Black Lives Matter: Why Are British Viewers Uncomfortable With Black Voices?

Sweeney Gloria

By Sweeney Gloria

Sweeney Gloria

1 Jun 2020

Unlawful killings and injustices have become an experience that is all too familiar for Black people around the globe. It is being documented, amplified and televised now, more than ever. With unfiltered footage, images and their hashtags at our disposal, another painful wave of outrage and protest consumes the net. 

Here, on British soil, the responses to these matters are often met with a thick cloud of denial. Black Britons have flooded our social feeds with stories of their own, and remind our country that the UK is not innocent of race-related crimes. How often, though, have we been awarded opportunities to speak on it and be heard? 

We almost always take it upon ourselves to create our own platforms to deliver this message. Prominent black figures in entertainment have used their notoriety as a medium for activism and a call for change. Their names are Stormzy, Dave, John Boyega, and Malorie Blackman, just to name a few. 

Two 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 demographic when performing “Black” at this year’s BRIT Awards His statement in his lyrics: “The least racist is still racist.” is a direct dismissal of Britain’s ‘we aren’t as bad as America’ rhetoric.  

Both performances were instantly slated by British media as too controversial and amassed such disapproval, with Ofcom receiving 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 these scenes were more distressing for viewers as opposed to footage of unarmed black men, women and children being subject to race crimes, in real time. 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 feel uncomfortable in the face of such realities, is to be aware of the issue at hand. If there is no willingness to confront the issue and learn to unlearn, then a conscious decision to remain a part of the problem has been made. The Black community will not be silenced or gaslighted, and we will keep fighting for equity.