Government Report Into Racial Inequality Says UK ‘Should Be Regarded As The Model For Other White-Majority Countries’
The UK government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has suggested achievements made by the country should make it ‘a model for other white-majority countries’.
Described as a ‘major shift in the race debate’, the report came about as a government response to the racial justice movements connected to Black Lives Matter protests that broke out across the UK last year and put a spotlight on unjust and unfair treatment of non-white people.
A brief summary of the findings was released on Tuesday, March 30, and despite countless calls for change and examples cited by advocates of the movement, it plays down the impact of structural factors in ethnic disparities and suggests the UK should be depicted as an international example of racial equality.
Though it acknowledges that overt racism does still exist in the UK, the report highlights certain factors such as the academic achievements of children from minority ethnic backgrounds, many of whom are said to do as well or better than their white peers.
The report states these kinds of achievements should make the UK ‘a model for other white-majority countries,’ The Guardian reports, though it also acknowledges the need for extended school days to help disadvantaged pupils catch up.
Dr Tony Sewell, the commission’s chairman, discussed the report on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, and said that while the report did not deny the existence of racism in Britain, there was no evidence of ‘actual institutional racism’.
Sewell implied that people sometimes misunderstand or misinterpret definitions related to racism, saying:
What we have seen is that the term ‘institutional racism’ is sometimes wrongly applied and it’s been a sort of a catch-all phrase for micro-aggressions or acts of racial abuse. Also people use it interchangeably – systematic racism, structural racism [are] just being used wrongly.
Among the conclusions made by the report is an argument against the notion of structural racism, as it draws attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and argues that ‘the well-meaning idealism of many young people who claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence’.
It does note, however, that historical cases of racism continue to have an impact on some communities, creating ‘deep mistrust’. It claims: ‘Both the reality and the perception of unfairness matter.’
Other findings include that the term BAME should no longer be used by official bodies; there should be a move away from unconscious bias training, and that pay and work-based disparities are an ‘improving picture’.
It states: ‘Issues around race and racism were becoming less important and, in some cases, were not a significant factor in explaining disparities.’
The report further claims that the disparities it examined, which ‘some attribute to racial discrimination, often do not have their origins in racism’.
The findings have been met with backlash by activists and race equality experts, who are said to have described the report as ‘extremely disturbing’.
A spokesperson for Black Lives Matter UK argued that the report failed to explore ‘disproportionality in school exclusion, eurocentrism and censorship in the curriculum, or the ongoing attainment gap in higher education.’
Per The Guardian, the spokesperson continued:
We are also disappointed to learn that the report overlooks disproportionality in the criminal justice system – particularly as police racism served as the catalyst for last summer’s protests.
Black people in England and Wales are nine times more likely to be imprisoned than their white peers, and yet, four years on, the recommendations from the Lammy review are yet to be implemented.
Critics have also cited the disproportionate number of deaths within BAME communities during the early days of the pandemic, with Halima Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, saying: ‘For Boris Johnson to look the grieving families of those brave dead in the eye and say there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK is nothing short of a gross offence.’
Maurice Mcleod, the chief executive of Race on the Agenda, accused the report of ‘gaslighting’ and said it implies that Black people ‘don’t get on well in this society […] because they are stuck in the past and this makes them mistrustful. So racism isn’t the problem, people talking about racism is the problem.’
We would argue that you cannot tackle structural racism if you don’t believe it exists. The only substantive thing in the report is the decree that the public sector should stop using the term BAME; 250,000 people didn’t march through our cities during a pandemic demanding better syntax.
The 264-page report has 24 recommendations, though these are not yet known as the Government Equalities Office has so far only released a brief summary.
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