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Racism in 21st Century Britain

Q1 Introduction

The history of discrimination on the basis of race and color in Great Britain is suggestive of the existing ‘White Supremacy’. Racism is a word which is a widespread popular word across the world after USA’s debacle about ‘Black Lives Matter’. Even though Britain has not faced any of such debate on the same ground recently and there has been several positive news about Britain being on the bright side with the issues of ‘racism’, the concept of ‘white supremacy’ still exists in its fully glory in Britain. However, after the enactment of the Equality Act, 2010, it can be said that Britain has taken a strong stand on the ground of racism and a step has been taken against the cultural hypocrisy which was upheld in the workplaces. But can we conclude the fact that Britain is racism free in the 21st century?

In this essay, we shall discuss the issue of racism in the United Kingdom and special references shall be given towards the historical development of the legal facade on the same topic as well. Therein, we shall critically discuss whether racism still exists as an issue in the 21st Century United Kingdom or not.

Racism in United Kingdom – a historical perspective

The racist attitude of Great Britain started with the concept of colonialism during the pre World War era herein. The issue of racism arises with the British colonialism concept where Britain assumed power over all the countries that had a different skin tone then theirs. However, the main issue of racism first started in the post World War – II, after many people from the British colonial countries started to settle in the Great Britain herein. The British Class system made UK entitled of class segregation and the white supremacy amongst the citizens were extremely high (Ward, 1978).


With the rising race segregation in the country herein, Race Relations Act, 1965 was passed in Britain which had the primary aim of preventing any class or race segregation amongst the citizens herein. This is the first ever legal frontier which encountered the British racism and to control the issue of racism herein, Race Relations Board was established in the United Kingdom in 1966 herein. The Act was enacted in Britain with respect to the millions of immigrants who started to settle in Britain after the World War. However, as it has been mentioned by Smith (2015), people with different skin color, religion and class had faced racist comments on a daily basis in the then Britain herein.

Again in the year of 1976, the Race Relations Act was updated with respect to workplace and contract workers and the Parliament of the Great Britain witnessed a surge in the cases of racism even after the enactment of the Race Relations Act of 1965 (Andrews, 2010).

Britain and Institutional Racism – Is racism in Britain is more than that?

While it may seem from the enactment of the legislations that United Kingdom had taken the step against any discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender or class from a long time and any formal record of ‘institutional racism’ cannot be found in the archive of the Britain history, racism always existed in the United Kingdom. It may be argued that unlike US, United Kingdom did not have to deal with institutional racism on a large scale; the event of 1999 is one of the greatest examples of how Britain deals with cases of racism herein.

The 1999 case of ‘the killing of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence’ and a very poor investigation which has been held afterward on the topic of racism, only proved how Metropolitan Police system of United Kingdom relied on white supremacy even after the enactment of the Race Relations Act, 1976 (Bridges, 1999). It is true that institutional racism is the one brutality that is often revealed before the public at large, the racism in Britain almost never confined to the institutional racism alone.

From a survey of YouGov (Abraham, 2020), it has been reported that Britain suffers from the case of ‘overt racism’. While the occurrences of racism is not publicly seen or experienced by people by the authority, it has been reported that more than 84% BAME (Black, Asian, Mixed and other non-white) Britons think racism exist in Britain as it did 50 years back. From the survey report, it has been seen that only 47% people think that the severity of racism is still as same as it was 30 years before and the rest of the BAME population, especially the older population likes to address the change in overall attitudes herein. Also, the report extensively shows what the BAME Britons consider to be as racist and most of the answers were inherently social in nature and there were very few answers linked to institutional racism herein (Abraham, 2020).

From the research paper of Bonnett and Carrington (1996), it can be said that United Kingdom has always entertained a suppressed sense of racism unlike other country’s brutal evidence of racism herein. The educational system of Britain shows the hint of racism within the syllabus and the educational policy of Great Britain showed little to no concern for the minority race herein.

Also, the hint of overt racism can be witnessed from the Britain’s policy of population counting where record of ethnicity is a must along with other details of the race and color herein. While such acts have been declared to be illegal in countries like France and Belgium, Britain expressly follows such norms and indulges in showcasing the percentage of ethnicity in Britain that clearly draws a line of division between the white ethnicity, who are considered to be the real citizens of Britain and the immigrants on the basis of their race, color and religion herein (Huq, 2008).

