Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

Racism is on the rise, apparently. What do we mean by ‘racism’?

Well, how worried should we be about racism? The British Social Attitudes Survey says 3 in 10 Brits describe themselves as “a little “ or “a lot” prejudiced against people of other races. It wasn’t just white people either. This brings us back to levels in the Eighties, though to be honest it’s only five per cent above the all-time low of 25 per cent in 2001.

Not particularly surprisingly those most likely to admit to racial prejudice were male manual workers, though there was a rise in the numbers of male professionals in the category. Young people were less likely to admit to being racist – a quarter, by comparison with 36 per cent for the over-55s. Those with a degree (19 per cent) were about half as likely to describe themselves as racist as those with no qualifications (36 per cent). And – wouldn’t you just know it – Londoners were significantly less likely (16 per cent) to admit to racism than those in the West Midlands (38 per cent) – and I really should love to see the racial breakdown of the responses from Birmingham.

The interesting thing is that anyone, nowadays, admits to racial prejudice – given that in terms of social stigma there’s not much, short of pederasty, that’s more of a no-no. It’s social halitosis, though in terms of stigma it’s being given a run for its money by homophobia. The expression of racism is banned by law and punishable by the loss of employment – pace ‘The Sun has Got Its Hat On’ row – and is universally condemned by right thinking people, as in Nigel Farage and his remarks about Romanians, so I suppose we should congratulate the BSAS on getting anyone to talk about it at all.

Quite what we mean by racism is, of course, another matter.

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