by Gunnar Eigener

Institutional racism has, for many years, been the more unpleasant side of societies throughout the world. Black and other minority communities have long been oppressed by predominately white police departments. Crimes within these communities have rarely received the attention that equivalent crimes in white neighbourhoods have. Civil rights marches have been going on for years, social media tracks the violence of police forces, and the alternative media exposes the racist actions of institutions and establishment figures. But has anything really changed? Have we made any progress that truly shows a change in perception? Sadly, it doesn’t seem so.

Start with London. The UK capital has seen a surge in violence this year, with the murder rate briefly overtaking that of New York. While the ever-increasing drugs trade remains the issue at hand, that the majority of those murdered are non-white has been largely overlooked, mainly because people, regrettably, assume that those involved in the drugs trade in cities are going to be black or ‘ethnic’. While that assumption is based on perception, statistically it is more likely that non-white people will be involved, not because of any predisposition to racial characteristics but because there are no employment opportunities for young black and ethnic adults.

exposing rather than addressing the tragedy of the racism.

All too often, the allure of money to be made quickly in order to be able to buy designer goods, smart gadgets and fast cars, usually advertised on TV in the possession of successful white people, proves the factor that propels such unsupported youth into that career path. When black crime does hit the news, such as the Stephen Lawrence case, his murder now in its 25th anniversary, it usually ends up exposing rather than addressing the tragedy of the racism. In Lawrence’s case, we have seen the lengths that the police force went to undermine the investigation and even to try and find some way to smear the campaigning done by his family in their work for justice. While there is no doubt that such racism should have been exposed, what remains incomprehensible and unchallenged is a reason for why five white men should viciously attack and kill a black teenager in the first place.

The Windrush generation scandal is an extension of this already existing problem in the UK’s establishment. The treatment of those who came to the UK to help in its restoration and their children is a clear demonstration of institutional racism. That those people should be regarded as potentially anything other than UK citizens shows the lengths some will go to in order to tackle the perceived problem of immigration. That politicians failed to notice the problem in the first place is not surprising. The destruction of landing cards in 2010 was a callous move, done in the knowledge that they will be needed but that, as usual, the political classes not caring about any undue stress it would cause to others. After all, to many, the Windrush generation would be see simply as British subjects being brought in to help restore the Empire’s homeland.

Graffiti: art or vandalism?

CC BY-SA 2.0 Paul Townsend

In the rest of world, we hear of new policies being enacted to protect countries from immigrants by right-wing political parties, who use the cover of economic needs and lack of resources to protect their racist beliefs. Just as Hitler used the guise of ‘Lebensraum’ to justify his anti-Semitic actions, so now do politicians and world leaders use their own concepts of living space to protect their borders and keep out those they consider undesirable, based on other than economic criteria.

What many of these issues tackle is who is responsible. What isn’t tackled is why. Racism is division, a skewed perception that someone who looks different is different. It is fear of something unknown or unfamiliar. It rarely appears in the actions of children, it is something that is taught, learnt through others who impose their hatred on younger untainted minds. Why is something that we’ll probably never really figure out other than seeing it as a leftover from a world that used to be so far apart, such views maintained by those who need someone to blame for their woes.

actions that would never have been permitted or, at the very least, would have faced vast opposition not that long ago.

Racism shows no sign of disappearing. Skin colour remains a difference that many people seem unable to overcome. While some keep this issue to themselves, others continue and some are beginning to allow their emotions and hatred boil over into the public arena. Emboldened by racist politics and the inability of governments to tackle this problem in a defined and forceful way, the surge in racism has seen society become desensitised to racist actions and policies, allowing politicians and authority figures to get away with actions that would never have been permitted or, at the very least, would have faced vast opposition not that long ago.

The solution starts at the beginning. Racism and division become apparent through our learning of history when we consider the creation of empires through the subjugation of others and violence visited upon those who are considered inferior. A careful balance needs to be explained alongside such history to help people understand that this is in the past and we do not need to hold onto the concepts of empire and inferiority of others. That racism was allowed to drive conquests in the first place must be pointed out. We live in very different times but we have carried many feelings over that do nothing to help society progress. Racism can be rooted out through education, at the very start, enabling children to learn for themselves. Then maybe we can start putting aside such issues and begin working towards a more united world.

Featured image CC BY-SA 2.0 Loco Steve on Flickr


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