The existence of racism in the 21st century Britain

Does racism exist in the 21st century Britain? The answer is an assertive ‘yes’. The subtle hints and occurrences of racism is faced and seen more and more in the 21st century and such data have seen a considerable surge after the US’s protest of ‘Black Lives Matter’. While UK’s racism cannot be exactly labeled as institutional racism but it can be essentially termed as ‘systematic racism’. Systematic racism might be subtle in nature but they have a deep-rooted connection to the narrow minded societal perspective herein. As Britain lacks in providing any conclusive incident that is directly linked to racism, several statistical incidents can be pointed out that shall essentially prove the point of an existing systematic racism herein.

The ‘Stop and search’ conducted by Metropolitan Police

The race discrimination in police institutional is not new in the Western Countries. Although Britain faces fewer cases of police brutality which is essentially linked to the case of racism, the random ‘stop and search’ conducted by the police authority in England and Wales shows a difference concern altogether. From a report of BBC News (2020), the England Police apologized to black athletic Bianca Williams for an incident of ‘stop of search’. Also, it has been seen than black people are “nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than while people”. In 2019, 38 black people out of 1000 were subjected to ‘stop and search’ while only 4 while people out of 1000 were subjected to the same treatment (BBC News, July 10, 2020).

Discriminative Mental Health Service

From a 2019 report, it has been seen that black people are more subjected under the Mental Health Act, 1983 and the BAME citizens are more likely to receive harsher mental health treatment than the while people, including forced seclusion on the ground of mental health of restraint under section 2 or 3 under the Mental Health Act, 1983 of the United Kingdom (, 2019).

Death in the Police Custody

As it has been researched by various scholars and researchers herein, it has been seen that the custody death of black people is much higher than white people in the United Kingdom. In 2017, it was seen that even though white people were found to be convicted of heinous crimes more than black people, it was the black people who mostly suffered custodial death herein (Price & Payton, 2017).

Discrimination in the work place

From various reports and survey, it has been seen and noticed that white people are more likely to be promoted in a workplace than the ethnic minority. Even in the police department, the presence of black people or ethnic minority can be seen herein. Such discrimination does not only exist at the lower rank of the management but it has been seen in the upper management systems of a workplace as well (Chapman, 2019).

Thus, from the abovementioned presentation of the facts herein, it can be stated that the existence of racism is still evident in the 21st century Britain. Overt racism is a dominant thing in Britain that is often exercised in everyday lives. From assuming black barristers to be the defendant (BBC News, October 04, 2020) to UK industries rejecting applications with Asian or African heritage, the incidents of racism is embedded in everyday life of the United Kingdom herein.

Steps taken against ‘Systematic Everyday racism’ in 21st Century Britain

While it is indeed extremely tough to eradicate the perception towards racism and any discrimination based on race and color overnight, many steps have been taken against racism in the United Kingdom by the parliament herein. Britain has incorporated the Human Rights Act, 1998 under which the fundamental rights of liberty and equality irrespective of race and color has been incorporated according to the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) herein.

Previously, UK has the Race Relations Act of 1976 which prohibited any discrimination on the ground of race, color and gender. The legislation was subsequently repealed by the Equality Act of 2010 which incorporated the prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of race, color and any disability whatsoever in workplace and various rights and preventive measures have been provided under this Act for the people to take actions against. As it has been stated by Bebber (2018), the incorporation of Equality Act, 2010 has incredibly helped black people in combating racism in workplace herein.

Also, from the research conducted by Ford (2008), it has been seen that even though racism still exist at a superior level in Britain, the same has decreased by a large margin in the last 30 years as well. The opposition to interracial marriage has decreased and people have shown almost no objection to higher authority person who belongs to an ethnic group. According to a 2019 survey conducted by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2019), it has been seen that UK ranked as the least racist country among all the European Union country on the survey list herein.


