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The Telegraph

Alex Beresford: ‘After defending Meghan I’ve suffered relentless racism’

Three weeks ago I took part in a television debate about the decision of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to publicly reveal the racism they claimed to have suffered as members of the Royal Family, and the impact on their mental health. Since then I have been subjected to relentless racism myself on social media. I haven’t announced it (like the former Arsenal player Thierry Henry did this week when he publicly quit social media, in response to anonymous racist bullying) but I have been forced to step away from Twitter and Facebook myself, because it was getting too much. I am a strong person, but I am not made of steel. These are just the past few weeks of my own, very much lived experience of racism in Britain. But the report just released by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities tells a very different story. The Commission, which was created by Boris Johnson after the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, said there was no evidence of institutional racism in Britain, and that the country was a “beacon for other white-majority countries”. That may be what the Government wants to believe, but it does a disservice to this country. If we acknowledge there is racism in Britain – as the report does – then we have to acknowledge it will find its way into institutions. The report gives a false sense of hope that our work is done and will simultaneously give social media racists the comfort to push a little bit further as they hide in plain sight. The harsh reality, though, is that social media is just a reflection of a bigger problem in society. These people are your co-workers, they are even a parent at the school gate. Not all racism is caught on camera. Not all racism is a black man lying on the ground with a knee on his neck. It comes in many forms. Between myself and friends we have dozens of examples of where we have faced institutional racism throughout our lives: in some of their cases, losing out in the workplace and restricted opportunities. The point about covert racism is you know it exists because you have experienced it – but it is much harder to prove. Discussing racism is one of the most uncomfortable conversations to be had. For some people it must feel like tiptoeing around a minefield, trying not to put a foot wrong. For someone of colour, already racially battle weary, it can open all your old wounds. Your mind flashes back to all those previous incidents… only for someone to search for explanations or excuses to question your truth. It’s had me thinking about my own journey as a mixed-race person from a council house in St Werburghs in inner city Bristol in the 1980s to national breakfast television. My white British mum and Guyanese father used to prepare us for the outside world without trying to spoil our loving childhood home. I always got the impression my father, who came to England at the age of 14 and took up an engineering apprenticeship after leaving school, didn’t want us to dwell on history too much. Almost like he had lived it, so we didn’t have to. Mum was very protective over my younger brother and I. The white mother experience isn’t to be underestimated. I remember Mum started a new job working for a local wine company, it was going well until the day she popped into the office with me. We were met with that look of surprise, followed by a change in treatment, concluding in a change in job. School was the place where differences became visible to me. As well as learning the two times table I also had to teach myself quickly about what prejudice meant. Managing the many forms of racism can start at the same time as learning to tie your shoelaces.

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