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History of Racism in Great Britain

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Published: Tue, 20 Feb 2018

Although the killing of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 was one of the few racist murders in British history to result in extensive media coverage, a public investigation and a change in the law, the reporting of black youth crime in the United Kingdom has remained subject to distortion and moral panic, especially in the conservative tabloid press. Since Lawrence and his family were portrayed as aspiring members of the middle class, the media in general did not really regard him as part of black youth culture at all, at least as the media has defined it over the last thirty years: guns, drugs, gangs, street crime, poverty and school drop outs. Therefore, despite much sound and fury, there is no evidence that Lawrence’s murder and its aftermath led to fundamental change in the systematic racism of the British media, and other institutions such as the police and education system, or the racist ideology as applied to blacks, immigrants, Muslims and asylum-seekers has disappeared as a result—far from it. This essay will first consider the definition of racism as socially and historically constructed, and part of the institutions and ideology of society, and then examine how it has applied to the treatment blacks and other ethnic minorities in the UK since the 1940s, focusing on the Lawrence case and its aftermath. Finally, it will consider whether racism in the media has gradually been transferred to other targets in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and July 2005, with less emphasis on street crime, gangs, drugs and the crack wars of the 1970s-90s. This does not mean that young black males are no longer the target of racist stereotyping in the media, since as late as 2007 even a committee of the House of Commons agreed that they still were, only that racist impulses and ideologies seem to go through phases in which certain targets receive more attention than others.

RACISM IN GREAT BRITAIN: HISTORY, THEORY AND PRACTICE

Postmodern and critical theories hold that ideas about race are socially and historically constructed rather than race being some immutable biological or natural characteristic, and that racist ideologies and practices take on a life of their own and become incorporated into the structures and institutions of society, beyond simply the personal hatreds, prejudices and discriminatory practices that occur every day on the personal, individual level. Postmodernists sometimes sound like Gunnar Myrdal, who called racism a “moral dilemma”, but it is also “myriad of practices that are designed to subjugate a large segment of the population” (Murphy and Choi 1997: 3). At times, the changes in the law that have occurred in Britain and the U.S. since the 1960s lead to a sense in the media and among politicians that racism is no longer a problem, and “postmodern racism assumes the guise of tolerance only to be usurped by relativism, a proliferation of differences rather than a leveling of power relations” (Leonardo 2009: 216). Hardt and Nergi described postmodern racism as “a form of segregation, not hierarchy, in which cultural difference comes in to fill the role that hierarchy and ethnicity once played.” It accepts differences “so long as we act our race” (Bewes 2002: 76). Ideologies are a distinctive worldview, a “set or chain or meanings; they are collective rather than “the product of individual consciousness or intention” and “form part of the determinate social formations and conditions in which individuals are born”. Ideologies construct “knowledge” for individuals and groups which ‘allow them to ‘utter’ ideological truths as if they were authentic authors” (Hall 2000: 271-72).

In Race and Racism: Essays in Social Geography (1986: 864), Peter Jackson established “the contemporary geographical understandings of race as a social construct—with both historical and spatial contexts.” Jackson wrote that racism was “structured and institutionalized” and bound up “with the very notion of English nationalism” Audrey Kobayashi and Linda Peake (1994: 225) demonstrated “the ways in which geography has been part of a system of domination through its work related to the construction of Empire” with white privilege “established along certain boundaries.” Well into the 20th century, geographers endorsed ‘scientific racism” and the “understanding of race as scientific, natural and biological phenomenon”, even up to the present-day manipulation of census data. Only in the 1970s and 1980s did geographers begin to view race as a “social construct with different relevance to different peoples in different places and at different times” (Skelton 1999: 228). In his 1995 book, Geographies of Exclusion, David Sibley described the “ways in which processes of exclusion and inclusion construct our spatial environments, our geographical imagination and indeed the very subject of geography” (1995: 137).

