A NEW photography exhibition aims to shine a light on the every day experiences of racism faced by people of colour in Glasgow and foster conversations on how best to tackle discrimination.

The exhibition, which opens at the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art (GOMA) this week, features 10 photographs by Karen Gordon, taken in collaboration with her subjects. It examines the common place racism experienced by the project’s participants that often went unnoticed by the white population around them.

Participants, who all live in Glasgow, told Gordon about experiences of being stopped and searched at airports and taken aside for questioning by plain clothes police officers.

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Others had gone through their twenties being turned away from pubs and nightclubs by bouncers, although this did not happen to their white friends. One actor with Scottish Asian heritage said that being told he “did not have the right look” at castings was such a common experience that it was a “running joke” amongst BAME actors.

One black man spoke about the “dirty looks” and “handbags clutched” if he was wearing a hoodie, while several others spoke of sensing racist judgments being made based on the colour of their skin. One black women recalled when a music tutor she had just met reached out unprompted to touch her hair.

Gordon, who has worked as a photographer with Maryhill Integration Network – which supports refugee and migrant communities – for many years said she was inspired to start the project after realising that even though she had been involved in anti-racism work she was still not aware of the daily nature of racism directed at people of colour.

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She said: “As someone who has been trying to tackle racism all my life I realised there was still so much that I was unaware of. What are the insidious things that people don’t talk about? Glasgow can seem quite diverse and welcoming due to that, but when you start to go under the surface its more complicated.

“The most important thing for me was that the participant was happy with the portrayal, so that was a huge part of the project and I worked very closely with people.

“A lot of white people say they don’t see colour and that is only because they have never had to see it. It’s such a huge issue. I see the photographs as a way of starting a bigger conversation about this.”

Nida Atif, a 21-year-old student, who both took part in and worked on the project, said that it had helped her to deepen her own understanding of the structural racism that she had sometimes struggled to name when she was younger.

“For me what is often frustrating is that you experience something that is not outward racism but it’s more that it is an underlying thing,” she said.

The photograph featuring Atif depicts an experience she had in an art gallery.

She and a friend – both of Pakistani heritage and wearing headscarves – were told to stop taking photographs. The white people doing the same around them continued to do so unchecked.

“It’s something that you can’t report because it’s treated as just being a suspicion,” she said. “When I started to speak to others about this I realised that as someone who is brown, who is Asian and wears a hijab I think about [how I am viewed] every day ... when I’m on the train and someone doesn’t sit next to me, when I go for job interviews.”

THE increasing racist attitudes in Britain have also affected Atif and her friends, she claimed, with many of them deciding to remove their hijabs and headscarves because they felt it made them too visible.

She said of the exhibition: “I hope that it will showcase the experiences people are having and will help tackle ignorance.”

Concerns have been growing about the way that racist attitudes are being normalised by the racist and Islamophobic comments made by our most high-profile politicians.

Last August Boris Johnston was widely condemned for saying Muslim women wearing burkas “look like letter boxes”, yet went on to become Prime Minister regardless. Meanwhile the “hostile environment” policies that led to the Windrush scandal have remained a cornerstone of Conservative government strategy.

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LAST month more than 80 artists, academics, lawyers, and activists signed an open letter warning that attitudes to race and racism in Scotland are “rolling backwards.”

They said a climate of “resentment towards frank discussion of race and racism” is threatening to undo progress on race equality and said that there was a worrying tendency to “silence the voices of people in Scotland who face colour-based racism.” It called on white people to listen to their experiences.

The letter, signed by high profile figures including lawyer Aamer Anwar, playwright Hannah Lavery and the academic and human rights activist Sir Geoff Palmer also highlighted concerns about the failure of public and state institutions to tackle racism.

Earlier this month a report commissioned by Intercultural Youth Scotland found 50% of pupils surveyed would not report racist incidents in the classroom because they did not believe their teachers would know how to respond.

Academic and activist Smina Akhtar said it was important that incidents of insidious racism were made more visible but claimed it was vital they were rooted in the historic and structural issues that caused them. “These type of incidents are really common,” she said. “I’ve got lots of brown and Muslim friends and we will talk to each other about them but I don’t talk about them to my white friends because it can be too hard to explain.

“It feels a bit like domestic violence – we used to understand it only as physical or verbal violence but now we understand that it can also be a way of behaving.

“We need to remember that this only exists because of the structural and ideological racism at state-level.

‘‘Scotland was involved in the slave trade, it was part of the British empire and it implements British immigration policy. We need to look at this in the context of that history.”