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Race Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 13:26 GMT
Is Britain a racist country?
More than half of Britons believe they live in a racist society, according to a major survey commissioned by BBC News Online.

The opinion poll also found that 44% of those asked believe immigration has damaged Britain over the last 50 years.

The ICM study shows that racism in the workplace is a major problem - with almost one in three blacks and Asians saying they believe racism has cost them the chance of a job.

But it does goes on to suggest that most whites, blacks and Asians agree society is more racially tolerant than a decade ago.

For example, there is more of a widespread acceptance of mixed-race relationships.

Is Britain a racist country? Have you experienced racism?

Your reaction


It saddens me to hear so much emphasis being placed on the colour of people's skin

Jean, UK
What is race? We are all of the human race. It saddens me to hear so much emphasis being placed on the colour of people's skin as if that makes a difference. I think it is culture and religion that causes so many problems today in our society. Intolerance of other people's religion is the cause of more conflict around the country than anything else. Live and let live is my motto and all the people I know think the same. At least we are talking about it which must be a good thing
Jean, UK

At least here in Britain there is a concern among the people if their society is a racist one and how racist they are. No other country cares about all those issues. I have lived in many countries, and I am sure that Britain is the best country for the immigrants. This is the country where people can preserve their own culture, how they like. I have not faced any racist incident personally. However, I am ready to over look a few even if I come across them. Attitude is more important.
Tahir Sufi, England

I feel every country has some degree of racism. When we are faced with different social behaviours and structures that are not our own we start to feel that our own culture and race is better. This is a humanistic way of thinking so we can feel better about ourselves. Great Britain is a Great Country. I have never been faced with racism while visiting.
Henretta, United States

I am still recovering from the consequences of racist hate.

Sonny, UK
Some Brits and institutions are racist. Racism is very damaging. My whole family were subject to racist abuse over the years, living as the lone Asian family in a white-dominated area. At school, I had to resort to violence to defend myself. I felt alone and mentally wounded by the soul-destroying hatred. I am still recovering from the consequences of racist hate. I never did understand how people could derive so much pleasure from inflicting pain on others.
Sonny, UK

Of course Britain has its racist element. But it is not alone. Every country has racism and every country will always have it in some form. Therefore, what we should gauge is the level of racism that exists and in Britain. This is at a very low level compared to the vast majority of countries around the world. This is an extremely tolerant land and so it should be. All races should be made welcome in this country.
AH, Scotland

As a 36 year old Londoner born of Portuguese parents, I have always felt most comfortable in areas with an ethnic mix. However, over the past 10 years I feel like a stranger in my own city. London has become saturated with so many different ethnic groups that English is no longer the dominant culture. I think this pleases no one and will lead to problems in the future.
Tony , England

Britons, like all other European citizens, must understand that this is now a global economy and society. The age of information, expedient and low cost travel, force us all to be more informed on the cultures we are interacting with. The words "tolerance" and "sensitivity" are terms of the past. By now we should all realize that multiculturalism is the only way that any nation will be able to gain economic strength.
Darra, New York

Of all the 'minority' groups in Britain, racists are the unwanted ones.

Marc, UK
I think some people have the view that every immigrant is an illegal immigrant who swam over the channel to get here when that's not true. Most people do it legally. I know lots of people of a different race and we all get on fine. We all have the same sense of humour and common interests, we're all lazy students together! It's only a small minority people who are racists. In fact, of all the 'minority' groups in Britain, racists are the unwanted ones.
Marc, UK

I did my undergraduate study in the UK and I am now considering returning to the UK for my PhD. Having lived in the UK for 3 years, I have not experienced racism myself, yet I know it exists. Comparing to North America, I think Britain and Europe as a whole are less tolerant of ethnic minorities and immigrants. The reason why America's economy performs so much better than Europe is because it tries to tap every brain to its land. Some 40% of IT experts in Silicon Valley are Asians. If Britain and Europe want to maintain their competitiveness in the long run, then they must keep an open mind about immigrants.
John, Canada

I can't understand why anyone would think of me as any less of a human being because of my colour

C Leung, UK
My family are originally from Hong Kong, but I was born in Scotland. Being Chinese-looking means that I often hear the word 'Chinky' directed at me, and I get upset by it, as I can't understand why anyone would think of me as any less of a human being because of my colour. As a child I was subjected to a lot of racism, but not in my teens, so I thought that it was disappearing. I have noticed that in the last year things have been getting worse again. I am not saying that British people as a whole are racist, I have met so many wonderful people (my fiance is English for one thing), but it is the minority who give everyone else a bad name.
C Leung, UK

