Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo says some people are now “proud to be racist”.
The Girl, Woman, Other author said the UK was now in a “better place” than it was decades earlier, thanks to legislation.
But she told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett that racism was now seen as a “good thing” by some.
“Since Brexit and … this kind of … resurgence of anti-immigration attitudes … suddenly it felt that people could be very public about their anti-immigration stance,” she said.
What’s getting you through at the moment? In moments that are yours – is it exercise, that to-do list, books, films, campaigning? My first guest today is Booker Prize winning author & activist @BernardineEvari – we shall mark the start of #BlackHistoryMonth join us @bbc5live 10am pic.twitter.com/Vk8mWWRPcF
— Emma Barnett (@Emmabarnett) October 1, 2020
“And that also was broadened out into … people feeling that actually being racist was OK and that was a good thing to be,” the writer said.
“I mean, let’s talk about the president over the pond and what he didn’t condemn about white racists in America (the Proud Boys) just a couple of days ago,” she said, adding that he “lives in a moral vacuum”.
Speaking on the first day of Black History Month, Evaristo said: “We are going to have people who are proud to be racist … and unfortunately they might dominate some of the social media platforms.
“We know for example black women, who are high profile, are trolled in a way that other people aren’t.”
But she said: “I would say that we are in a better place” because “until the Race Relations Act (1965) it was actually legal to be racist … and then we had legislation which made people check their behaviour.”
She added: “There are always going to be people who don’t want to engage with the idea of racism, who are not ever going to acknowledge that they may need to interrogate their own behaviour …
“If we say to people, ‘You’re racist’, they’re either going to feel terribly guilty or incredibly defensive and neither of those positions really work.
“What you really want to do is enrol people in the idea of a more equal society.”
She added: “As soon as you personalise it … it can be counterproductive. But at the same time, it’s also up to the individual to take responsibility for everyone in the country as part of our nation.”