Studies of discrimination in jobs and employment in Britain, based on the use of white and black actors showing identical qualifications, show widespread patterns of racism. A 1977 study found that white actors were hired “ten times more often” than blacks when applying for the same jobs, while a similar study in 1997 found that “at least a third of employers discriminate against minority ethnic groups”, as did one-third of landlords. In fact, “discriminatory attitudes and practices were so pervasive as to be part of everyday, routine culture of social institutions” (Abercrombie and Warde 261-62). In the recession of 1982, 60% of black 16-20-year olds were unemployed, and were “marginalized by age, school, experience, space, place, and employment. They were sent to Educational Subnormal Special Schools fare out of proportion to their actual percentage of the population, and were hurt more than any other single group by the deindustrialised economy of the 1970s and 1980s. From 1971-81 the number of black males age 16-18 in custody doubled (Webster 2006: 33). In a 1993 survey, “almost half of white people sampled disagreed with the statement ‘Immigration has enriched the quality of life in Britain’ and “racism of this kind is constantly experienced by black people at all levels of society” (Abercrombie and Warde: 255). In 1987, a black, middle-class man reported that “professional blacks are treated as rare specimens by most of their colleagues” and often subjected to racist humour and harassment. If they complain, they are called “over-sensitive to racial issues” and carry ‘chips on their shoulders”. In 1997, a black police officer described being sent to a domestic dispute and being greeted at the door by a white man with “What do you want, nigger?” and “I don’t want a nigger policeman dealing with my family, send a real policeman.” Anti-Muslim sentiment was also “particularly strong” in Britain (Abercrombie and Warde; 257).

For the British media, especially the conservative, mass market tabloids, blacks have been defined by images of black youth crime for decades, especially as the economy began to decline in the 1970s as unemployment, poverty and social pathology increased in the declining industrial cities. If black crime has always been defined as a “social problem” in the media, racist attacks by whites against minorities almost never was before the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign (McLaughlin and Murji: 263). From a purely capitalist view as well, “crime reports are among the most headline-catching of news commodities” and media everywhere in the world follow the somewhat cynical principle of ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. Crime journalists almost invariably take their cue from the police as “experts” on the subject and also depend of police contacts for their very livelihoods, providing them “a routine and predictable source of ‘newsworthy’ stories.” Naturally, crime journalists never want to alienate that source and end up “left out in the cold”, for the economics of the news business is a particularly raw, competitive form of capitalism (McLaughlin and Murji: 264). Van Dijk studied 2,755 headlines in the British press in 1985-86 from The Times, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Mail and Sun, and found that except for The Guardian, almost all the reporting about blacks and other minorities was “seldom positive, occasionally neutral, and often negative” (Van Dijk 1991: 52-59, 69).

In general, both news and fiction media have been portraying more sex, drugs and violence in recent decades than compared to the 1945-64 period, in part simply because these images and stories generate more readers and viewers. Conservatives regard this as part of the general “moral decline and fall” of Western civilisation since the 1960s, while for liberals and the left, “the media representations unduly accentuate fears of crime, hence bolstering public support for more authoritarian forms of criminal justice, policy and practices” (Reiner et al 2000: 107). According the Richard Sparks (1997), the media “have consistently been seen by policy-makers as a regular source of the problem, stimulating unrealistic and irrational fears by exaggerating and sensationalising the risks and seriousness of crime.” Content analysis of movies, television and print media “suggests that media representatives exaggerate the extent and seriousness of crime and the success of the police and criminal justice system in combating crime” (Reiner et al 108). Crime stories increased as a percentage of total stories in both the The Mirror and The Times from 2-3% in 1945-51 to 6-9% in 1985-91 (Reiner et al: 110). In newspapers, homicide was the most common crime story in all periods since 1945: 20% in 1945-64 and 28% in 1965-79 and 1980-91, although at no time has murder ever been the most common violent crime, certainly not even close to the level at which the media covers it. Terrorist crimes also got more newspaper coverage in recent time, up from less than 1% in 1945-64 to 5.3% in 1965-79 and 8.8% of stories in 1980-91, while there “was a clear shift from stories featuring property crimes (such as burglary and car theft) to offences against the person, including homicide, assault and sexual offences”—even though property crimes are of course far more common than violent crimes. Newspaper reporting on these fell from 20% of stories in 1945-64 to 12% in 1965-79 and 8% in 1980-91, while “almost half of all crime-related stories are now about violence and/or sex” (Reiner et al: 114).