Britain has become an intolerant society. If racism is another term for that intolerance, then yes we have. The cause is not a single identifiable factor, but it is often the result of resentment and jealousy. Why immigrants have the best houses, jobs or lifestyles is not understood. Among those I have spent a lifetime working with, they are kind, generous and willing to become part of British society. Why we resent the immigrant, or the born in the UK Asian or black resident is a complete mystery to me. Certainly we need tighter controls on immigration, but that should reflect on the government of the day, not on the racial minority
Roy, England

Most people are racist or prejudiced to a greater or lesser degree. The real issue is how we let our views of other races affect our judgements and how we treat them. It seems to be a natural animal instinct to be wary of all that is different to oneself.
Rizzo Franzi, UK

My wife is Korean and in London she has never, to her knowledge experienced racism. However outside of the London area and especially in the north she has sometimes been subjected to direct insults in relation to her Asian background, or to a silly sense of mockery that is supposed to be humour.
Andrew Cover, UK

Racism in Britain is due to ignorance and fear

John Kirk, UK
I am married to a Chinese scholar and have a Chinese stepson. They have been subject to racism on the street, in school and at work. Racism in Britain is due to ignorance and fear. Both can be reduced by education - a system which is sadly under funded.
John Kirk, UK

Ask my brother and his family who arrived from Zimbabwe last year about racism in England. It is not just reserved for people who are black, but for anyone who is perceived to be a threat. They went to England to escape the regime in Zimbabwe and to give their children a better life and are constantly told to go back where they came from. This is despite the fact that my brother is British, having been born when Zimbabwe was Rhodesia and a colony.
Barbara, Australia

I was born and bred in Birmingham and in my 20 years of life had not experienced any form of racism except quite recently, when at university a child made a racist remark. I was saddened, not at the child, but at what he had been subjected to that led him to make such a comment.
Khalid Miah, England, UK

My girlfriend was born in France and her father is black and her mother is white. The poor girl can't win. In France she's black, in Africa she's white and in the UK she's French!
Richard Blackwell, UK

I see Britain gradually fragmenting into the various nationalities

Jeff Ling, USA
I don't believe that Britain is racist, but neither do I believe that multiculturalism works in the long run. I see Britain gradually fragmenting into the various nationalities, with the associated suspicion of something different, rather than a cohesive British society.
Jeff Ling, USA

The point that people often neglect to mention is that immigration boosts the economy. My parents came to the UK from the West Indies in the '60s and worked every day until their respective retirement ages, paying national insurance, tax etc. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that the UK has an ageing population so without further immigration our economy, prosperity and way of life will be in jeopardy within 30 years.
Roger, UK

I grew up in rural Somerset in the late 40s and 50s. The first time I saw a coloured face was at boarding school. Looking back, I don't think anyone at the school even thought about it. We were all friends if we were of the same age group. I remember desperately hoping that a friend from Tobago would ask me to go and stay in the summer holidays. Never happened unfortunately. I cannot say whether Britain is racist, some people are, no doubt about that. But many are not. I do though feel that those who come here should make some effort to integrate themselves into our society by learning the language and so on.
Pam Hunt, UK

I have lived in SE Asia most of my life and have been living in London for the last 7 years. I have not lived elsewhere in the UK. My experience in London is very positive and I find people in Britain not racist at all. Of course there may be some exceptions. If you want to know what racism is, try Hong Kong for starters!!! That'll open your eyes to real racism. It's sad that the English are not allowed to embrace their culture without being accused of racist behaviour.
Nelson, London

I believe that Britain is the least racist society I have experienced

Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK
I have lived in several different countries over the past 20 years, or so, and have visited very many more. Most of these have been the so-called Third World countries. I have observed from a resident's point of view (not a two-week holiday) the attitudes of these countries to their own regional variances, and to outsiders. From this, I believe that Britain is the least racist society I have experienced. As a final thought, if the UK is so awful why are people, in their droves, crossing several supposedly more civilised countries in order to get here?
Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK

As a teacher I have seen plenty of fiery racism among pupils and most of it is between feuding non-white groups of differing tribes/sects
Steve, Wales

Having being born and bred in Britain for 22 years of my life, hand on heart, I think it's a brilliant place to live. I have experienced racism in Britain, but it is only a small minority of the population. Nevertheless, I think all minorities should make an effort to 'blend in' more and make a real effort to know their neighbours. For the last 5 years I have gone back to my roots in Hong Kong. The small country has a very cosmopolitan mix. Unfortunately I see more racism here in Hong Kong than during all my years in Britain.
G. Fong, Hong Kong

Name me one country on the planet that doesn't have people who harbour resentment towards others because of race, religion, gender, creed or sexual orientation. Such a country doesn't exist. Wake up people - we live in an imperfect world.
Sam, Texas, USA

