UK Present (Pt.2)

Lynette Nabbosa
9 min readOct 2, 2020


It is easy to believe that overt racism is unheard of on British soil.

As a result, we have mastered the art of navigating systems which often fall short of protecting, empowering or providing for us. Below are a few examples of the insidious racism which is embedded within many of our institutions, rooted in the legacy that I described in Part 1.

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The Criminal Justice Alliance

David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice:

  • Overrepresentation of young Black men in our prisons is larger than it is in the USA per capita.
  • This is of particular concern because between 2008 and 2019, the self-harm rate of Black, Asian and ethnic minority youths in Young Offenders Institutes increased by 115%.
  • 7% of police are from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. This despite making up 14% of the UK population. When you look at age groups the representation is even worse.

Tola Munro, President of the National Black Policing Association:

  • You are twice as likely to be dismissed from the police service if you are Black or Asian.

Andrea Coomber, Director of Justice:

  • 4% of circuit judges are BAME — 10% of BAME judges apply
  • 3 High Court judges are BAME
  • The Supreme Court (which has final say in UK Law) has 0 BAME Justices and only 2 women
  • BAME people are applying to the judiciary — 10% applied in 2018 and none were called
  • 20% of partners in law firms are BAME but none are called
  • The numbers of BAME are so small that you cannot have intersectional analysis I made an allowance for the ‘BAME’ label because I am about to illustrate how successful it is in erasing the Black British experience.

Here are some specific figures for Black judges:

  • BAME judges at Senior Level largely reflect Asians
  • Despite the overrepresentation of Black men in prison, we have never had a Black man judge at High Court or above in a salaried role.

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Crimes against the Black community


  • In 1948, the British docked the Empire Windrush in Jamaica. They placed an advertisement in a Jamaican newspaper, offering cheap transport aboard the ship for anyone who wanted to work in the UK.
  • In 1949, the British Nationality Act gave UK citizenship to all people living in the UK and its colonies.
  • This wasn’t out of generosity. Britain suffered a labour and housing shortage after the Second World War, so the Windrush generation helped to rebuild this nation. They are also credited for their role in developing the NHS.
  • They switched it up with the 1971 Immigration Act, but granted indefinite leave to remain to all Commonwealth citizens who settled in the UK before 1973.
  • In 2010, the Data Protection Act made it possible for the UK Border Agency to destroy thousands of landing cards, which for some was the only proof of when they arrived in Britain.
  • Changes were made to immigration law in 2012 and we know what came next. Mass deportation.

New Cross fires:

  • In 1981, during a time when the Lewisham area had a strong far-right presence, with regular attacks on Black people, community centres and youth clubs; a house was set alight during a 16 year-olds birthday party. She, along with 12 other youths (13 in total) died in what we now know as the New Cross fire.
  • Three years before the New Cross Fire, a Black community centre in Lewisham was firebombed, shortly after newspaper reports that burning down the club had been discussed at a National Front meeting.
  • A year after the New Cross fire, the Albany centre in Deptford was set alight shortly after an anti-racism event was hosted there.
  • To this day, no one has been held accountable in the suspected arson because of a ‘lack of evidence’ as to who was responsible.

Julian Cole:

  • Julian Cole was left in a permanent vegetative state after police broke his neck and severed his spinal cord. These injuries resulted in him suffering a cardiac arrest and a serious brain injury, due to a lack of oxygen reaching his brain. He is now paralysed and has brain damage.
  • An investigation found that Hannah Ross, Nicholas Oates and Sanjeev Kalyan made false entries into their pocket note books on 6 May 2013. They also provided fabricated accounts of events in interviews, to give the impression that Julian was able to support his own body weight, walk to the police van and chat with officers.
  • In reality, CCTV footage showed Julian’s limp and seemingly unconscious body being dragged across the road by the police officers. They manhandled him in the back of a police van and took him into police custody instead of hospital.
  • The punishment? Three officers were found guilty of gross misconduct and were immediately dismissed by Bedfordshire Police. The fourth officer was found guilty of misconduct for failure to direct that Julian be taken to hospital ahead of a police station. He received a final written warning (meaning he kept his job).

Rashan Charles:

  • A police officer was cleared of misconduct and granted lifelong anonymity after he and a bystander restrained 20-year-old Rashan Charles, causing his death.
  • The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said that the officer had failed to do his job satisfactorily, but his shortcomings were not deliberate and that he “froze in circumstances which were difficult, stressful and exhausting”.
  • The IOPC also said that he “failed to follow recognised first aid protocols” and delayed calling an ambulance, but these were “shortfalls in performance” which should be addressed in a meeting between the officer and his senior management.

Shukri Abdi:

  • Twelve year-old Shukri Yayhe Abdi was found dead in a river in Bury, Greater Manchester, a year ago in June 2019.
  • Shukri had been subject to extensive bullying at school and ended up in the river, despite being unable to swim. When her body was recovered, she had bite and scratch marks.
  • The child was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and was brought to the UK under a resettlement scheme for a better life, which was cut short just 3 years later.
  • Just a month after Shukri’s death, 17 year-old Yousef Makki was stabbed in the heart by his friend, also in Greater Manchester. The teenager who stabbed him walked free, while the media blamed rap and drill music for tainting his ‘privileged upbringing’.

