As the UK eases out of lockdown and nightlife awakens once more, we are reminded of the most widespread pandemic of them all: racism. Racism in the nightclub setting is not uncommon, in fact, it’s constant. Over the weekend, we were all reminded of that in a now-viral video.
The clip, viewed more than five million times on Instagram, shows a 24-year-old woman—Sharna Walker—hurling racial abuse at a member of staff outside a Wetherspoon in Birmingham. In the video, after he refuses her entry, she proceeds to shove him, uses racist language and spits in his direction. Appalling. The woman has since been arrested, bailed and the situation investigated. She has been barred for life—but is that enough? If you have not seen the video then I will give you a disclaimer before watching; there is a lot of vulgar language, which may be harmful and triggering to some viewers.
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Before I carry on, I’m going to nip this in the bud. I will not hear “but she was drunk!” from anyone. It is not up for discussion—she is a racist. I’ve been drunk. Many times. Let’s be honest here, I was drunk most of university. Sorry mum. To my memory, I’ve shockingly never come out with anything like that. Being intoxicated doesn’t plant foreign thoughts into your brain. When you feel emboldened to say those things while drunk, you probably think them while sober.
The security guard assaulted in the video, Tristan Price, had this to say on Instagram: “I haven’t been doing security for years like some, but in the short time I’ve been doing it I’ve seen and been through pretty much anything there is to see and go through [while] doing the job.” This incident is just one recorded example of what happens to many people of colour, specifically black-British people, on a nightly basis. This isn’t just isolated to the odd drunk; it runs deep within the industry itself.
During my time at university, many of my friends, primarily my black friends, were subject to a gross number of horrible incidents. Two of them experienced a particularly traumatising event. On The BME Show in 2018, Karyan Au-Yeung and Kwame Dapaa recounted the horrible attack. Three years on and the trauma lives on. Au-Yeung shared with me that “when you think about all the racial hate crimes we see plastered on our social media feeds, we are angry and exhausted. But, when it happens right in front of your eyes, to people that you love, it’s surreal—in the worst way.”
As a predominantly black group, they approached a club to celebrate a birthday and it quickly turned into one of the worst experiences of their lives. Dapaa, a successful fashion photographer, was not allowed into the club by the bouncer and no reason was given. Au-Yeung recalled to me that Dapaa, unprovoked, was “punched straight in the face and dragged against the wall. [We] tried to intervene […] but we were pushed to the floor, shoved and attacked by white security guards who were on a power trip, and had no justification for attacking us.” It gets worse. The security threatened to call the police if they didn’t leave. In spite of the fact that they had literally done nothing. Weaponising that against a predominantly black group is vile and yet sadly common. Au-Yeung states that “in UK clubs, the ‘culture’ definitely enforces racism. I’ve heard tons and tons of stories. It’s normal for security guards to racially profile people in queues for clubs because they will always get away with it.”
One of my dearest and closest friends, Nathan Aubrey, agreed and unfortunately, had many of his own experiences to mention. “Nightclub security can be and are very prejudiced against black and brown [people] and will look for any excuse to reject them or throw them out of a club […] like ‘this guy’s shoes are wrong’ but they’re letting other people in with no question.” He continued, “You see the little section of everyone who has been rejected by the bouncers […] and the [number] of times I’ve gone there and they’re all black and brown guys.”
Aubrey recounted the numerous microaggressions he had personally experienced. From drunk people grabbing his Afro to being refused entry to a club because ‘he smelt of weed’ (he doesn’t smoke), Aubrey has encountered his fair share of racism in UK nightlife. “I think a lot of it you brush off or maybe don’t acknowledge at the time but it all adds up to contribute to that feeling of alienation. And then you’re six months into the [university] year wondering why you don’t feel like you fit in […] and you’re like ‘Woah this place is pretty racist’.’’
Aubrey continued, “It’s a reminder to BIPOC students of the reality of racism and reinforces why safe spaces and POC-led events are needed, because even in leisure, these things can happen and they can be scarring.” Au-Yeung agreed, “I think people need to open their eyes to the deep trauma it causes young people, it can really affect the way you see yourself and your confidence. It’s all fun and games for the security guards on a power trip, but for their victims, it can deeply affect their self-identity.”
