – the legal separation of services for Black and White people. However, in the 20th Century it was very common for Black and Asian people to be denied basic services, and often landlords would refuse to rent housing to them. In the 1970s, millions of people supported Conservative politician Enoch Powell, who argued that Britain must remain an all-White country.
What do we not know?
There is some debate over how far Britain’s ancient institutions are welcoming places for people of colour. Some point out that institutions like the House of Commons and British universities are becoming more and more diverse. However, others argue that discrimination still exists in these places. For example, only 0.5% of historians working in the UK are Black, and the country’s first ever female Black professor of history, Olivette Otele, was only appointed in 2018.

Word Watch

Institutional racism
Racism that is so embedded in a society, it has become part of everyday life. It can generally be identified by the lower incomes and educational and health outcomes of ethnic minority communities.
Black Caribbean
The Black community in the UK is very diverse, with members from various African countries as well as former British colonies in the Caribbean.
Out of proportion when compared to something else. In the UK, Black men are 4.2% more likely to die from Covid-19, and Black women 4.3% more likely.
Hate crimes
A crime motivated by prejudice against another group. Hate crimes might include anything from damage to property, to targeted harassment, to physical assault.
Police racism
In the last year, a spotlight has been put on US police forces after several high-profile killings of Black people by police officers. However, UK police have also been accused of institutional racism, most notably in the milestone MacPherson Report of 1999.
Stopped and searched
In England and Wales, police officers are entitled to search through the clothes and belongings of anyone they suspect of carrying illegal substances or weapons. These powers have been disproportionately used against Black people.

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