Thus, as it has been discussed thoroughly herein, it cannot be concluded that racism is an extinct topic of the past in the 21st century Britain, but the incidents of racism and the attitudes of Britain is slowly changing over time. The slow and steady social growth on the subject of racism can be seen from the recent protest in UK over the death of George Floyd in USA i.e. the protest of ‘Black Lives Matter’ herein. In such protest, majority of the UK people joined hands and protested the cold blooded murder by the institution of police authority of USA herein. Such gesture by the country shows the awareness against the issue of racism and the UK’s combined protest against such issue as well. Although the legislature of UK needs a lot more efficient work to combat the issues of racism better on the social level, the 21st century Britain is slowly and steadily learning the issues better.


Abraham, T. (2020). 84% of BAME Britons think the UK is still very or somewhat racist. retrived from

Andrews, S. (2010), Protection for contract workers. Local Government Lawyer, 21(1), 23-34

BBC News, (July 10, 2020). Review launched into police 'race discrimination'. Retrived from

BBC News (October 04, 2020). Nobody thinks black people can be barristers'.Retrived from

Brett M. Bebber. (2018). “Standard Transatlantic Practice”: Race Relations and Antidiscrimination Law across the Atlantic. Journal of Civil and Human Rights, 4(1), 5-36

Bridges, L. (1999). The Lawrence Inquiry. Incompetence, Corruption, and Institutional Racism. Journal of Law and Society, 26(3), 298-322

Chapman, B. (2019). FTSE 100 has more CEOs called Steve than from ethnic minorities, research finds. Retrieved from

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2019). Being Black in the EU. Retrieved from

Ford, Robert (2008). "Is racial prejudice declining in Britain?" The British Journal of Sociology. 59 (4): 609–636

Huq, R. (2008). Youth Culture and Antiracism in New Britain: From the Margins to the Mainstream? International Journal of Sociology, 38(2), 43-53

Mind org, (2019). Discrimination in Mental Health Services. Retrieved from

Price, J., & Payton, E. (2017). Implicit Racial Bias and Police Use of Lethal Force: Justifiable Homicide or Potential Discrimination? Journal of African American Studies, 21(4), 674-683

Smith, E. (2015). "The Communist Party's campaign for the Race Relations Act 1965". Hatful of History. 12(1), 34-50

Ward, R. (1978). Race Relations in Britain. The British Journal of Sociology, 29(4)

Q2. Multiculturalism in Britain


The Great Britain, being one of the big powers having colonial power over several developing countries of the world, faced the incident of migrants from several colonial countries settling down in the world of post World War. People from different race, ethnicity and religion settled in the lands of Britain in the world of 1950’s and that essentially created an environment of mixed culture herein. The accounts of racism and all kinds of discrimination due to the concept of white supremacy were high during this time as well. The racial change in Britain was essentially new and the system of multi culture took time to settle in. Thus, until the 1965, the United Kingdom did not recognize the racial change in society and with the enactment of the Race Relations Act 1965, the United Kingdom paved the avenue for a new Britain with a multi-cultural façade herein.

Hence, multiculturalism in the contemporary United Kingdom is not something new. While it is not right to manifest the concept of culture under some definite characteristics (Anaya, 2004), a rigid definition of multiculturalism is inevitable, considering the contemporary Britain herein. Thus, in this essay, we shall first discuss the meaning and scope of multiculturalism and what it means for the contemporary Britain herein. Further, we shall discuss the occurrence of multiculturalism in a postwar British culture with a critical analysis towards whether the contemporary Britain has accepted and recognized the true essence of its multiculturalism herein. In the criticism herein, we shall also discuss the existence and the recognition of multiculturalism by the governmental agencies and whether the lawmaking policy, educational policy and other policies have truly given multiculturalism its due credit or multiculturalism has only been recognized just as a way of racism within the British society herein.

What is Multiculturalism?

Multiculturalism in Britain has many facades and it is not only restricted to the difference in race and the minority ethnic groups. Multiculturalism can be defined as the implication of cultural differences through dress, language, religious practice, religious freedom, immigration system, educational policy, court proceedings. Multiculturalism is also embedded in literature, science, law, academic writing and in politics. Thus, any rigid definition of multiculturalism, concerning a certain point of view cannot be given with respect to contemporary Britain as it is complicated both in theory and in practice herein.

