The stark evidence of everyday racial bias in Britain

Date: 
December, 2018
Country: 
United Kingdom (England)

The extent of racial bias faced by black, Asian and minority ethnic citizens in 21st-century Britain has been laid bare in an unprecedented study showing a gulf in how people of different ethnicities are treated in their daily lives.

A survey for the Guardian of 1,000 people from minority ethnic backgrounds found they were consistently more likely to have faced negative everyday experiences – all frequently associated with racism – than white people in a comparison poll.

The survey found that 43% of those from a minority ethnic background had been overlooked for a work promotion in a way that felt unfair in the last five years – more than twice the proportion of white people (18%) who reported the same experience.

The results show that ethnic minorities are three times as likely to have been thrown out of or denied entrance to a restaurant, bar or club in the last five years, and that more than two-thirds believe Britain has a problem with racism.

The ICM poll, commissioned to launch a week-long investigation into bias in Britain, focuses on everyday experiences of prejudice that could be a result of unconscious bias – quick decisions conditioned by our backgrounds, cultural environment and personal experiences.

It is believed to be the first major piece of UK public polling to focus on ethnic minorities’ experiences of unconscious bias, and comes amid wider concerns about a shortage of research capturing the views of minority groups.

38% of people from ethnic minorities said they had been wrongly suspected of shoplifting in the last five years, compared with 14% of white people, with black people and women in particular more likely to be wrongly suspected.

Minorities were more than twice as likely to have encountered abuse or rudeness from a stranger in the last week.

53% of people from a minority background believed they had been treated differently because of their hair, clothes or appearance, compared with 29% of white people.

As well as demonstrating how much more likely ethnic minorities are to report negative experiences that did not feature an explicitly racist element, the poll found that one in eight had heard racist language directed at them in the month before they were surveyed.

It also found troubling levels of concern about bias in the workplace, with 57% of minorities saying they felt they had to work harder to succeed in Britain because of their ethnicity, and 40% saying they earned less or had worse employment prospects for the same reason.

The poll persistently found evidence that the gap in negative experiences was not confined to the past. For example, one in seven people from ethnic minorities said they had been treated as a potential shoplifter in the last month, against one in 25 white people.

Source: The Guardian