Even simple things such as booking a holiday or applying for a credit card become much harder. Have you experienced racism as a consumer?
One unusually warm spring day last year, I took a day trip from my London home to a nearby seaside town.
As I walked from the station to the seafront, I noticed stares in my direction and made a mental note people like me often make. Was I the only brown person in town?
Later, I got talking to a local whose passion for her home town was as inviting as the sunshine beaming down on the beach. As a long list of recommendations kindly tripped off her tongue, one sentence, delivered with disarming ease, hit me.
‘Some people around here don’t like coloureds.’
There it was. Recognition that my mental note served a purpose.
If you’ve never faced this sort of exchange, you may think it’s a one-off. I wish it were, but recent events have raised awareness of how common occurrences like this – and much worse – are.
Black Lives Matter has shown how institutional racism pervades every facet of Black people’s lives, including the opportunities available to us as consumers.
Booking holiday accommodation with a name like mine is rarely straightforward. I’ve stopped being surprised when my online requests are denied as friends with ‘English-sounding’ names are approved right away.
An uneasy feeling about revealing my British-Sudanese heritage has been well founded when applying for credit cards. The nationality stamped in my British passport is somehow not enough proof of citizenship.
Research shows I’m far from alone. A Harvard Business School study found people with ‘Black-sounding names’ less likely to have bookings confirmed by third-party hosts on Airbnb, a study at St Andrews University School of Management found Black people more likely to be denied loans.
Questioning how consumers are treated
Which? was set up in 1957 because our founders questioned the way consumers were treated.
That remains our driving force. But our campaigns, products and services must address everyone’s needs to reflect the diverse make-up and experiences of all of us in the UK.
We’re keen to hear your experiences: have you experienced racism as a consumer? Let us know in the comments.
If you’d rather discuss your experience privately, please do email firstname.lastname@example.org