Pigmentations: Discrimination against Ethnic Minorities in Contemporary United Kingdom
This paper investigates the various forms of discrimination against ethnic minorities living in Great Britain. This paper examines the root courses of discrimination and demonstrates how it has tremendously affected minority ethnic groups living in the United Kingdom in this 21st century. This study observes that scholars have not written extensively about the issue of discrimination among ethnic minorities in Britain. The study adopts John Rawls’ theory of justice as the theoretical framework in extricating the problems associated with various forms of discrimination inherent in Britain and how they can be addressed effectively. The study also proffers realistic solutions to the problems associated with the various forms of discrimination against ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom.
Keywords: discrimination, ethnic, minorities, united kingdom.
Author: Arthur Jarvis University, Nigeria.
Discrimination can be defined as the unfair treatment of people based on their religion, race, tribe or social status in the society. Ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom are discriminated against in their place of work and community. It is pertinent to observe that various forms of discrimination of ethnic minorities in Britain give birth to a high level of inequality in the country. In a class stratified country like Great Britain, many ethnic minorities in Britain are below the middle class and not privileged to get white collar jobs which will enable them earn enough money to pay their bills. The social status of ethnic minorities will ultimately affect their standard of living and health. A 2008 study that explored the association between socio-economic status, mental problems and ethnicity, discovered that among adults between the ages of 16 and 64, Black African and Black Caribbean groups typically had double the chance of experiencing psychotic disorders compared with White British groups. (Counselling, 2016)
John Rawls’s Theory of Justice postulates “Justice as Fairness” he advocates that moral discourse should be objective. Rawls, a philosopher of repute desire a global acceptable principals of justice and also believes that “Justice as Fairness” will lead to equal liberty. Rawls postulates that social behaviour of man sometimes leads to conflict among people living in a particular society. Rawls therefore advocates justice for individuals and to ensure that the “theory of justice” is adhered to by appropriate authorities. Rawls theory of justice when applied takes care of the plights of ethnic minorities in Great Britain.
Minority ethnic groups living in the United Kingdom experience various forms of racist remarks and verbal utterances from white Britons. Various incidences have been reported in the United Kingdom about racist remarks on ethnic minorities in Britain not excluding minority ethnic groups (men) who play football in various clubs in the United Kingdom. Racism remains a major problem that has militated against the progress of minority ethnic groups living and working in various communities in the United Kingdom. Racism may occur when someone draws negative thoughts and conclusions about a person because of their biological characteristics. Racial harassment involves violent, threatening or demeaning racially motivated behaviour from one ethnic group to another. (Counselling, 2016) Even before the Lawrence Inquiry reported its findings, New Labour’s first flagship criminal justice legislation, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, introduced ‘penalty enhancements’ for racially aggravated offences of assault, harassment, public disorder, and criminal damage. In so doing, New Labour recognised the fear and vulnerability generated by such crimes which can spread to whole communities. This undoubtedly has had some effect in communicating that such victimisation is considered abhorrent by the government. (Phillips, 2009)
3.2 Health Problems
As a result of the numerous challenges experiences by minority ethnic groups living in the United Kingdom, I observed that they are not given adequate health care which make some minority ethnic group suffer from various sort of physical and mental health problems. A 2008 study that explored the association between socio- economic status, mental problems and ethnicity, discovered that among adults between the ages of 16 and 64, Black African and Black Caribbean groups typically had double the chance of experiencing psychotic disorders compared with White British groups. (Counselling, 2016) The problems of ethnic minorities in Britain cannot be over emphasized especially discrimination associated experienced in the health care sector. On the supply side, lower skills and qualifications among some minority ethnic groups, poorer language fluency, poorer health, and the quality and location of childcare and transport facilities may all contribute to less advantageous outcomes. Racial discrimination also undoubtedly affects labour market experiences. (Phillips, 2009) A person may be discriminated against as a result of his social status in the society, race or religion. Marshall’s (1950, p.8) opinion about citizens of the United Kingdom is entangled with problems relating to a class stratified society, Great Britain. He avers that “the in equality of the social class system may be acceptable provided the equality of citizenship is recognized.”
