Racism Is Not Just an American Problem
It's time to realise that the UK has some serious race issues
by Rosie Benny
Whether it’s on a bus, boat or a plane, we have all sat next to that one terrible passenger. You know, that guy. The one who talks on the phone really loudly gets crumbs everywhere, or just takes up your armrest. But David Mesher took being a terrible passenger to a whole new level, when, on October 19th, he berated a black woman – Delsie Gayle – just for sitting next to him, minding her own business. She wasn’t being particularly loud, or disruptive – she was just there. But apparently, that’s all it takes, for Mesher went on a racist tirade that was caught on video, referring to Gayle as a ‘black bastard.’ He created such a commotion that other passengers attempted to intervene. After repeated requests that he leave her alone and calm down, staff on the flight moved Gayle to a different seat. Ryanair has come under fire for not ejecting Mesher. Instead, they placed the responsibility to diffuse the situation on the one at the receiving end of the verbal abuse.
In the UK, we tend to look at race problems in the US in horror: how could the police possibly get away with that? How can people think this way? How can racism be such a big thing in today’s day and age? We view their problems as entirely different to our own, as though we, the enlightened citizens of the UK, do not have a race relations problem.
In reality, we should look at ourselves in horror; from police brutality to incidents such as this, racism is alive and well in the UK.
For people of colour, this, of course, is not a new or radical statement. They are well aware that racial discrimination still exists, in many forms. But it’s time for white people to wake up to the problem. We need to acknowledge there is racism in the UK. Only through acknowledging the problem can we hope to solve it and finally move a bit closer towards a more equal society, one where the colour of your skin does not affect how people see you.
Not only do we need to acknowledge racism in the UK as a whole, but we also need to acknowledge it in ourselves as individuals. I am sure that very few people are explicitly racist or trying to be - few people would ever go as far as Mesher did. But that doesn’t mean that we are not implicitly biased against people of colour. Decades of discrimination have permeated our subconsciousness and just affect the way we view the people, without us even realising it.
The first step in overcoming this kind of racism is to acknowledge the problem. Check yourself, when you assume something about a person of colour. Catch yourself making these judgments about someone or immediately jumping to conclusions. In fact, just by reading this article, you are becoming more aware of the problem.
Try to contradict any negative stereotypes that you come across. Find stories in history of people of colour saving the day or watch movies that have an all-black cast. Replace the negative stereotypes in your brain with more positive ones - as many as you can find!
But most importantly, stand up for what’s right. When you see people being racist, even if it’s just in passing, call them out on it. These tiny comments might seem innocuous, but they pave the way for more explicit racism. They help build up to Mesher, and the Meshers of this world help build up to Donald Trump.
It’s not on people of colour to move seats on a plane to avoid abuse - it’s on us; it’s on white people. We have to take responsibility for the mistakes of previous generations and do what we can to correct it.