Why are British viewers uncomfortable with Black voices?

A voice for all and justice for all.

June 1, 2020 Sweeney Emanuel
The unlawful killings and injustices – all too familiar for Black people around the world – are being documented, amplified and televised now, more than ever. Footage, images and hashtags circulate the internet for yet another painful wave of outrage and protest. When taking a look at Britain’s response to these matters, you often find that a large number of U.K. citizens live under a cloud of denial. The ‘clap back’ from Black communities and allies, are a reminder that the U.K. is not, in fact, innocent of race-related crimes. How often, though, are we awarded an opportunity to speak on it and be heard?

We are almost not allowed to offer a voice for the voiceless without ridicule from the wider British public. In entertainment, prominent Black figures have made use of their platforms for activism and a call for change. Their names are Stormzy, Dave, John Boyega and Malorie Blackman, just to name a few.

Award-winning British rappers both took to the stage to deliver their message of injustice against their community to the mass audience. Last year, Stormzy was the first U.K. rapper to headline the world-renowned Glastonbury festival. More history was made when the “Blinded by Your Grace” rapper used his set to confront social and political issues, calling out the prime minister for his shortcomings. Similarly, Dave offered a memorable moment of solidarity and empowerment for his community when performing “Black” at the annual BRIT award ceremony. His statement in his lyrics, “The least racist is still racist.” is a direct dismissal of Britain’s ‘we aren’t as bad’ rhetoric and the notion behind Black Brits in protest. Both performances were slated by British media as too controversial and amassed such disapproval that Ofcom received hundreds of complaints from viewers.

Best-selling author, Malorie Blackman, saw her Noughts & Crosses novel series become a BBC adaptation. Season 1 aired and was shortly dubbed as ‘too woke’ and ‘uncomfortable’ by British viewers. The narrative is based on a fictional reality yet, very vividly, demonstrates an oppression-fueled society. These scenes were more distressing for viewers as opposed to footage of unarmed black men and women being subject to brutality, in real life. Blackman took to Twitter to defend her creative decisions and dismiss racist comments. Where does such discontent for Black people, in and out of entertainment, voicing our stories stem from?

To be uncomfortable is to be aware of the issue. If there is no willingness to confront the issue and learn, then that is a conscious choice to remain a part of the problem! Our community will not be silenced and we will keep fighting for equity.