Clinton, who lives in the Midlands area of the UK talked to me about being stopped by the police five times in one day while driving. Four of the officers gave him a ‘producer’ (meaning that he had to attend a police station and show his licence, MoT and insurance documents). A ‘producer’ is a real inconvenience – UK police stations are notoriously swamped with paperwork and understaffed meaning that you generally have to wait for a few hours or more just to speak to the officer at the front desk. Clinton was driving a black BMW and had even been warned by his friends not to buy it because it would be a magnet for police attention. He says that whenever he sees a police car in the rear view mirror now he gets nervous and agitated and when stopped, he feels that he cannot speak up and challenge the situation because he will be seen as aggressive and is more likely to get into trouble than his white peers.
Clinton says that the biggest issue for him though is that he has never felt included in the UK society. He states that he will never be seen as British or English and always labelled as ‘black’, and then demonised for not integrating.
Vannessa added to the point about being on your ‘best behaviour’. She said that it depends on your work environment – the more corporate you are, the more it seems you have to curtail certain behaviours and not be seen as a troublemaker or ‘angry chip on your shoulder’ black person. She added that an outwardly, pro-black individual would find it very difficult to integrate into that type of environment and perhaps end up with mental health issues due to not being their true self. There are interesting studies around the impact of racism and mental health, the statistics are astounding regarding black people in the mental health system in the UK.
Vannessa mentioned that a lot of institutions are ingrained with this racist mentality and black people have to navigate around it as best they can.
Click here for a link to a published research article about racism and mental health in the UK.
Click here for a link to an article about racism and mental health in Australia.
There are many instances of police racism in the UK and worldwide, I have a friend who was one of the few black members of the West Midlands Police, and he was told by a colleague “You’re okay mate, but I don’t like blacks or asians”. There was no rationality to this statement, just somebody with a very responsible job being openly racist. I have another friend who is on medication which can cause insomnia, so he decided to go out for a run at 2am one night to clear his head. Not very far down the road he was stopped and searched by the police and told that he looked ‘suspicious’ because he was a black man out running late at night with a backpack on.
Amanda (from the previous post) also had an experience relating to cars where her boss asked her if her partner was a drug dealer because he drove a BMW M3. She was determined enough to take her case to court and she won.
The points about police racism are not paranoia, they are fact. The government statistics from 2010 state that a black person is 7 times more likely than a white person to be stopped and searched, and a non-white person is more likely to receive a custodial sentence than a white person. There are many more instances where non-whites receive a harsher deal. This report can be viewed here.
I felt saddened by the extent of Clinton’s harassment and the fact that he has never felt like he fits in to the UK society. There are many more like Clinton.
There is a lot to celebrate and embrace about the wide variety of cultures in the world and yet we often choose to take a narrow minded view and dismiss anything other than our own particular way of life.