October 16, 2020

Countryfile star Ellie Harrison expresses concern over racism in the countryside

 

Countryfile star Ellie Harrison has expressed fears about racism still being rife in the British countryside.

The 42-year-old BBC star, who has presented the show since 2009, raised concern about the amount of racism still taking place and explained that there was still “work to do”.

She added that now was a ‘time of reckoning’ as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain pace around the globe.

Ellie’s clarion call comes after the nature programme featured a film over the summer that explored racism in the countryside.

Fronted by Dwayne Fields, the episode was aired in June and investigated a report by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The show triggered a huge debate and saw comments flood in that took a week for the BBC producers to sift through, the presenter claimed.

Ellie Harrison said there is more to be done when it comes to tackling racism
(Image: BBC)

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Writing in the Countryfile magazine, Ellie explained that the comments generally came in three categories.

She wrote: “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.”

Countryfile reported on how BAME people feel unwelcome in countryside this summer
(Image: BBC)
Ellie Harrison has presented the show since 2009
(Image: BBC/Oliver Edwards)

She also reflected upon her own response to racism, and admitted that she needed to do more.

Ellie continued: “Until this point, I believed ignorantly that me being not racist was enough.

“I believed that I should keep quiet and listen to black people. That’s 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.

“There is a big and crucial difference between being not racist and being anti-racist.

The Countryfile cast
(Image: BBC)
Dwayne Fields fronted the episode that looked at racism in the countryside
(Image: BBC)

“At times in the past I have given measured and polite replies to people — sometimes close to me — who had 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.”

While many thanked Countryfile for shining a light at concerns about racism in the countryside over the summer, others failed to understand why people from BAME communities do not feel welcome in the outdoors.

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