Homicide was also the most common subject in fictional crime films in 1945-91, including 50% of all movies in 1945-64, 35% in 1965-79 and 45% in 1980-91. Films featuring property crimes fell from 32% to 5% in the same period while those depicting sex crime, rape and prostitution increased from 3% to 15% and drugs from 2% to 15% in the same time period. Movies also became far more graphic and explicitly violent, with 74% of films having little or no violence in 1945-64 and only 5% significant levels of violence, compared to 1991 when only 16% had little or no violence and 47% significant levels of it, and 80% of all movies “featured multiple offences unrelated to the central narrative” especially violent, drug and sex crimes (Reiner et al: 114). Police were the heroes in 9% of films in 1945-64, 50% in 1965-79 and 40% in 1980-91, while ‘amateur investigative heroes” like Miss Marpole appeared in only 5% of films in 1965-79 and none afterwards. Overall, the shift in film representation of crime made it seen “as an ever-present, ubiquitous threat, not as a one-off disturbance in a generally ordered existence” as it was in the 1945-64 period (Reiner et al: 115-16). Criticism and negative images of the police and authority figures also increased greatly in both films and news stories, and there was also “a slight tendency to portray young offenders more frequently” with “the proportion o ethnic minority offenders increasingly slightly in both fiction and news stories.” Even so, during the entire 1945-91 period, white males, middle aged or older, were still the majority of offenders portrayed in both fictional and news accounts. Criminals of all types were “overwhelmingly portrayed unsympathetically” (Reiner et al: 116-17).

After the major shift in both fictional and news coverage of crime in the 1960s and 1970s, there were increasing complaints from the elderly, minorities and young people in general about how they were depicted. Elderly citizens were shown as “muggable” and disempowered, while the young and minorities “felt like they were continually portrayed as ‘dangerous youth’, potential perpetrators of crime, and thus welcomed films and news stories with “a civil rights focus and the questioning of police authority.” On the other hand, young women were more “aware of their possible victim status, particularly their vulnerability to male violence, and so welcomed coverage of such crimes”, which had been mostly ignored before the 1960s (Reiner et al: 120). In general, the cultural shift of the 1960s and 1970s has not been reversed in films and news accounts in the more conservative era of the 1980s and 1990s: there is still far more depiction of sex, drugs, violence, corrupt and “tarnished” authority figures than before 1965, and also an increasing tendency toward more anarchic and nihilistic violence or “a Hobbesian war of all against all”, mixed occasionally with more reactionary and nostalgic themes. Overall, the post-1960s media and film culture has remained “less deferential and more de-subordinate” and demystified than it was before 1965 (Reiner et al: 121-22).

For decades the British media portrayed Britain as a white society with a minority and immigration problem. Accordingly, the” coloured population is seen as some kind of aberration, a problem, or just an oddity.” One of the most popular BBC television programmes in 1958-78 was The Black and White Minstrel Show, supposedly set in the Deep South of the U.S., featuring actors in blackface. As late as 1998, only 2% of journalists in England and Wales were Arab, Asian or black even though these minorities made up 5.26% of the population, and the media often remained “blind” to ethnic minorities (Wilson et al 2003: 21-21). According to the British Social Attitudes Survey of 2003, 31% of white admitted to being racist, about the same percentage as 1987, and many people also practised “aversion racism” in which they believed intellectually in equality but at the same time felt aversion toward minorities with negative stereotypes, and thus avoided interaction with them if possible (Crisp and Turner 2007: 162-65).

In the media, blacks became synonymous with drugs, gangs and street crime, and misleading police statistics asserted that young black males were the majority of street criminals, generally unemployed and on welfare. Equally untrue in the standard media portrayal, their victims were “often white, female and elderly” (McLaughlin and Murji: 265). Abercrombie and Warde agree that “a conception of the black community as particularly crime-prone took hold” in the 1970s “in press treatments of attacks on and thefts from, innocent people in the streets.” In 1983 The Sun actually ran a headline “Black Crime Shock” and stated falsely that “blacks carried twice as many muggings as white sin London last year” (Webster: 32). In general, the media conveyed the image “that the attackers were predominantly black and the victims predominantly white”, no matter that there was no evidence for this. Just the opposite, the British Crime Survey of 1988 and 1992 showed conclusively that “ethnic minorities are much more likely, in fact, to be the victims of crime than white people”, and these crimes are under-reported “because it is believed the police will not be interested and will not follow up a complaint.” According to a 1981 Home Office report, “victimization rates for Asians were 50 times, and for blacks 36 times, higher than for white people”, but the media treated this information like it did not exist and almost never reported “the extent and seriousness of racially motivated attacks on black communities” (McLaughlin and Murji: 268-69). Nevertheless, into the 1990s, young black males continued to be profiled and targeted for stop and search policing, especially in high crime areas. Studies of police attitudes found that they generally regarded blacks as “trouble-makers, drug dealers, robbers and nothing else” (Abercrombie and Warde: 258-59).

