According to Prince Harry, we Britons suffer from something called “unconscious bias” which leads to racism and is passed on from generation to generation.
Writing in the September edition of Vogue magazine, guest edited by his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, he argued that such hidden prejudice could lead to racist behaviour even if people did not consider themselves racist. This bias, he said: “Was learned from the older generation, or from advertising, from your environment.”
So, if I have understood this correctly, you might not consider yourself a racist and think you are behaving towards others in a fair way, but if someone could read your mind they could detect some bias and so, therefore, you are a racist, even if you won’t admit it. The modern “woke” world is bewilderingly complex at times, isn’t it?
The beauty of this charge of racism is that it is impossible to defend yourself against it. You may have attitudes and behaviour that are impeccably non-discriminatory, but if the enlightened mind readers – usually privileged white people such as Prince Harry – decide you are racist then you are. End of.
It is also impossible to gauge the extent of this unconscious bias. If it doesn’t actually manifest itself in any concrete way, how on earth do you measure it? The answer is you don’t because you can’t. It is literally all in the mind.
Luckily there are some less ephemeral racist attitudes and behaviours that can be measured, and when you look at those a very different picture of the UK emerges. Study after study portrays the UK not as a racist hellhole, but as one of the most tolerant and least prejudiced countries on earth. Take for example research published earlier this year in the peer reviewed academic journal Frontiers in Sociology based on a survey of 450,000 people in 100 countries around the world.
It found that the UK had a “high level of tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity” and that British people were less prejudiced than, for example, the Germans, Spanish, Italians or Finnish.
The report’s authors concluded: “Prejudice against immigrant workers or minority ethnic groups is rare, perhaps even slightly rarer than in equivalently developed EU countries.”
This study, incidentally, also poured a large bucket of cold water over the notion – much loved by Remainers – that the Brexit vote was motivated by racism.
Another study “Being Black in the EU” compared 12 countries by asking people of African descent of their experience of harassment and racism. Malta – a country with a large British ex-patriot community – scored lowest at 20 per cent with the UK closely behind on 21 per cent, well ahead of France (32 per cent), Austria (37 per cent) and Sweden and Denmark (41 per cent). The UK also had one of the lowest rates of racist violence (3 per cent) compared to, for example, Ireland and Austria (13 per cent).
Another study – the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism survey - found that Britons were more positive about the benefits of immigration than many other EU countries. In the UK 28 per cent of people in the survey believed that the benefits of immigration outweighed the costs, compared to 24 per cent in Germany, 21 per cent in France and 19 per cent in Denmark.
The idea that Britain became a more racist country as a result of the Brexit vote is also thoroughly debunked by research. An Ipsos-Mori poll, for example, uncovered a remarkable shift in public opinion since the Referendum result. The share of people in the UK naming immigration as one of the most important problems faced by society more than halved from 45 per cent before the vote to under 20 per cent after it.
Of course this is not to say that prejudice has been entirely eradicated in the UK. People of ethnic backgrounds still face discrimination, but as the studies demonstrate it is relatively rare and becoming rarer. There is no room for complacency. Racism has a habit of cropping up where you least expect it, as for example in the once-proud Labour party currently being brought to its knees by a particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism. We must remain on our guard.
But the simple truth is this – if you are white, black or brown; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or non-believer, the UK is one of the best countries on the planet to live, work and bring up your family. Indeed, that is precisely why so many people around the world want to come and live here.