Racial discrimination in Britain during the post war period was rife. Many of the immigrants who came to live in Britain were skilled workers, but racism and discrimination meant that semi or unskilled work was the only option. By the 1960s the economy in Britain was declining and black workers were the first to lose their jobs. Those that did manage to keep jobs usually did double the work for less pay. The racism and discrimination in Britain echoed what was happening in America. 

There were a number of black people who made a difference to the civil rights of the black population in Britain. One was Paul Stephenson, who in 1963 led a boycott against a racist public bus company. The Bristol bus company refused employment to blacks or Asians. Stephenson, a 26-year-old teacher, organised the 60-day bus boycott on the city’s buses. Thousands of people supported the bus boycott and the news of the racism made headlines. By the 28 August 1963 the bus company lifted the employment colour ban. This was the same day that Martin Luther King Jr made his “I have a dream speech”. 

Mr Stephenson would once again hit the headlines when he stood trial for refusing to leave a pub until he was served a beer. It was not uncommon to see signs in Britain during the 1960s proclaiming, “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”. Both cases helped to highlight the treatment of blacks and Asians in Britain during this period. Prime Minister Harold Wilson introduced legislation that made racial discrimination a legal offence – the Race Relations Act 1965. 

Racial discrimination is now a legal offence in the UK and these civil and human rights are afforded to every man, woman and child. Racial discrimination includes discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, nationality and ethnicity. It is an offence to discriminate on these grounds in areas such as employment, education, housing, and the provision of goods and services. It is also an offence for public authorities such as the police or government departments to discriminate in its activities on these grounds. 

Racial discrimination is not the only discrimination that can be pursued as a legal offence. It is also an offence to discriminate on the grounds of religion, sexuality, gender and disability. Discrimination for any of these reasons can lead to legal consequences. It is important that people are aware of their civil rights in the UK as it is the best protection they have against discrimination. 

Racial discrimination and the abuse of civil rights did not end when the anti-discrimination legislation was passed in the 1960s. But this legislation did mean that anyone who practiced discrimination could face legal consequences. The fight for equality and freedom has been a struggle in America, Britain and many other countries around world. Hopefully this struggle will help future generations live in a more equal society. 

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