Racism stats show the true picture
2019-02-01 00:00:00 -

Mohammed Samaana


At a recent workshop I attended about hate crime, a number of us with experience at the receiving end of such crime talked with others who are trying to find ways to tackle the issue.


During the introduction, some shocking figures were presented to the participants.


While it was initially comforting to know that 79 per cent of Northern Ireland surveyed said that they have no prejudice, the surprise came when the same survey showed 41 per cent would not accept a member of an ethnic minority as a relative by marriage, and 47 per cent wouldn’t accept a Muslim as a close friend.


The figures come from the Northern Ireland Life & Times survey conducted in 2017 by academics from Ulster University and Queen’s University of Belfast and published in June of last year.


To confirm their accuracy, I later looked up the survey, which showed even more terrifying statistics that confirmed many fears. For example, one out of every four people in the North wouldn’t willingly accept a member of an ethnic minority as a colleague at work.


The implication of that is the difficulty and stress caused to workers from minorities when they have work with colleagues who hate them, which might put their careers at risk.


That is if they get jobs in the first place, as it takes only one of those who wouldn’t willingly work with minorities to be on an interview panel to deny them the opportunity.


This shows how racism can be damaging to society as a whole, as being a local becomes more important than qualifications and experience.


The figures are worse for some particular groups, with 36 per cent and 39 per cent wouldn’t accept a Muslim or Irish Traveller as a colleague respectively.


As the media constantly carries blame against minorities when it comes to integration, this survey shed some light on local people’s feelings on minorities and showed what the media has decided to ignore.


When it comes to inter-racial relationships, more than four in 10 people wouldn’t accept a member of a minority as a relative by marriage. Once again, the figures for Muslims and Travellers are worse than other groups, with 52 and 56 per cent respectively saying no.


At a personal level, 36 per cent said they wouldn’t accept a member of other minority ethnic groups as a close friend.


This varied from one ethnic group to another, with 35 per cent saying no to having an eastern European friend, while 47 per cent wouldn’t accept a Muslim as their close mate and 52 per cent wouldn’t have a Traveller as such. This shows that the media has concealed the full picture for too long and acted as an obstructive to positive integration.


The survey also showed that supporters of different political parties have views on welcoming refugees and Syrians closely associated with the views expressed by the party leaders, with DUP supporters being the worst. This gives an insight into the reasons why some people might have less tolerant views towards immigrants than others, which puts more pressure on politicians to think and give careful consideration to what they are going to say in order to combat racism.


While these attitudes are shocking, a lot of people are still opposed to racism which gives some optimism and hope. It is important that the media and politicians join and lead the fight against racism instead of scaremongering.


Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.


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