A phase of confusion, debate and hostility: Our insights from the IRR newspaper clippings collection

Library Assistants Waqar Younis and Letitia Budu have had some important insights whilst re-organising our Institute of Race Relations Newspaper Clippings collection…
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The IRR newspaper clippings collection focuses on race related matters from the late 1970s until the early 1980s. In the process of reorganising the clippings to make them more accessible, we’ve also been able to understand how far the UK has come in terms of race equality and where improvements still need to be made.

It’s important to look at history to prevent it from repeating itself. Looking back at the past might help us in the future!

The clippings are from local and national newspapers and tell us about a wide variety of issues relating to race, such as immigration, politics, criminal justice and education. As one example, we were interested in an article from the Bedfordshire Times about West Indian children lacking motivation at school due to fear that they will be unemployed once they finish.

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We did not realise how prevalent the National Front were: they are mentioned countless times throughout the newspaper clippings. We were even more surprised to see the KKK make multiple appearances. But there were also plenty of stories that showed how willing people were to challenge and tackle racial prejudice and discrimination, and to welcome our neighbours from the Commonwealth.

It was also surprising to see criticism of the Race Relations Act (1976), implying that it was undemocratic and prevented free speech from society. This was only in the 70s; it is astonishing how far we have come as a society in embracing different cultures. Britain is very multicultural today but it certainly had to go through a phase of confusion, debate and hostility before legislation came into force to give consequences to racial discrimination. This legislation has proven to be successful, but it is clear that we still have a long way to go before we reach complete racial equality in Britain.

Overall, it made us, as two millennials turning each page, realise that we are lucky that legislation was put in place to make sure we feel safe and protected in Britain, and for that we are thankful.

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