However, the presence of racism and the BAME (Black, Asian, Mixed and other non-white people) Britons can define multiculturalism in the context of the contemporary Britain as the “request for a tolerance of behaviors towards certain norms which are not deviated from the cultural aspect that is majorly accepted within a country” (Ashcroft, 2017). Thus, according to scholar Taylor (1992), multiculturalism can be defined as a social recognition of a minority culture within a culture which is professed by the majority of people. It is essentially a peaceful correlation between two or several culture within one boundary, without harming one another. The peaceful co-existence of multiculturalism can stem from public holidays, respecting different culture or religions, public discourse and educational policy that are more inclusive of the ethnic minority or court proceedings keeping the preferences of different minority groups in mind (Carens, 2000).

Postwar British Multiculturalism

From the historical perspective, it has been essentially said that multiculturalism in Britain has only started in the post World War era, but the existence of multiculturalism can be traced back to the year of 1707 (Ashcroft & Bevir, 2016). From the research conducted by Colley (1992), multiculturalism in Britain first started during the time of imperialism. During the struggle against France, the seeds of multiculturalism entered the land of Britain without nudging the senses of the people herein. Thus, as it has been essentially stated by Ashcroft (2017), multiculturalism existed in the Great Britain since the time of imperialism but it was only realized by the political parties and the parliament of Britain after the event of decolonization herein.

Thus, it can be said that the postulate that says that Britain only entertained multiculturalism after the Second World War, feeds a wrong storyline. While in reality, Britain was always a place of mixed cultures and this land has always entertained different cultures since the time of colonialism itself. However, after the period of colonialism, the liberal democracy of UK started to recognize the case of immigrants settling down in Britain and British Nationality Act, 1948 was passed by the then British Government herein (Fagan, 2017). This is the first Act of the contemporary Britain that accepted the occurrence of Multiculturalism by providing citizenship to the immigrants from different parts of the world (Hansen, 2000, pp. 45-49).

Although such steps taken by the British Government had the aim to establish the Great Britain as the mother country by holding all the immigrants under the abovementioned Act herein, such steps could not resist the race riots in the year of 1958. The larger culture of Britain and the white population became threatened by the enormous amount of immigrants eventually. In order to protect the different race and minority ethnic groups herein, British Government enacted the law regarding racism namely, Race Relations Act of 1965 and Race Relations Act of 1976 herein.

Multiculturalism in lawmaking policy, politics and theory

Multiculturalism in the context of contemporary Britain might have been held in the immigration Act and through different anti-racism Acts such as the Race Relations Act, 1965, the Race Relations Act, 1976 and the Equality Act, 2010, but the contemporary Britain has somewhat failed to adhere multiculturalism into the lawmaking policy and other policy of the country herein. The 21st century Britain is essentially threatened by the occurrence of multiculturalism and through different debates, it has been mentioned how under the pressure of multiculturalism, the British culture is diminishing slowly (Ashcroft, 2017).

Thus, such narrow conception towards multiculturalism where the contemporary Britain government hardly recognizes the existence of combination of cultures since a long time, is not the right approach towards welcoming and embedding multiculturalism in the British culture and it is only harming the rights of the ethnic minority herein. As it has been seen that, the occurrence of racism is still quite high in the society and such racism exists as systematic racism. Although the occurrence of institutional racism is minimal in the British culture, the number of stop and search in Britain indicates a high number towards the BAME Britons than the white population, given the fact that the white population often carries the illegal substances more than the black population (BBC News, 2020). Also, there has been the occurrence of holding black population under the restraint as per the Mental Health Act, 1983 of the United Kingdom herein (Mind org, 2019).

Also, it has been seen that unlike other European countries, Britain takes account of the ethnicity in the population collection. This practice has been essentially prohibited under the French law as it had been seen as a practice that propagates and influences racism but Britain still practices such behaviors towards its citizens after so many years of immigration and the Second World War (Ashcroft & Bevir, 2016).

Critical Analysis of Multiculturalism in Contemporary Britain

Thus, from the abovementioned discussions herein, it can be critically assessed that multiculturalism is essentially as part of the contemporary Britain. However, the existence of multiculturalism can be traced back the time of 1707, during the time of imperialism when the world was undergoing the occurrence of colonialism, the contemporary British society i.e. the white population of Britain refuses to accept the presence of multiculturalism herein.

