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The United Kingdom needs to take a good, hard look at itself

The United Kingdom needs to take a good, hard look at itself

The United Kingdom needs to take a good, hard look at itself
April 05
12:00 2021

I was privileged enough to be given the opportunity to study abroad in London my sophomore year as part of Mayborn’s Accent study abroad program. While it was no doubt one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, I did find myself, as a gay woman, somewhat dismayed to discover that the U.K. is not the liberal safe haven it purports to be.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you probably know that already. Duchess of Sussex and actress Meghan Markle, who is married to Britain’s Prince Harry, recently opened up to Oprah about being the target of racist attacks by both the British media and her royal in-laws.

Meghan, who is half-Black and American, said that a member of the royal family expressed concern during her first pregnancy about how dark her son Archie’s skin might be, and that the royals denied him the same titles and protections afforded to other royal children. And the flagrant contempt with which British tabloids reported on Markle’s aforementioned pregnancy stood in stark contrast to their coverage of sister-in-law Kate Middleton’s past three pregnancies.

One would think that with the U.K.’s sordid history of colonialism, a practice, mind you, that has still not been entirely abolished, the apparent revelation that racism is still an issue in the U.K. would be anything but. In fact, many in the U.K. actually seem to be operating under the delusion that their country is above such pedestrian prejudices as racism, sexism and homophobia, despite ongoing colonialist practices, the spectacularly low rate at which rapists in the U.K. are actually convicted and a widespread embrasure of transphobic attitudes that rivals our own.

For the most part, I had the time of my life in London, but I’ve also never been catcalled so much in my life. This is the same city where a tour guide said to me, after I expressed concern over not being allowed to carry pepper spray or a taser on me in a foreign city, that I didn’t have to worry about defending myself because “things like that don’t really happen here,” a statement that I want to make clear has absolutely no basis in fact.

I was bodychecked twice on the street while holding hands with another woman, and subsequently followed for two blocks straight. And these were just my experiences as a cisgender, English-speaking white woman. Though I obviously won’t disclose the details of their personal experiences or their names, I also know Black people who have been to England who experienced a particular brand of racism perpetuated by American media.

What really bothers me about all of this isn’t so much that they still have these issues, because most countries do to an extent, but that the U.K. purports not to have said issues, and frames the other countries that do as backwards and uncivilized, which in itself feels a little elitist. There have been controversies online over British social media users actively making fun of America for having mass shootings, trivializing very real tragedies while somehow simultaneously claiming the moral high ground.

The main reason the U.K.’s lack of self-awareness is so alarming to me is that I think it mirrors the most toxic aspects of American culture, specifically, toxic patriotism. Americans have this bad habit of putting the U.S. on a pedestal, which leads to the many issues plaguing our country being neglected, which further makes our country worse in the long run.

So it goes for the U.K. If they don’t want their reckoning with bigotry to come in the form of their own Donald Trump, former U.S. president, they’re going to have to reconcile with the fact that they live in a racist, backward country, just like the rest of us.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

About Author

Rachel Card

Rachel Card

Rachel Card is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. She was born in Austin, Texas, and is currently quarantining there with her family and three dogs.

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1 Comment

  1. Kevin
    Kevin April 06, 05:16

    As a UK citizen living in England, and as a UNT alum (92/92) having completed two study visits back to campus in Denton in 2018, I do agree with and support much of the contents of this article; in particular the racist treatment by our media and by members of the Royal Family of Meghan Markle was simply disgraceful. Robynn’s approximation across both nations of other forms of discrimination is also accurate. But please dont equate us all as either Londoners or Royalists. I live in the North and there are as many anti monarchists here as not. London, in particular, is a melting pot of all nationalities. Very few ‘cockneys’ live in central London. Nor do we gloat over the mass shootings in the USA; we just don’t understand why they happen. But a. very good, thought provoking piece, nevertheless. Well done!

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