Is it cos I is black?

Ali G was (and still is) the memorable creation of the comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen. Ali G’s catchphrase was “Is it cos I is black?” and the comedian famously put this to a senior British police officer when he gatecrashed a political protest during a sketch for one of his TV shows on Channel 4.

Sacha Baron Cohen was making a very serious point when he wrote and planned such escapades: he was satirising the widespread racist sterotyping of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups in the UK by their fellow White British citizens. When the character of Ali G first made appearances on Channel 4’s The 11 o’clock Show in 1999, it’s worth remembering that it was less than 6 years after the murder of the black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, in London.

Coincidentally, in 1999, Sir William Macpherson, a retired judge of the English High Court, had published his Report on the Stephen Lawrence murder and one of his most famous conclusions concerned the levels of “institutional racism” in the Metropolitan Police Service (paragraphs 4.45 – 6.63).

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277111/4262.pdf

Several years ago, I attended an event for Black History Month and members of the panel were recounting their experiences of racism in the UK. Glasgow City Councillor, Graham Campbell told the story of his cousin who worked at Ford’s Dagenham car plant who constantly had his locker broken into and vandalised by his white, work colleagues. More often than not, his work tools were stolen from the locker. Eventually, this young man started to carry his tools to and from the Ford plant in order to avoid having to replace them. He was stopped and searched regularly by the same police officers who asked him each time if the tools were for burglaries. This was the kind of harassment that black people typically experienced in Britain of the 1970s.

Racial stereotyping which leads to people from certain ethnic groups suffering (unlawful) less favourable treatment is an example of direct discrimination in terms of Sections 9 and 13 of the Equality Act 2010. Repeated examples of harassment on grounds of race would also constitute breaches of Sections 9 and 26 of the Equality Act 2010.

So, it was with some interest that I read an article in The Independent on Saturday 15 June 2019 which recounted an incident which had taken place in Maidstone in Kent whereby a white police officer had assumed that a black man must be a criminal just because he happened to be in an area which was perceived to be ‘white’.

In England and Wales, you are much more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you happen to come from the black community:

It doesn’t seem as if attitudes to race in certain sections of the police have moved on much from the 1970s.

A link to the story in The Independent can be found below:

††Officer assumed black man was criminal in ‘white area

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.150619/data/8959141/index.html

Related Blog Articles:

https://seancrossansscotslaw.com/2020/06/10/when-black-lives-didnt-matter/

https://seancrossansscotslaw.com/2020/04/13/no-blacks-no-irish-no-dogs-we-like-to-think-that-such-signs-are-a-thing-of-the-bad-old-days-in-housing-law-what-about-no-dss-tenants-some-recent-legal-actions-suggest-that-such/

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 18 June 2019

Stereotyping = unlawful discrimination?

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

We can all be guilty of pre-judging other people – sometimes we do this consciously and, at other times, we can do this unconsciously. In other words, we can reduce people to stereotypes.

This becomes a problem if our pre-conceptions about other people cause us to behave in a way that translates into unlawful, less favourable treatment. If we treat others less favourably due to a protected characteristic that they possess (e.g. age, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation etc) in terms of the Equality Act 2010.

Stereotyping or negative perceptions about individuals may well give rise to the victim (with the relevant protected characteristic) having a claim for direct discrimination in terms of Section 13 of the Equality Act 2010).

This recalled a story, from several years ago, in which the BBC reported the experiences of a gay man who was subjected to all sorts of less favourable treatment based on negative stereotyping of LGBTI people. The victim of this offensive behaviour took successful legal action against the individual in question.

A link to this story on the BBC News site can be found below:

Why ‘gay’ gestures are discrimination

Clive Coleman reports on the case of a gay man who has won the first compensation award for discrimination based entirely on homophobic gestures.
More recent examples of negative sterotyping

When glancing through various media stories over the last few days, stereotyping or negative perceptions of people came to mind.

In the first story, sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease spoke about the negative reactions they often experience when going about their daily lives. People with this very serious condition have reported that their symptoms are mistaken by members of the public as drunken behaviour or that they are acting under the influence of drugs. Individuals who suffer from Parkinson’s have a disability in terms of Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010.

A link to this story can be found below:

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.110419/data/8863856/index.html

In the second story, a person with cerebral palsy (also a disability) speaks about the discrimination that he has suffered.

A link to this story can be found below:

‘My disability is mistaken for drunkenness’

Stuart Devlin, who has cerebral palsy, carries a card to show door staff after being refused entry to pubs.

In the third story, which hails from Russia, the Russian authorities have allowed prisoners to resume yoga exercises during the period of their incarceration.

Previously, the Russian Government had banned this form of exercise for prisoners because it was believed it was linked to homosexuality! In the UK, a person’s sexual orientation is a protected characteristic in terms of Section 12 of the Equality Act 2010.

A link to this story can be found below:

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.110419/data/8863506/index.html

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 12 April 2019