British countryside is racist, says Countryfile presenter

Helena Horton
·2-min read
There has debate around racism in the countryside  - John Lawrence
There has debate around racism in the countryside - John Lawrence

The British countryside is racist, a Countryfile presenter has said, revealing that Black Lives Matter has led her to re-evaluate her own behaviour.

There was debate over an episode of the BBC show earlier this year when Scout Ambassador Dwayne Fields presented a section about perceptions by ethnic minorities of the countryside.

The report focused on research from the Government's Environment Department, published last year, which said that some ethnic groups felt UK national parks were a "white environment".

Ellie Harrison, a presenter on the show, has spoken up on the issue and said that ethnic minority people do face discrimination in the countryside, and there is "work to do".

She said the huge reaction on social media to the programme had taken the show's producers a week to read and sort.

Ms Harrison wrote in Countryfile magazine: "I spooled through the comments, which broadly came in three flavours: 'I'm not racist so there is no racism in the countryside'; 'I'm black and I've never experienced racism in the countryside'; and importantly, 'I have experienced racism in the countryside'.

"So there's work to do. Even a single racist event means there is work to do. In asking whether the countryside is racist, then yes it is; but asking if it's more racist than anywhere else - maybe, maybe not."

The presenter also said she felt she needed to change her behaviour in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, doing more to confront racism instead of simply listening to people of colour.

"Until this point, I believed ignorantly, that me being not racist was enough," she explained. "I believed that I should keep quiet and listen to black people.

"That because I read and loved every Alice Walker book as a teenager, have watched Oprah every day since I was a youngster...it wasn't my problem."

Ms Harrison added that she is sometimes too polite to those close to her who say racist things.

She said: "There is a big and crucial difference between being not racist and being anti-racist. At times in the past I have given measured and polite replies to people - sometimes close to me - who have said racist things.

"But being anti-racist means being much clearer that it isn't acceptable...Let the knife and fork squeak uncomfortably over supper."

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has vowed to remove barriers to the countryside for non-white people.

It has said in a mission statement: "The countryside is for everyone. We will only achieve a countryside that’s rich in nature, accessible to everyone and playing a crucial role in responding to the climate emergency if we end the racial inequalities that exist in engagement with the countryside, confirmed by powerful testimony from individuals and communities and solid data."

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