The Changing faces of the UK attitude towards race?
That is the title of a front-page story in the Guardian of the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, and what it assumes as do the remaining local and International coverage is that there is such a thing called race. What exactly is a race? Is there an English race? Or a German race? Most sensible people would say no, despite the casual use of the word. There are, of course different, ethnic groups and these days a great deal of mixing of these ethnic groups as humans travel around the Globe.
But what is a ‘race’ of people? Having studied this issue for most of my life I have concluded that the notions of races and the casual use of the idea of races is unhelpful. It reinforces an idea of difference which has impacted on people’s life chances and opportunities. In parts of the USA it has a direct impact on many Black men’s ability to drive a car or walk down a sidewalk without being shot by the police. In the UK a Black man committing a criminal offense is likely if caught and convicted in receiving a longer prison sentence than a white man committing the same offence.
Views and attitudes about the ‘negro’ or Black people have got a little more human but still contain the idea that being a Black person is to be not fully an equal human being. That is why there is such a fuss about Megan Markle, not because she is American and consequently not Royal but because she is Black. As though this were the equivalent to being a Martian.