From the mid 17th century, black slaves were being sold, auctioned and inventoried by slave masters until 1833, when the British government passed an act in parliament abolishing the slave trade. It had taken the hard work of numerous people, both black and white, working together to abolish slavery. They included the likes of Olaudah Equiano, William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, to name just a few. Ever since the 1833 act, several strides have been taken to create a level of equality for all races in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.
Despite it being two centuries since the abolishment of slavery, racist attitudes and structures have remained ingrained in society. Perfection is unrealistic in situations of this magnitude, however it is worth taking a look at the progress that had been made. According to the NatCen Social Research centre, racism has fallen by a third in the past six years. Furthermore, interracial marriages are on the rise, black people are getting decent jobs with better salaries and job security, and more black students are going to university and graduating with first- class honours.
However, regardless of the strides that have been made since 1833, the number of reported racist incidents in England and Wales have been gradually increasing, particularly since the Brexit vote. Statistics from the ONS showed that in 2017/18, there were 94,098 hate crime offences recorded by the police in England and Wales, an increase of 17 percent compared with the previous year.
Data on hate crimes and prejudice, however, is not very accurate because many racist incidents, especially in the black community, go unreported because of their lack of trust in the justice system of the country. This lack of confidence has been brought about by the fact that black people are more likely to be stopped by the police even though the vast majority produce no evidence of involvement in crime.
In an attempt to eradicate racial discrimination as a whole, the British law has done its best in condemning racism with the Race Relations Acts and the Equality Acts. The law is also now harsher on the use of racist words and slurs, by giving prison sentences in some cases, largely to act as a deterrent. All that is left is changing people’s mindset on racism and equality and even here, despite the increase in cases of racism worldwide, positive changes can be seen. There has been a decrease of segregation, more people are standing up for minority groups, more youth have proven that they have friends of other races, especially black, and there have been cases of all races working together to tackle racism in universities and communities. An example being last year’s case where a UEA student writing a racist Facebook post that called black people ‘violent, aggressive and racist’; UEA were quick to investigate the matter because of their zero tolerance on any form of hatred or discrimination.
However, due to the fact that these instances still occur, it seems that academic institutions need to change the way they deal with instances of racism and discrimination in order to ensure any real progress is made. There is certainly more work to be done.