All of this should make your blood boil. But it goes even deeper. I haven’t addressed the racism of service when or if you’re let into a club or bar as a black-British person. It just seems never-ending. The UK needs to seriously wake up to its racism. The government-funded tests ‘proving’ that Britain isn’t systemically racist are a joke—and I hope you’re not falling for it. So, next time you’re watching viral videos like Price’s—because there will be a next time—remember this isn’t just one person in one place, it’s a culture. It’s a virus.
For a few years now, many have described the generation Z as sensitive, lazy and addicted to social media. While some of it is most definitely true, we’ve recently started seeing gen Z as the one that will change things. Now, as the Black Lives Matter movement carries on protesting in the US as well as in the rest of the world, we wonder if gen Z could actually be the generation that tackles systemic racism.
To answer this, we asked the gen Z live platform Yubo to share a few of our questions with its users. The poll was conducted between 9 June and 15 June and had Yubo survey over 13,000 people aged 13 to 25 years old in the UK. This allowed Screen Shot to get gen Zers’ opinion on the movement of protest that followed George Floyd’s murder in the US.
From the poll’s results, 7 statistics stood out as clear signs that gen Z could well be the generation of change.
In order to achieve any kind of change, we need to accept that there is something wrong in the first place. That’s why we asked Yubo’s gen Zers residing in the UK whether they felt like black people were treated differently than white people. In other words, we wanted to see if they could admit the existence of white privilege.
In response, 4 out of 5 gen Zers said they believe that black people are treated differently, compared to only 2 out of 3 of their parents sharing the same belief. For many, denying white privilege comes from misunderstanding the concept.
Not fully grasping how society privileges white individuals has led many to believe that black people who have suffered from police brutality somehow deserved the blame. In comparison, the new generation has been helped by social media and the internet in understanding where white privilege comes from and how exactly it benefits certain people.
While certain news outlets have made it their mission to depict the many protests that followed George Floyd’s murder as violent, many protesters have testified against these statements. We’ve discovered that, in the UK, 4 out of 5 gen Zers believe that peaceful protests are necessary to facilitate change, confirming that most new gens intend to protest peacefully and not violently. Half of their parents hold the same belief.
With the current movement still going strong, we’ve seen the protesters’ resilience and willingness to sacrifice their time and energy in a cause that is more than worth it. Despite the risk of getting arrested by the police, new gens have admitted they would be prepared to take that risk in order to make their voice heard.
While previous generations have been quick to point the finger at the US, as we’ve seen Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis do last week in an interview with George the Poet, gen Z is also calling out the UK and other countries as being responsible for systemic racism, too. Ignoring the UK’s denial of its own racism is as disingenuous as ignoring the US’ police brutality and racism, and doing so only further perpetuates white privilege in the UK.
These statistics portray gen Zers as strong protesters who are aware of systemic issues as well as willing to take action. But admitting and fighting these don’t come without its toll on new gen’s mental and physical wellbeing.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against racism and injustice couldn’t wait. While staying home as much as possible is still strongly recommended by governments, protesters have had to make do with their best tool in order to make their voices heard: protesting.
Just yesterday, police officers in London urged Priti Patel to impose an emergency ban on all protests during the coronavirus pandemic, warning officers were being put at risk by a wave of mass demonstrations. Although wearing masks, gloves, and keeping a two meters distance from other protesters are the best ways to avoid risk of getting COVID-19, many protesters are still concerned about their health. The situation, however, has not discouraged the Black Lives Matter movement from fighting back.
Protesting has never been easy. But now, more than ever, with the constant flow of graphic and harmful content our brains receive through social media platforms, we find ourselves on edge frequently. This has had an impact on gen Z’s mental health. As an activist, looking after your mental health is a necessary step in the fight against systemic racism.
This statistic highlights how much more effort we need to make as a generation. Protests must carry on, yes, but we also need to provide more information to anyone that might feel the need to research how to take action. Only by doing so will we start tackling systemic racism.
These protests are made of passionate, non-violent young leaders fighting for a brighter future. Those who previously criticised the new generation for being too connected, too woke or even too sensitive will be compelled to reconsider their stance soon enough.