‘No Dogs, No Blacks’, No Change since the 1960s6 November 2013
A few weeks ago, Runnymede released a new survey which found that over a quarter of Black Caribbean, Black African and Pakistani participants had felt discriminated against when seeking a place to live. The survey also found that only 1% of white British respondents had felt discriminated against when seeking a place to live. See more of the results here.
The results were released alongside a BBC investigative report on discrimination in the private rental market. The program found that London letting agents were willing to pass down racial discrimination from landlords by refusing to show an undercover Afro-Caribbean journalist flats that were still available on the market. The story spread quickly throughout the press and was featured in the Guardian, the Telegraph and the International Business Times to name a few.
We know that racial discrimination still exists in the UK. However, it is always shocking to see evidence that some Britons’ access to basic rights, like shelter, are affected by their ethnicity. The program showed how racial discrimination has evolved in the UK since the 1960’s, from the blatant racism of the ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish’ signs which landlords used to hang outside their houses, to more insidious and subtle forms of discrimination today. Putting up racist signs or agreeing as a service provider to pass on preferences based on ethnicity are both forms of racial discrimination, and they both have the exact same outcome.
These results, and the uproar that they caused, are a clear sign to estate agents that they need to make changes to their practices. It is their role to proactively ensure that all of their clients, regardless of ethnic background, have equal access to their services. We are calling for estate agents to pledge to the End Racism This Generation campaign to show the public exactly what they are doing to address this ongoing problem, and encourage others to do the same.
Housing is one of many areas where discrimination still exists in the UK. Elsewhere we know that the jobless rates are twice as high for black people as for whites, that young Asian women have been hit by the biggest rise in unemployment over the past decade; that Black pupils are less likely to get five or more A* to C grades at GCSE than white pupils; that Gypsy and Roma Traveller and Irish Traveller children were four times more likely to be permanently excluded from school; that stop and search rates are over five times higher for black people; that black and ethnic minority cancer patients face a longer wait to be referred to a cancer specialist ;and that only 4.2% of MPs are from black or other minority ethnic backgrounds.
This letting agency story should make us think more broadly about how top down legislation, like the Equalities Act, can fail to protect people from discrimination. Relying on one broad act means that people are still falling through the net even in basic rights like access to housing and we need to change our approach. It is our responsibility and within our capability to address enduring racial inequalities in the areas in which we have influence, like our personal lives, communities and workplaces. We need to make it clear that we are taking these actions to inspire others to do things in the areas which they have influence.
We must remember that the situation is not hopeless, and that if enough of us take action we can change this. It is important that people are aware of the racial inequality this exists in the UK, and a simple action we could all take is to pledge to share information and research about discrimination. Once people know about the problem they can make an informed decision about what they can do to help end racism.