What about the 90% of people who get on with neighbours of different colour

Rahul, UK

On the whole we are not racist. Only a small minority of people are, on both sides of the fence. What is strange is that these people seem to get all the coverage. What about the 90% of people who get on with neighbours of different colour. The media never mentions these and the right wing groups certainly don't.
Rahul, UK

This is only my opinion. I do believe other cultures can mix with ours and it has to enrich our society and modernise our society. I also believe that there is a level of tolerance in society especially when it comes to immigrants who the British public have to pay for. Also some would say especially the older generation would say that we fought a war to protect and preserve our culture and when it is demolished by large minorities of other ethnic backgrounds it is then that people become less tolerant. I do not consider myself to be racist but I do agree that Britain is a small country and in order to keep stability within the economy we can not afford to let these people through.
Andy, UK

The bottom line is that people generally only tend to mix with others that are very much like themselves and will always find some way of differentiating themselves from 'the rest' never mind skin colour, creed, class, political persuasion and nationality etc. You could put 30 working class white 20-something Londoners together in a room and you can bet they'll divide themselves up along the lines of neighbourhood, football clubs supported, musical taste etc and will discriminate against the others. A system for social inclusion and exclusion will always arise in any situation. Therefore, attempts at racial integration are likely to continue to be fruitless. Only perhaps the strongest individuals can exist without the need to gravitate towards 'their own'. The best one can ask for is tolerance. In this respect I don't think the UK is any worse than most other countries and is definitely better than many.
A Cutelli, UK

Recently we have seen a small rise in nationalism, not racism

Mark McGrath, UK
No, we are a proud country steeped in ancestry. Our forefathers made this land into a world force. In the last century, we have seen an influx of people wishing to settle here for a better life. The Great British public have accepted this for the last 50 years, but it's come to a point where we have become strangers in our own major cities. Recently we have seen a small rise in nationalism, not racism. There is a difference. It is a backlash against an uninformed government (Conservative and Labour), who live life in the country where the spirit of England is still alive, just. They do not live in Peckham or Birmingham, where the native is a minority, so of course to them multi-culturism works.
Mark McGrath, UK

I don't think it is fair to say that Britain is a racist country but unfortunately there are small minorities in the UK that are racist. I was lucky enough to go to a school where all races, religions, backgrounds and countries were represented and I think that it made me a more rounded individual compared to friends who went to schools that were predominantly white with small ethnic minorities. I am proud to have many friends from a variety of backgrounds and races and we are all proud to be British. I like to think that the younger generation is more tolerant than the last and that this trend will continue and that one day Britain will be a truly multi-cultural society.
Laura, UK

Three of my grandparents came to England in the 1920s from Europe, and as a result were saved from European massacre of the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. My father's father was the only survivor from his family. Both my parents were born in England, and I was born and raised there. Nevertheless, as an adult I never felt that I was an integral part of British society. Throughout my childhood I lived in fear of anti-Semitic attacks, was subject to comments and occasional physical abuse by "English" children. The physical abuse ceased at University (Cambridge), but the comments continued. At the age of 22 I immigrated to Israel, where, with all its problems, I feel at home. Britain was a nice, fun place to grow up, and compared to Israel it was quite peaceful, but you can forget your ideal of the integrated society: the scorn the British feel for "outsiders" is deep-rooted, and I am very pleased that my children do not have to experience it. I am happy to see them grow up in a society where they are not "outsiders".
Moshe Bar-Kokhba, Israel

Is Britain a racist country? Yes, but that's not the whole story. I am married to a white woman from Eastern Europe, who holds down two jobs, who has never claimed a penny off the state, and who speaks English better than most British people I know. Luckily, she has never met with a single instance of direct racism, and she regards Britain as a friendly and tolerant country. And yet, the number of friends of my wife and me who've made racist comments to me concerning blacks and Asians is astonishing. In my experience, racism in Britain is not against 'foreigners' as such, it's against those of different colour.
Anon, UK

I am personally a strong believer in confronting and fighting fascism especially racism. From my knowledge and understanding it is one of the most corrupting factors of any society in the world. If you can't see your fellow human beings equally without labels or a superiority complex then you don't deserve any respect. I also believe the only means or way forward for the human race is to stamp out such ignorance (which we obviously would like but can't expect in the next few years.) On the note of ignorance, I believe people who ignore these serious issues are as guilty as the right-wing idiots who keep it thriving. Britain is not the worst country, but as a democratic society it allows such poisons to infect it.
KTS, U.K.

