For centuries now there has been a global demand for racial justice. This is not a new demand, as those who have been colonised and enslaved, denied freedom and opportunity have been calling out for racial justice for generations before our time. We have come a long away from the brutality of slavery that ended in the UK in 1833, 32 years ahead of the US which isn’t really something to be proud of. However, as a country we have progressed tremendously in tackling racism and have little tolerance for it happening around us. People tip toe around the topic of racism and often try to avoid seeing it but for many black people in the UK still do this day, it is their lived reality.
During the summer months, the major focus in the media was the Black Lives Matters Movement. People on every corner of this planet in some way were affected by this protest which came alive after the brutal murder of George Floyd which shook me and many others to the very core. The uproar for equality after his murder rippled throughout the world and many actions were taken to abolish racism for example, many of the worlds largest brands were quick to support the BLM Movement, in the UK statues and monuments of people with links to slavery were taken down and millions of pounds were raised for the George Floyd fund which helps fight racism.
The UK took a stand against racism as millions of people marched in the BLM Movement protest to fight for racial justice however the counter narrative pushed back on these protests was that Britain is not racist like America so what have the black community got to complain about? Well for a start to even compare the two shows little intelligence on the matter, the fact that racism is still relevant in the UK is the problem. One look at the replies under the Sainsbury’s tweet for their Christmas campaign will have you second guessing that question.
On the 14th November, Sainsburys tweeted their ‘Gravy Song’ advertisement as part of their Christmas Campaign, staring the black actors Deenie Davies and Ademide Bodunde. The advertisement portrayed a black family who were yearning to spend Christmas together which is perfectly normal. However, Sainsburys encountered major backlash from racist twitter accounts slamming the supermarket for only including a black family. Responses such as, “Absolutely sickening”, or “Where are the British people? What fresh hell is this?” or even “You may as well rename yourself Blackbury’s!”, “You’ve managed to completely alienate the few remaining white customers you still had”, amongst many others that are too offensive to re-share. People actually threatened to boycott Sainsbury’s after seeing this ad which is hard to believe and just shows that racism is as prevalent as ever in the UK today. Sainsbury’s were forced to respond, “At Sainsbury’s, we want to be the most inclusive retailer. That’s why, throughout all our advertising we aim to represent a modern Britain, which has a diverse range of communities. We have three stories of three different families in our advertising.”
Imagine feeling so privileged to expect every single TV advert to feature someone that looks like you and anything less is an outrage to our society? In my opinion, the Sainsbury’s ad is a realistic representation of a black family in the UK and this shouldn’t be a problem in 2020, in fact we should be applauding this behaviour. But sadly, Sainsbury’s are not alone with having backlash for supporting the black community. Recently 24,500 complaints were made to OFCOM which is the most in this decade, for the performance dedicated to Black lives matter on Britain’s Got Talent by the dance group Diversity. They also received complaints about Alesha Dixons choice of jewellery that said BLM as a means of protest during the show. The UK even went as far as scrutinising Marcus Rashford for investing in property worth over 2 million pounds as a way of undermining the amazing work he put in to get underprivileged children free school meals during this pandemic.
Following the controversial Sainsbury’s advert, it turns out that Tesco have been accused for cutting out a black couple in their latest food advert as they fear they will receive backlash, according to model Vanessa Vanderpuye. The model showed behind the scenes footage on her Instagram of her and a black male starring in the Tesco advert but when the advert came out, they were nowhere to be seen without any explanation as to why they had been cut. Tesco denied that the actors’ race had anything to do with the decision for them to be cut from the advert and stated that, ‘At Tesco, we believe that diversity in our business makes us stronger and our advertising campaigns are designed to represent everyone, showing the breadth of the communities and customers we serve’. I find this very hard to believe, in fact it’s quite embarrassing.
The UK is on the verge of progressing racial justice however there are so many Britain’s out there who still hold outrageous and outdated racial views. We are slowly learning what it is to make decisions that decisively reject racism but the few of many examples I have talked about here are what’s holding us back from equality and it needs to stop!