Prejudice and us

The documentary photographic project ‘Prejudice and us’ will be presented at the City Hall on the 30th November.  Below is an extract of my reflections of working on this project as a documentary photographer. 


What does Prejudice mean to a young person living in inner London today?

This is the question that lies at the heart of ‘Prejudice and Us’ a project which I have been working on as a documentary photographer in collaboration with London based Non-profit organisation Protection Approaches.

Over the course of the project I have been lucky enough to get to know a group of diverse, funny, intelligent, engaging and boisterous young people in North Kensington and White City, an area of London known for its gangs, poverty and alienation.

Even at a young age, it is clear that prejudice enters the lives of young Londoners in a number of ways, they are judged by what they wear, their skin colour, demeanour and socio-economic standing. For me this project has truly been an eye opener in regards to the extent of some of the issues that young people face. For instance stop and search. There is such a frustration felt by so many of the young people I have come into contact with around the profiling, and in particular the racial profiling, that goes hand in hand with stop and search.

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Research conducted by the coalition StopWatch demonstrated black people were stopped and searched at over 3 times the rate of white people across London in 2014/15. Under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act officers acting with inspector approval can search anyone, with or without reasonable grounds. Of the 539,788 stop and searches made in England from 2014-2015 only 14 percent led to an arrest. It seems that a systematic bias sees young black people stereotyped as drug dealers.

The most shocking part is realising how these events have been normalised in young people’ lives.  In the words of Sean (not his real name) “when I go out, if I am hanging around with my mates and they are black, we are most certainly stopped. The police will stop and search them. I often get stopped, too.” When I asked Sean how often is stopped by the police. He replied “this happens almost every week.”  He is 16 years old.

I have also noted that the effects of poverty and alienation combined with the austerity programmes that have been the economic norm last few years, have had an enormous impact on the communities and the lives of young people. Young people feel judged because of their poverty, joblessness and the way they may dress as a result of it. Tasha, who lives in a hostel for young homeless people and is on benefits has been repeatedly been discriminated against because of her socio-economic position and is regularly called a Chav.

Often when communities face difficult economic times one result can be an increase in tensions between communities. It is easy to look at the other and blame them for your problems. Nationally we have seen tensions rise around the issue immigration and the wake of the EU referendum has seen hate crime rise across the country.

Habiba a young Muslim girl feels that the Muslim communities have been further marginalised by a rhetoric that sees them as terrorists. Recently, she has been a target herself, when she was verbally abused by a fellow train passenger. Similarly, Abyan, who is also a local young Muslim girl has recently decided to wear the hijab. The attitude from people around her in the community has dramatically changed. This has left her vulnerable.

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