This moral panic against crime in the streets was also fuelled by Conservative politicians, particularly in the Winter of Discontent against the Labour government in 1979. In the Thatcher years, the Tories presided over an era of high unemployment and increasing poverty at the bottom end of the social scale, and knew that they could divert attention “by promoting a law and order discourse that put the blame on the most socially and economically depressed sections of the community” (Holohan: 104). In Britain, as in the U.S. and many other countries from the 1970s to the 1990s, conservative and right-wing populist ideologies reflected a “broadly right-wing consensus which, in many news channels (especially the tabloid press)…justified as encapsulating the ‘British way of life’”. This law and order consensus supported “more police, more prisons and a tougher criminal justice system”, particularly in response to the youth and minority rebellions of the 1960s and 1970s–and indeed, as part of a white backlash against these (Jewkes 2004: 58). For over twenty years, conservative “populist punitiveness” represented the main attitude of the British government to crime, poverty and the social problems associated with them, and there was no major opposition to imprisoning larger numbers of youth and younger ages, to prosecuting them as adults, more curfews, prohibition of “unauthorized gatherings” of young people, as well as “harsher measures against immigrants, protesters, demonstrators, the homeless and young unemployed”, particularly if any of the above were from minority groups. Newspapers like The Sun and Daily Mail have always had a vigorous “intolerance towards anyone of anything that trangresses an essentially conservative agenda” (Jewkes: 59). Socially, economically and culturally, this era was a throwback to the late-Victorian period at the end of the 19th Century.

A 1992 book Beneath the Surface: Racial Harassment described a detailed study of racism in the London borough of Walthem Forest in 1981-89. It found that racial harassment was a “fact of life” there, including verbal and physical abuse, graffiti and fire bombings of houses of ethnic minorities. In July 1981 a Pakistani woman and her three children died in one of these attacks when petrol was sprayed into their house and set alight. The police did not seem interested in any of these crimes, and were even suspicious of the minorities who reported them. In 1998, The Observer reported that “little has changed” in the years since and described how one Muslim man was regularly “threatened with stones, guns, knives, fire-bombs and death threats over a seven-year period. In 1992-94 alone, there were at least 45 deaths in Britain from “what are believed to be racially motivated attacks”, but none of them received nearly the same publicity as the Lawrence case (Abercrombie and Warde: 260-62). After the riots of 1980-81, Lord Scarman’s report “emphasized the role of racial discrimination” and acknowledged that “there was a problem of racially discriminatory policing”, as was still the case twelve years later in the Lawrence case. After the report came out, the police gave “off-the-record” interviews to the effect that “London was experiencing a dramatic increase in muggings” (McLaughlin and Murji: 266).

Jamaican immigrants had begun to arrive in the UK in 1948, although even the Labour government of that era preferred white European immigrants if it could find them, even if they could not speak English and understood little about Britain. Indeed, government officials went out of their way to discourage immigration from Africa, Asia and the West Indies, which was not unusual at the time, given the whites-only immigration policies in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States that had been in place for decades—and did not finally change in the U.S. until 1965. The British government even tried to divert a ship carrying 492 Jamaicans to East Africa in 1948. Given the shortage of white immigrants, Britain had no alternative except to obtain most of its cheap labour supply from its colonies, semi-colonies and former colonies in Asia, Africa and the West Indies, although with much bad will on both the governmental level and in (white) public opinion (Skelton: 232).

Blacks had been in Britain long before this wave of immigration, of course, but it seems to have made little impact on historical memory or popular consciousness. Britain had slavery during the 17th and 18th Centuries at least until Lord Mansfield abolished it in 1772. To be sure, only 10-20,000 slaves had lived in the country during any given year compared to millions in Brazil, the United States and West Indies and the number of free blacks was never large (Segal 1996: 264). Prior to the post-1945 immigration, few whites in Britain would have ever encountered many blacks at home, except of course for American soldiers in World War II. At that time, however, many white Americans were actually surprised to find that the British press was generally sympathetic to blacks whenever racial conflicts, brawls and other ‘incidents’ took place on British soil (Katznelson 2001: 203 n38).