I am glad I have come here and enjoy every bit of British life

Anon, UK
I am an Asian living and working in the UK for last seven years. I have never experienced any racism what so ever, to the contrary, I have found British people very tolerant and fair. I find that most of the Asians come here for the comforts of western life but all they do is criticise this country. I think my own country is far more racist than Britain. I am glad I have come here and enjoy every bit of British life. I think Asians who come to UK find the British people very indifferent because they are reserved. This leads them to believe that Britain is racist. They make very little effort to understand British culture. I think the immigrants should make more of an effort to "blend in" rather than sticking to their country's way of life and stop blaming Britain for being racist. I think I have found Britain not racist because I have made every effort to blend in with British people and they have now accepted me as one of them.
Anon, UK

Is Britain a racist country? Yes, of course it is but you'll never get anyone to admit it because the racism I'm talking about is against English people. Take for instance the case of students at Warwick university being told to take down the flag of St George (their national flag which they had put up in support of their national football team) in their own country as it may upset foreign students (who had incidentally put up their countries flags.) If you can't show support for your own country in your own country then something is very wrong!
Amanda Gornall, UK

I have experienced a lot of racism in Britain. I'm one of only a few white people living in a multi-ethnic part of London and am often on the receiving end of comments regarding the colour of my skin and my religion. However, the press don't care because I am not perceived as a victim to whom a debt is owed. Disgraceful!
Jim Crowe, US

Our symbols and flags are derided; our institutions are continually singled out for criticism and abuse

Christopher Pratley, England
All societies include an element of racism - it is human nature to subconsciously favour those of your own race over other people. This does not, of course, make it right to treat anyone badly - it is a fact accepted by all reasonable minded people - including the vast majority of the British public - that everyone is equal and should be treated accordingly, regardless of race or background. The trouble is that at present, the media and even some areas of government are constantly accusing the British (particularly English) people of racism. Our symbols and flags are derided; our institutions are continually singled out for criticism and abuse. Yet people continue to flood to our shores to seek residence here. How can this be, if we are a racist society? I believe that the media should ease off a little - the British are a tolerant people - but constantly testing them in this way is unfair, and could have dire consequences.
Christopher Pratley, England

There is nothing racist about wanting to live in a mono-culture. Wanting to live with people from the same culture (who I understand and trust) does NOT mean I regard others as beneath me. I believe that everyone is equal regardless of religion or race. However, I don't believe that some religions / races can live together peacefully. Finally, if the whole world was multicultural it would be a disaster: imagine visiting some ancient tribe in the Asian rainforests, only to find their village half-populated with Europeans wearing Nike trainers and playing hip hop.
Candide, France

We've still got a long way to go but I can remember when race relations legislation was opposed on civil liberties grounds. Remember Keith Relf insisting on his right to sell his house to an "English family"? We've come a long way from that. A disturbing trend over the last few years has anti-English racism in Scotland and Wales. At the moment it seems to be mostly confined to the terraces at football matches but let's remember that Serb/Croat animosity started at a football match.
Charles Moore, Scotland

For your info, Mr Moore, consider the bile and scorn Welsh people have had to put up with from a jeering, metropolitan media. I have found the level of animosity (especially in London, of all places) towards Welsh people startling. I can't speak for Scotland, but in my experience this idea that the Welsh are bitterly anti-English just doesn't add up. Where in the Welsh media do you have this casual, institutionalised denigration of another nationality? Why is nearly 30% of the population of Wales English in origin, if we are so intolerant? Of course every country has its idiots. I do not blame English people as a whole for any unpleasantness I may have experienced; why should my nation be tarred for the bigotry of a small minority of its citizens?
Robert, UK/Wales

I have always believed Britain is a racist society

Jean-Pierre Harrison, USA
I have always believed Britain is a racist society. I was born and raised in Britain until I was almost 17. In that time I was always reminded of my foreignness, usually in a negative way by people of all ages, due to my name and my French mother. At the age of 12 I decided that I was not going to remain in Britain. I left at age 16 and have never looked back.
Jean-Pierre Harrison, USA

I love beautiful people and I do not mind what they look like!
Mary, England

Of course we are mostly racist - it's called ancestry. Three million years of evolution has taught us to be protective of our own blood groups.
John, England

I come from an (Irish) immigrant family. Is Britain a racist society? Yes. Are most British people racist? No. The time when I felt most proud being British was seeing a black guy walk through Amsterdam wearing a Great Britain Rugby shirt. Seeing that made me feel very proud to be British.
Paul, Netherlands

British media seems to be dominated by the liberal-left and consequently minority groups always get excessive exposure. The dominance of white people is completely understated. The truth is Britain is 90 per cent white - only in London and some other big cities is it truly multicultural. We should appreciate our recent arrivals but not insist on them presenting the news on TV or standing for public office.
Ossie, UK

I don't think it is particularly helpful to label a whole country as racist. Some individuals within Britain are racist, and some institutions may be racist. It is not possible to generalise about Britain as a whole from these facts.
Jez, UK

The question is not is Britain racist but how racist. Is it relevant that we're less racist than France for example?
Daniel, UK

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