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Saartjie Baartman:

  • Saartjie Baartman, who was from the Khoisan tribe in Eastern Cape (South Africa), was brought to Europe by a British doctor. She was called Sarah Baartman and given the stage name “Hottentot Venus”.
  • Saartjie was paraded around “freak shows” in London (Piccadilly Circus) and Paris, with crowds invited to look at her large bum.
  • Wealthy customers could pay for private demonstrations in their homes, with their guests allowed to touch her.
  • Today, she is seen as the epitome of the colonial exploitation, racism, ridicule and commodification of Black people.
  • When she died at 26, her organs, genitals and skeleton were dissected and placed in jars, displayed at Paris’s Musee de l’Homme. They remained on public display until 1974 as evidence of racial evolution (with her being equated to an orangutan).
  • In 1994, President of South Africa Nelson Mandela requested the repatriation of Baartman’s remains. It was only in August 2002 that her remains were buried back home in Eastern Cape.

The Gambia :

  • This year (before lockdown), the sexual exploitation of children by British tourists was reported to be on the rise in The Gambia, despite national laws against it.
  • An officer from the Child Protection Alliance said that UNICEF’s latest comprehensive report on the problem was from 2003, but anecdotal evidence shows that the exploitation has increased since then.

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The colonial curriculum:

  • The Black Curriculum exists to make Black British history the norm in the national curriculum.
  • TBC found that: Home Office figures from 2017/18 showed that there were 94,098 hate crime offences recorded by the police in England and Wales. 76% were racially aggravated. The Macpherson Report, produced 20 years ago, showed that cultural diversity within the curriculum is one way of reducing racism.
  • The Windrush Review also recommended that colonial and migration history be taught, yet we are still fighting for this.

Black Attainment Gap:

  • In 2015, Black students (and other ethnic minorities) were found to receive poorer grades at degree level than white students with the same prior attainment — to illustrate this, 72% of White students with BBB A-levels gained a good degree (2:1 and above), compare to 53% of Black students with the exact same A-levels
  • Research in 2019 found that Black students are still 6–28 percentage points less likely than White students to get a higher classification degree
  • The differences exist at all levels of entry qualifications. Even for students who enter HE with very high prior attainment.
  • In 2019, a study by Universities UK found that Black, Asian and other ethnic minority students were less likely to be satisfied with their university experience and less likely to get a higher classification degree. When asked why, they repeatedly cited feelings of “discomfort”, “isolation” and a sense of “not belonging”.
  • The attainment gap widens throughout secondary school and becomes more significant in higher education.
  • There is a consensus that representation is important amongst teachers, who are role models by default. While London secondary schools have made huge strides in the past 20 years, this is not representative of the UK.

In higher education:

  • 0.6% of professors were Black in 2017–18
  • 0.7% of other senior academic staff were Black
  • Black women are particularly underrepresented in research and academic positions. In 2015, just 3% of Black women (25 out of 655) were employed in strategic leadership roles in higher education.
  • 4% of Black women (65 out of 1570 ) were employed on senior management teams.
  • 60% of Black students do not expect to be in work within 6 months of graduating and 68% of Black students expect to earn less than £25k in their first graduate role.
  • Black Caribbean graduates have a jobs gap of about 5%.
  • Black African graduates are twice as likely as Indian, white and Chinese graduates to work in low-paying occupations.

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A 2016 USA study found that 50% of medical students and residents believed that Black people do not feel the same pain as white people because we have thicker skin and our nerves don’t act the same.

Obstetrician-Gynaecologist Dr Jennifer Lincoln has accredited this to the Black maternal and morbidity crisis. While the study is US-based, these findings are representative of the UK experience.

The Womb Room (founded by Saschan Fearon-Josephs), Fibroid Forum, Decolonising Contraception and Black Minds Matter are some of the UK responses to the trivialisation of Black pain.

Bringing the research back to the UK, I’ll provide two simple statistics:

  1. Coronavirus — As we are aware, Black people are 4 times more likely to die from Coronavirus.
  2. Black Women giving birth — Black women in Britain are 5 times more likely to die as a result of complications in pregnancy than white women. The risk is increasing year on year.

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Charity Sector

Kadra Abdinasir, Organiser at Charity So White:

  • The charity sector lags behind the private sector in diversity and inclusion.
  • 99% of charity Boards are white.
  • Over 50% of Black, Asian and ethnic minority charity sector employees have experienced discrimination on the basis of race
  • 9 out of 10 Black, Asian and ethnic minority led organisations are at risk of closing as a result of the pandemic. Because of a lack of trust between funders, governments and our smaller grassroots organisations, we only get short-term funding so are more vulnerable to the pandemic.

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During a time when everyone is asking “what now?” and “how do we make real change?” I implore you to start by reading. Don’t rely on social media or even this article to inform you. Do your due diligence and educate yourself on our social, political, economic and cultural history, as well as current affairs. Part 3 provides more recommendations for you to consider.



Lynette Nabbosa

Business Academic | Award-Winning Founder | Doctoral Student | School Governor | Intersectionality Expert