Experiences of being Black

Discrimination and racism does not necessarily just take the form of verbal abuse and attacks. It can be the way we become uneasy when a woman wearing a hijab walks onto a bus or a group of young men of Somali descent enter a shop; or the frustration one feels when affirmative action is used to ensure a ‘Black person gets the job.’ However, to understand these issues requires understanding our own histories.

Whilst we live in an increasingly diverse society bringing in vibrant and rich elements of cultures from around the world, groups and communities are still suffering racial abuse, institutional discrimination and underrepresentation.  As graduates, black people are three times more likely to be unemployed than white people within six months of graduation. Within five years of graduation, black students earn up to nine per cent less than their white peers for the same work. Black people are up to 44 per cent more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act but are less likely to be referred by their GP than white people, a significant high percentage instead get referred through the criminal justice system. In addition, 72 per cent of Muslim women have experienced verbal abuse and threatening behaviour relating directly to their visible Muslim presence.

Through the legal powers of stop and search enacted by section 44. of the Terrorism Act 2000, individuals from Black communities have been disproportionately searched more than there white counter parts. Despite reforms in the Police following the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry which highlighted glaring failures and pathological racism in the institution, people from Black backgrounds continue to be arbitrarily vilified.

Over the years, there has been a worrying ‘normalisation’ in the discourse used particularly against the Muslim community. Often criticisms against fundamentalist elements within Islam are levelled not against them, but against the community as a whole. Words such as ‘Islamist’ or ‘jihadist’ have been used to describe whole swathes of communities with little understanding of the term or of the communities social ails themselves. With the rise of groups such as the English Defence League (EDL, an anti-Islamist group) and the British National Party (BNP), the Muslim community (and other immigrant minorities) have been used as scapegoats to explain our society’s ails. The legitimisation of the EDL as a ‘multicultural group’ which purportedly welcomes Muslims that conform to the ‘British way of life’ makes the issue of race and identity for many communities more complex.

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