Unemployment is a major challenge for minority ethnic groups living in Britain, many companies in the United Kingdom practice selective employment; they reserve some of the best jobs for white people in Great Britain. Racial discrimination also undoubtedly affects labour market experiences. (Phillips, 2009) The spread of various forms of discrimination against ethnic minorities which has led to an increase in unemployment among ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom is alarming and could be noticed in various communities dominated by white Britons living in the United Kingdom. Irrespective of the fact that our world is becoming a ‘global village’ of some sort, forms of discriminatory practices remains inherent in contemporary British society.
3.4 Superiority Complex
Discrimination remains a militating factor that has contributed to the segregation and victimization of minority ethnic groups living in the United Kingdom. Government should ensure that with Britons are educated about the danger inherent in the practice of various forms of discrimination against ethnic minorities in Britain. In an earlier study by de la Paz (n.d), he spells out the challenges of citizens noting that:
Thus, citizenship identity, the sense of belonging and solidarity, is necessarily connected with the problem of unequal distribution of resources in society. Modern conception of universal citizenship, especially when it is combined with extreme inequality and poverty, tends to exclude some groups and individuals. Civic education, as an empowerment device, not only can counteract this effect of exclusion, but it also can contribute to citizenship construction toward a more comprehensive and effective citizenship concept.
Furthermore, a major problem in the British society is the discrimination of other minority ethnic groups living in Great Britain by white Britons who fell they occupy the topmost position in the pecking order (race). Indians, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Chinese and Eastern Europeans are discriminated against by white Britons in Great Britain. Heywood (1994, p.155) in an earlier study opines that “Citizenship therefore represents a relationship between the individual and the state, in which the two are bound together by reciprocal rights and obligations.” Irrespective of the above definition of citizenship, it might interest us to note that some migrants who later became citizens in Britain may fill discriminated against as a result of their colour and social status in the country. The worse hit of this unfortunate event are people of colour, namely blacks and Asians, pivotal to this study is the large gap between bourgeois class and the commoners who are also citizens of Britain. Discrimination therefore is the unfair treatment of people based on their sex, status, religion or age. At this point, it is fundamental to critically examine Marshall’s (1950) opinion in relation to citizenship as at the time he wrote his critical essays. He asserts that:
citizenship in this period was not politically meaningless. It did not confer a right, but it recognised a capacity. No sane and law-abiding citizen was debarred by personal status from acquiring and recording a vote. He was free to earn, to save, to buy property or to rent a house, and to enjoy whatever political rights were attached to these economic achievements. His civil rights entitled him, and electoral reform increasingly enabled him, to do this (p. 20).
It is ironic and unfortunate that Marshall’s lofty idea about citizenship in contemporary Britain is distorted as a result of the persistent increase in various forms of discrimination against ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom. We shall demonstrate in this paper the various methods of discrimination against minority ethnic groups in contemporary Britain.
Injustice remains a major militating factor hindering the progress of minority ethnic groups living in Britain. Injustice therefore entails the violation of the rights and privileges of a particular persons or group of persons. The rights of ethnic minorities living in the United Kingdom have been violated on many occasions. The British government has a major role to play in restoring ‘social justice’ in the country. Government policy to addressing the high level of discrimination against minority ethnic group is a welcome development. Increased minority ethnic participation in the labour market has been regarded by New Labour as a central plank in the strategy to reduce social exclusion and is outlined in Public Service Agreements for 2001-4 and 2005-8. (Phillips, 2009) Britain pride herself among the committee of nations to have citizens originally from different parts of the world which has continued to expand and revitalize her economy is various ways. Unfortunately, Marshall’s ideological vision of ‘inclusive concept’ to bring people of diverse background and status together through citizenship is engulfed with tremendous challenges. In an earlier study by Turner (1990), he postulates that:
at the heart of Marshall’s account of citizenship lies the contradiction between the formal political equality of the franchise and the persistence of extensive social and economic inequality, ultimately rooted in the character of the capitalist market place and the existence of private property. Marshall proposed the extension of citizenship as the principal political means for resolving, or at least containing, those contradictions (p. 201).
