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Black British Voices Project is a damning indictment of racism in Britain

Black people who said they weren’t ‘proud’ to be British cited colonialism and racist immigration rules
Issue 2875
Black Lives Matter protest 2020

On the march against racism during Black Lives Matter protests in London 2020 (picture: Guy Smallman)

The largest ever survey of black British people has found fewer than half of respondents considered themselves proud to be British.  

More than 10,000 black British people were surveyed for the Black British Voices Project between November 2021 and March 2022.  

When participants were asked if they were proud to be British, just 49 percent said that they were either “definitely proud” or “somewhat proud”.  Of the remaining respondents, 45 percent said they were “not really proud”, or “not at all proud” to be British.  

The study authors said that those who replied negatively “cited negative factors, such as colonialism and historically racist immigration policies as contributing to their responses”.  

The survey’s headline figures have caused consternation in the mainstream media, with an ITV news report on Wednesday calling in experts to explain them to puzzled newsreaders.  

But just how hard is it to explain the alienation that many black people—and a good number of white people—feel from the values of so-called Britishness?  

Britain’s national myths dare to speak of democracy, decency, and the rule of law as virtues that its Empire spread throughout the world.  But those who don’t feel proud know different.  

They know that Great Britain and its mighty Empire were a product of the wretchedness of slavery. They know that colonialism enriched bankers and merchants but created misery for the millions of people under its boot.  

And crucially, they know the connection between all this and the racism that continues to blight their lives today.  

From the immigration laws that tear families apart to the mental health and criminal justice systems that shoves vulnerable people into hell hole cells – the system is riddled with racial prejudice.  

By coincidence, the government on Wednesday released the latest figures on police stop and search.  

The new figures show that stop and search—perhaps the most visible and regular expression of state racism—continues its remorseless rise.  

It is still the case that 90 percent of those stopped and searched in the street are not arrested. And it is still the case that cops disproportionately use their powers against African-Caribbean people.   

The Metropolitan Police in London are the worst offenders, but the research doesn’t detail other major constabularies well.  

Just 14 percent of people in the capital are classified as black—but 22 percent of people stopped and searched are.  

The effect of this racist policy is to help link the idea of blackness and criminality in the public imagination. And for many young black people this confirmation of racial bias is just the start.  

The Black British Voices Project goes on to discuss the workplace. Some 98 percent of respondents said they “always”, “often” or “sometimes” have to “compromise who they are and how they express themselves to fit in at work”.  

Examples of this included altering clothing and hairstyles, speech patterns and being expected to join workmates at the pub after work.  

Lester Holloway, editor of The Voice newspaper, said, “This study should be a wake-up call for Britain.  

“There needs to be a national conversation about this. And we need race back on the political agenda, so we can tackle the causes of this disconnect between black Brits and the only country they know.”  

The trouble with that statement is that black people have been trying to have this conversation for generations—and it is the state that has shut it down.  

During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, people took to the streets to demand an end to the racism that gave us the Windrush scandal and other forms of state racism. What was the response?  

The Tory government grabbed the most compliant black figure they could find—Tony Sewell CBE—to head up a “review” that concluded that institutional racism doesn’t exist. MPs could then happily chirp that Britain was essentially “post-racial”.  

In the wake of this latest survey, the government will likely tour black and Asian ministers around TV studios to tell us things aren’t all that bad.  

All that manoeuvre really tells us is that money and status are a good cushion against oppression—and that class loyalty trumps all.  

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