Britain is a decent country. Most people are fair and tolerant, and have no time for those who try to stir up divisions.
Only a small and toxic minority hold hateful views – but when they voice them, it still causes immense harm.
No place for prejudice is a new social media campaign from British Future which urges everyone to stand up to prejudice if they see it.
Its starting point is this simple observation – most people in Britain aren’t racist or prejudiced. The campaign seeks to mobilise the decent majority who agree that prejudice and hatred are wrong and should have no place in Britain today.
So the campaign presents a typically British scene of people enjoying a sunny day in the park. Ordinary people – white, black and brown – are just getting on with their daily lives.
Look closely, though, and you’ll find one small group of people who are harassing a young mixed-race couple. Our message to the rest of us is clear – that’s not who we are as a country. There’s no place for prejudice in Britain so if you see it, call it out.
British Future’s recent research groups in the West Midlands, examining public attitudes to race and integration for the Many Rivers Crossed report, also found that while most people are clear about their opposition to prejudice, they don’t know what to do if they see it. So we’re providing guidance on what you can do if you witness hatred on the street or on public transport.
In Wolverhampton, a woman described how someone had ripped her hijab off in the street – though also how passers-by, both white and ethnic minority, had come to her aid and told the assailant to get away from her. Whatever else they disagreed about, everybody was very clear this was out of order. Most people hoped they would step in personally if they saw something like it on the street but were honest about acknowledging that it would depend on their sense of personal safety.
British society is as well-integrated as that of any other country, maybe more so, but it doesn’t always feel like that. Extremists – whether from the far right or from Islamist groups – try to divide us. We can do more to make integration work: to build a shared pride in Britain today, we should respect our diversity but focus more on what brings us all together. Integration works when everyone speaks English and our schools are mixed, not segregated, so people do meet and get along.
Our society can also feel more divided and polarised than any of us would like. As in any democracy, we don’t all agree on political issues. Immigration, for example, has been one of the most hotly-debated topics in Britain over the last twenty years. In our research groups people voiced concerns about how immigration has been managed and about integration, when it has not worked well. But the overwhelming majority were keen to draw the line at racism.
Most of us agree that it’s one thing to have concerns about immigration and quite another to take it out on people because of where they come from or the colour of their skin. It’s important to have an open debate about immigration policies, but we can do that without resorting to hatred towards others. We can all agree that there is no place for racism and prejudice in Britain.