The recent internet explosion surrounding the upload of the YouTube clip “My Tram Experience” on the 27th November has sparked heated, and in places abusive, debate on the internet worldwide. Considering racism is a ‘hot button’ topic in the UK, British emphasis on political correctness, and the (stereotypical) image of the polite chap in a bowler hat, I found reading some of the comments on this video harrowing. In places, their content made for more shocking viewing than the video itself.
In the video, a woman on a London tram complains loudly about ethnic minorities in Britain, claiming that “my Britain is f*** all now”. She challenges fellow passengers, saying “you ain’t British, you’re black […] go back to where you come from”.
Unfortunately, the public expression of racist views is not an alien concept to many British people. The high public profile of the British National Party (BNP), a party which calls the presence of ethnic minorities in Britain an “immigration invasion of our country”, means that the British public have been exposed to freely expressed opinion of this nature before.
But the number of comments on the video posted by individuals echoing the views vocalised by the woman in the clip is staggering.
In June 2009, leader of the BNP Nick Griffin was elected to the European Parliament, amid shock and fury from anti-fascist protestors and other candidates. Could it be possible that an ominous age of more outspoken racism is approaching Britain? The evidence suggests that it is possible.
However, two days after the video had been posted, the woman in the video named as Emma West was charged with a racially aggravated public order offence. If the law can be taken as a representation of the views of a country, this suggests that by the standards of the British community, outspoken and abusive racism is not tolerated. 57,566 ‘dislikes’ versus 16, 579 ‘likes’ on the clip is also a reassuring indication that the majority still deem racism in Britain to be unacceptable. Although this still leaves 16, 579 people who are not afraid to openly express their intolerance of other races.
I find it comforting that the British courts will not tolerate this kind of behaviour but those of us who are horrified by these attitudes need to heed the warning that there are many people who share Emma West’s views.
When racist and provocative views are being expressed over the Internet, on public transport and even within the country’s politics, is it time to address provision of education in racial awareness more actively? If a significant minority of people hold bigoted views which are offensive to the majority, there is a danger that the debate could turn nasty, as evidenced by the fact that Emma West had to be held in custody for her own protection.
Those of us who want to see a peaceful society must work to ensure that racial tolerance is the norm from school to workplace to London tube. We need to understand how the views of people like Emma West have been formed and ensure that such attitudes are challenged at their root. If we fail to engage then the mental division in attitudes could become physical.