The utopian vision of Marsha (1990, p.201) which entails his desire for the “extension of citizenship as the principal political means for resolving, or at least containing, those contradictions.” of problems associated with discrimination in contemporary Britain is illuminating and thought provoking. Huntington (1991, p.66) in an earlier study posits that “democracy is difficult in a situation of concentrated inequalities in which a large, impoverished majority confronts a small wealthy oligarchy.” The British society is made up of various from of inequality, a pecking order that have placed the various classes in the society where they belong. Irrespective that the law strives to do justice in a class stratified country like the United Kingdom. It might interest us to know that in Rawls (1971) A Theory of Justice, he noted that:
The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. This ensures that no one is advantaged or disadvantaged in the choice of principles by the outcome of natural chance or the contingency of social circumstances. Since all are similarly situated and no one is able to design principles to favor his particular condition, the principles of justice are the result of a fair agreement or bargain (p. 208).
People tend to be discriminated against as a result of their economic status in the society; people of colour in the United Kingdom seem to be the worst hit of this inhuman treatment. As a result of the fact that they belong to an ethnic minority group in the UK, most of the jobs in the oil and gas sector, banking, academia are reserved for whites Britons and other European nationalities living in Britain. The British government seems to be turning a blind eye to the ugly practice of discrimination that has placed some members of ethnic minorities as sub- humans and poverty stricken. It is in view of this that Lister (n. d) posits that “A key element in a human rights conceptualization of poverty, which translates into concrete citizenship claims, is the idea that rights are indivisible or interdependent so that socio-economic and cultural rights are not separate from civil and political rights.” In our attempt to prefer a realistic solution to ending discrimination against ethnic minorities, relevant law must be enacted to protect the rights of minorities in Britain. We have come to the realization that selective employment based on race is becoming a trend in the labour market. People from minority ethnic groups in the UK find it difficult in getting a job in reputable companies and law offices the United Kingdom. Even when few of them (ethnic minorities) are employed, they are discriminated against and looked down upon in their respective places of work. It is quiet unfortunate that this is happening in the 21st century which we could refer to as the peck of human civilization, very little has been done to avert this ugly incident.
Pivotal is the need for the government of Britain to enact effect laws against all forms of discrimination on ethnic minorities, if such laws exist it must be implemented. This will eventually serve as a deterrent to discourage Brits irrespective of their class and social status from all forms of discrimination against minority ethnic groups in the United Kingdom. It is indeed ironic that much attention seems to be devoted to Marshall’s position as it relates to discrimination, “The citizenship of Marshall is associated with equality of status and horizontal redistribution rather than vertical redistribution” (Powell, n. d.). At this point, we may begin to ask ourselves how fair Rawls’s (1971) Two Principle of Justice, he asserts that:
First: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for other. Second: social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and (b) attached to the position and office open to all …. (p. 213).
The social justice system in the United Kingdom does not favour ethnic minorities and as such their rights have been trampled upon many a times. Since the law strives to do justice, it is still alarming that the plights of minority ethnic groups are discriminated against in their work. It should be reassessed by constituted authorities with the aim of providing a lasting solution to the menace. For instance, some landlords would never rent their apartments to minority ethnic groups from Kenyans, Indians, Pakistanis and Nigerians irrespective of their ability to pay for the flat. The government of the United Kingdom should educate and re-orientate ethnic majorities (white Britons) about the need to disassociate themselves from all forms of discrimination against minority ethnic groups. This will help to ameliorate the practice of discrimination against ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom drastically.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This study has examined the various forms of inequality associated with minority ethnic groups in the United Kingdom; we applied John Rawls Theory of Justice in extricating the ills associated with the discrimination against ethnic minorities in contemporary Britain. The study has demonstrated that discrimination against ethnic minorities in Britain would plunder the image of the country and might deter people from coming to the United Kingdom. Finally, this study proffers realistic solutions to the issue of discrimination and how it can be drastically reduced in Great Britain in particular and the world in general.
- Showing educative programs on the BBC will help to re-orientate (white Britons) about the need to extend brotherly love to minority ethnic groups. Programs that will ensure tolerance and the need for peaceful co-existences should be funded by the British government.
- Mutual respect and the need to accommodate the world views, life style, religion, and culture of ethnic minorities in Britain should be promoted by the management of companies and government officials in various communities in the United Kingdom.
- Dissemination of information at the city centers, parks, stadiums and religious places of worship should be done through the use of bill boards, leaflets, banners and posters on the need for peaceful co-existence especially in areas dominated by white Britons in the United Kingdom
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