08 April 2021, The Tablet

The wrong report

Institutional racism


A single abusive experience early in one’s life can cast a deep shadow over the rest of it. If a Black teenager feels profoundly humiliated the first time he or she is stopped and searched in the street by police, that bad experience can sour that person’s attitude to the police henceforth, as well as altering their attitude to themselves in terms of identity and self-image. And if the perpetrator represents an institution such as a police force, then the person abused will understandably blame that institution as well.

This is what gives credibility throughout British Black communities, especially among young Afro-Caribbeans, to the enduring charge of institutional racism. The accumulation of anecdotal evidence reaches a point where it becomes part of that community’s collective knowledge.

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