Jamaicans were the largest group to arrive in Britain from the West Indies during this unwelcome ingathering from the colonies. While the “majority of White British were antagonistic to all those from the Caribbean, it can be said that the deepest resentment was toward the Jamaicans” (Skelton: 232). Initially, they settled in Lambeth, Brixton, Clapham and Camberwell in South London, which was considered “ideal” for blacks and other minorities since it had suffered “extensive “ bomb damage and was full of “vacant, old and dilapidated Victorian houses”. In other worlds, it was an instant, ready-made ghetto. Black immigrants were “crowded into these run-down houses, charged unreasonably high rents, and/or faced housing discrimination.” They only got the jobs that British workers would not take and called “slave labour” or “shit work”, and often could not even get that. Like many such ghettos in the past, theft, fencing of stolen merchandise, prostitution and drug dealing were common—with many shops offering illegal goods and services “under the counter” to supplement their incomes and others acting as fronts for gangs and organized crime. In short, like similar ghettos in the U.S. and many other countries, it had a large “informal” or “underground economy” which existed in tandem with the mainstream economy and society—although minority young people were mostly cut off and alienated from this (Sanders 2005: 33-37). Mainstream media reported the crime but not the historical, social and economic context of this ghetto society.

From the start, the police and media associated young Jamaican males with street crime, which became an idea “so pervasive and powerful that soon everyone who saw a young Black man on the street was convinced they were about to be robbed.” In the 1970s, it was “not uncommon to see young Black men being taken to the side of public pavements and being forced to empty their pockets by two of three police officers at a time.” Parliament passed ‘sus laws” that allowed the police to stop and frisk anyone acting in a “suspicious manner”—an early example of racial profiling, and arresting and harassing ‘suspects’ from crimes like shopping, walking or driving while Black. In the media, there were virtually no “counter-representations” of young, black men, while in the civil disturbances of the 1980s and 1990s it ran the most sensationalistic stories claiming that “Britain was becoming a riot-torn society” caused by an “alien disease” and angry young blacks who “did not share the values of ‘law-abiding society”. Certain geographical areas like Brixton in London, Toxteth in Liverpool and Handsworth in Birmingham were “racialised” in the media and always “associated with danger, destruction and lawlessness” (Skelton: 234).

THE STEPHEN LAWRENCE CASE: A TURNING POINT?

Identifying a ‘sympathetic victim’ is a well-known strategy of civil rights movements, and one of the best known was Rosa Parks, whose arrest on December 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama was the spark that lit the modern civil rights movement in the United Sates. E.D. Nixon, the head of the Alabama National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and chief organizer of the Montgomery Voters League had been looking for a test case against the segregation laws for quite some time. He knew that it would have to survive legal challenges all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, and for this purpose the right type of victim was essential (Hare 2005: 3-4). It was no accident when Rosa Parks, the secretary of the local NAACP and member of Martin Luther King’s church, was arrested as part of the long-planned test case. Jonnie Carr, head of the Montgomery Improvement Association for thirty years, had invited Parks to join the NAACP and “the two women started a friendship that would last a lifetime.” Carr, who would later challenge Montgomery’s segregated school system I the courts and win the case in the Supreme Court, said that Parks “was so quiet that you would never have believed she would get to the point of being arrested”, but she did. Once she was committed to this course, she did not look back, and was famous for her quiet courage and determination. She continually received death threats from the Ku Klux Klan during the bus boycott and the legal case, and had to move to Detroit, Michigan in 1957. Even so, she continued to work with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, helping to organize the March on Washington in 1963 and the election of John Conyers to Congress—one of the first blacks elected in the 20th Century (Hare: 25-26).