The correct public holidays by recognizing the existence of multiculturalism is missing from the contemporary Britain and the educational policy of Britain is not all inclusive of the minority group herein. Given the current scenario of terrorism, the dress policy has been updated in Britain, without acknowledging the existence of religious freedom as it has been enshrined under the Human Rights Act, 1998. It is true that the British Government has taken various steps to update the law of racism within the British society and the Equality Act, 2010 has essentially helped in providing a stricter legal policy to the employee in combating the incidents of racism in workplace, the system is still rigged and during the court proceeding, the favors mostly go towards the employers herein.

The challenge which was posed by the decolonization, the contemporary Britain is essentially carrying the threat till date and it has been quite tough for the British society to accept and recognize the existence of multiculturalism. With the imperialism and the existence of colony countries across the world, Great Britain developed the sense of superiority on the world politics. Such dominance needed to be surrendered by Britain after the Second World War and ever since Britain is fighting the complex of inferiority with its non-inclusive law making policy, educational policy without giving every culture its proper recognition, workplace policy without proper recognition to every other public holiday herein. Thus, from the above-mentioned discussion and after critically assessing the same in this essay, it can be said that the contemporary Britain still lacks a lot in accepting its multiculturalism characteristic and such negligence towards one of its traits is only holding back the political dilemma of the country and nothing else.

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Thus, in concluding this essay, it can be said that multiculturalism and decolonization of Britain has a larger impact than we can perceive with our naked eyes. Before decolonization, Britain accepted its multiculturalism and Britain never felt the threat of the immigrants coming to its land as Britain had so many colonial countries across the world. Thus, with the benefit of colonialism, multiculturalism was also accepted in Britain during the time of 1700 to 1800. However, slowly the colonized countries started to revolt and asked their sovereignty back from the hands of the British herein. After the Second World War, with the formation of United Nations, Britain almost lost all of its colonized countries and the people who were residing in Britain from the abovementioned countries herein, became immigrants. Thus, it is only after the Second World War, Britain noticed the occurrence of immigrants in her country and such cluster of different cultures only undermined the existence of British culture herein. Thus, multiculturalism inherently became a threat for Britain.

Although, from the research conducted by Ford (2008), it has been seen that even though racism still exist at a superior level in Britain, the same has decreased by a large margin in the last 30 years as well. The opposition to interracial marriage has decreased and people have shown almost no objection to higher authority person who belongs to an ethnic group. According to a 2019 survey conducted by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2019), it has been seen that UK ranked as the least racist country among all the European Union country on the survey list herein. Also, with the recent case of George Floyd in the United States and Britain’s follow up protest on the same subject has witnessed the acceptance of multiculturalism on a social level. However, the governmental agencies of UK still need lots of amendments in their current laws with sufficient representatives from different cultures at the top political posts as well. Hence, it can be said that the contemporary 21st century Britain is essentially ignoring a large part of its population with the goggles of multiculturalism and such ignorance is only weakening the country’s strength herein and nothing else. Multiculturalism has been the past of Britain and it is the future of Britain. Even through the act of colonialism, Britain has encouraged the happening of multiculturalism on a greater scale. Thus, multiculturalism is inevitable for Britain to flourish in the future.


i. Anaya, J. S. (2004). International human rights and indigenous peoples: The move toward the multicultural state. Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, 21, 13.

ii. Ashcroft, R. (2017). Multiculturalism in contemporary Britain: policy, law and theory. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 21(1), 1-21

iii. Ashcroft, R. & Bevir, M. (2016). Pluralism, national identity and citizenship: Britain after Brexit. The Political Quarterly, 87(3), 355–359

iv. BBC News, (July 10, 2020). Review launched into police 'race discrimination'. Retrived from

v. Colley, L. (1992). Britons: Forging the nation 1707–1837. Bath: The Bath Press.

vi. Carens, J. H. (2000). Culture, citizenship and community: A contextual exploration of justice as evenhandedness. Oxford: Oxford University Press

vii. Fagan, A. (2017). Human rights and cultural diversity: Core issues and cases. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

viii. Hansen, R. (2000). Citizenship and immigration in post-war Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press

ix. Mind org, (2019). Discrimination in Mental Health Services. Retrived from

x. Taylor, C. (1992). The politics of recognition. In A. Gutmann (Ed.), Multiculturalism: Examining the politics of recognition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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