THE BLOG

Britain's Enduring Problem With Racial Segregation

04/03/2016 12:10 GMT | Updated 04/03/2017 10:12 GMT

I love being a Yorkshire lass. Yorkshire's my place of birth; it's the place I long to come home to, after distant journeys. I really enjoy driving through the lush green countryside. After all, it's God's own country!

But despite the genuine Yorkshire smiles from strangers you meet, the friendly chatter in shops and at bus stops and the laughter in pubs - beneath all its charms, Yorkshire has a dark side. It still has segregated neighbourhoods and an underbelly of the same racism that mars so many cities and counties up and down the UK.

When I was younger, my friends and I both my black and white friends, once went for a meal in a café, in my city in Yorkshire. A couple of other customers nodded in disgust towards me and my friends, telling the owner that they would leave the café if he served 'those people'. So we politely left.

On too many occasions too numerous to mention, whilst I've been out minding my own business, getting on with my daily life: working, paying bills, or just with my family, random people have shouted racist abuse at me.

Why should we have to put up with racism like that? Why should anybody?

My city was, and is still is, racially segregated. You could easily draw rings on a map, indicating the individual ghettos where the working class whites, blacks, and Asians live. Step out of one street and into another, and you could be in trouble, in danger of physical attack - or at the least, be threatened, sworn at and verbally abused.

Do I resent paying over the odds to move to a white middle-class neighbourhood where my family and I feel we can be safe? Where we can walk the local streets without fear of racial abuse? You bet I do.

Did the white middle-class neighbourhood curtains twitch when I came to view my prospective new home? They certainly did. I later learnt that my neighbours had told people that 'a professional, coloured family' were moving in. Not just 'a family' moving in. Why even mention colour? Why, also, did they feel the need to add 'professional' to soften the admission that we were black?

With so many people in my city now living in rainbow families, or in mixed relationships, I had hoped that things would have improved - that people would have made progress in their thinking. Although there has been improvement in some respects, the underlying racism still continues, like a cancer that won't go away.

Although some non-white people have moved into areas previously considered to be 'white', the vast majority of people still live in racially segregated neighbourhoods. This phenomenon still occurs again and again throughout multi-racial Britain.

I do 'get' why new immigrants move to neighbourhoods where they have an affinity with their cultural group or similar immigrants already established there. That makes sense to me. Speaking the same language, worshipping the same gods in the same way, eating the same food, wearing the same clothes as your community (in your home country - and in your new country) gives a sense of belonging in a place where you might otherwise feel lost and bewildered. But after that 'comfort' zone and settling-in period, why wouldn't you want to experience the wider world, in the country you've chosen to reside in?

And if, like me, you're born and bred in the city, surely it's time to move on? To integrate, get to know each other, form friendships, challenge stereotypes, and move away from the generations upon generations of racial segregation.

This old state of insular living and separatism only breeds misunderstanding of the 'unknown', creating fear and prejudice. Ironically, the immigrant communities who bind themselves closely together for fear of racism are perpetuating that very racism by living separate lives.

However, it works both ways. You can only feel safe and move easily into other areas if the people living there are educated to accept and respect difference, instead of perpetuating years of years of hatred, misunderstanding and racism.

Will things change? Will cultures ever integrate? They have changed in some respect. Compared to my childhood days, I have increasingly seen middle class individuals and families from the black, Asian, Italian and Jewish communities moving away from the deprived inner city ghettos to the middle class suburbs.

But more needs to happen, all around the UK. It is not an individual issue. It is not even a local community issue. The existing social systems like education, employment, justice - need to change to enable greater freedom from racial hatred and discrimination for all and to ensure community cohesion, collaboration and safety, regardless of race, creed or colour.