Other blacks had been arrested before Parks for refusing to give up their seats, but Nixon, Carr and the other organizers did not regard them as the right kind of victims to generate exactly the right kind of publicity they required, or to stand up to the ordeal that was certain to follow, including the very real possibility of death. On March 2 1955, fifteen-year old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person, and when she was convicted of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the “young straight-A student burst into tears.” Eighteen-year old Mary Louise Smith was arrested on October 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat as well, but Nixon and his fellow organizers did not believe she was quite right for the campaign, either, because of her age and some issues in her background (Hare: 4). In Rosa Parks, they found their ideal candidate: a mother, gainfully employed, regular churchgoer, mature and ‘respectable’, someone Martin Luther King could proclaim as “one of the finest citizens: of Montgomery (Hare: 30). She could play the role of innocent victim of injustice very well, and be the wife and mother that a white audience could identify with, even though as a civil rights movement activist and organizer, she knew from the start that she was part of a legal test case and media campaign.

To be sure, Stephen Lawrence had never planned to become a victim in this way, but civil rights and anti-racism organizers in Britain knew that they could portray him and his family as respectable, middle class people who were really not so different from the white readership of the Daily Mail, and thus generate the type of media interest and political pressure that racist attacks and murders had almost never received in Britain before—or since, for that matter. In addition, long experience also shows that the more vicious, ignorant and brutal the white racist attackers are—or can be portrayed to be—the better for the media campaign. Lawrence’s case had the ideal elements of both an upstanding middle class victim and white killers, generally shown as troglodytes from some prehistoric swamp who simply felt like killing a “nigger”. No Southern, redneck sheriff or police chief in the American civil rights movement could have done the antiracist cause better service.

Prior to 1997, the Mail had shown little interest in the Lawrence case and only the announcement of a public inquiry seemed to get its attention. On February 14, 1997, however, it “ignored legal and ethical guidelines and controversially printed the names and photographs of the five white suspects”, and pronounced them guilty of murder under the blazing headline “If We Are Wrong Let Them Sue Us”. From 1997-99 it published at least 530 stories on the murder and Macpherson investigation, which some cynics always regarded as a ploy to boost circulation or the result of Stephen Lawrence’s father Neville once having worked as a plasterer for Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor. In an editorial on February 15, 1999, the paper explained that it had “thought long and hard” before publicly naming the five white men, but “this was an extraordinary situation and demanded an extraordinary response” (Mclaughlin and Murji: 272-73). Many newspapers covered the Lawrence murder, but “the Daily Mail’s high-profile campaign…set the agenda for the terms of the public debate about who and what was responsible for the murder.” This was unusual and unexpected because “never before had a racist murder been so graphically and repeatedly described and condemned by a right-wing newspaper in the United Kingdom” (McLaughlin: 163).

In the Stephen Lawrence case, the standard media portrayal of blacks as lazy, criminal and violent was inverted in order to present the victim and his family as clean, drug-free hard-working, educated and middle class, while his five white killers were shown as members of the unemployed underclass, living on welfare in public housing. In this way, the media could uphold the standard narrative of race and class while making Lawrence an exception to the general rule: a ‘good black’ and an ‘innocent victim’. This was not the case for the other young black man attacked with him at the same time, Duwayne Brooks, described as a sort of marginal character perhaps involved with gangs and drugs, unlike Stephen Lawrence, who aspired to become an architect and join the middle class. As for Brooks, journalists generally did not approve of his “ragamuffin image and his angry denunciation of his treatment by the police” so he was “written out” of the story (McLaughlin and Murji: 276).

For both Conservatives and New Labour supporters, the media shaped Lawrence into a character they could identify with while still continuing the usual law and order themes about the dangers of the underclass—especially the black underclass. In the Thatcher era, media racism “had remained largely unchecked”, but the new socialism of Tony Blair was supposed to be different, both multicultural within a capitalist economy as well as law and order, tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. In contrast, the Thatcherite media had run openly racist stories like the Sunday Telegraph report of November 29, 1981 that “Brixton is the tip of the crisis of ethnic criminality which is not Britain’s fault—except in the sense that her rulers quite unnecessarily imported it” (Holohan 2005: 101). Given this standard media narrative, had the killers not said “What? What, Nigger!” before murdering Lawrence, he probably would have “remained an anonymous victim of the kind of violence that is seen on our streets every day.” This crime was so blatantly and openly racist and the evidence so clear that he was killed because he was black, that it was impossible for even the right-wing press to put any other kind or spin or interpretation on the crime. Even so, the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA) “felt that the lack of interest, by police, public and media, was conditioned by covert racism.” These were the kind of crimes the police usually ignored, while there was also “general apathy, if not prejudice, toward ethnic minorities in


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