Race Report: 7 Things That Contradict The Claim Britain Is ‘Not Institutionally Racist’

The publication of a landmark report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and its suggestion that Britain is not institutionally racist have been greeted with widespread disdain.

While chair Tony Sewell said there was anecdotal evidence of racism, he denied there was any proof that it was structural, saying there was data to show some ethnic minorities were doing well in the jobs market and in education.

Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, said it was “deeply, deeply worrying”, while Labour MP David Lammy described it as an “insult to anybody and everybody across this country who experiences institutional racism”.

Indicators of structural racism in Britain are not difficult to find. Here are seven things that contradict the report’s findings.

Employment

Wednesday’s report states that pay and employment among Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals was “broadly positive” during the last quarter of a century. 

It said there have been improvements such as increasing diversity in elite professions, and a shrinking ethnicity pay gap, although disparities remain.

But soaring unemployment figures for BAME workers hold “up a mirror to structural racism” in the UK labour market, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said last month. 

Unemployment among BAME workers has increased at more than twice the speed of the rate for white workers, the study suggested, with analysis revealing that one in 10 women from minority ethnic backgrounds is now unemployed. 

The BAME unemployment rate “shot up” from 5.8% to 9.5% between the final quarter of 2019 and the same time last year, said the report.

Over the same period, the unemployment rate for white workers rose from 3.4% to 4.5%, according to the study.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published last month, revealed that the unemployment rate for Black people, at 13.8%, is triple that of white people at 4.5%. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the pandemic had “held up a mirror to the structural racism in our labour market and wider society.”

She added: “BME [Black and minority ethnic] workers have borne the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19, losing their jobs twice as quickly as white workers.

“When BME workers have held on to their jobs, we know that they are more likely to be working in low-paid, insecure jobs that put them at greater risk from the virus.

“This is evidence of the structural discrimination which has led to a disproportionate BME death rate from coronavirus.”

Topically, an NHS Staff Survey last year found BAME staff were more likely to report working in coronavirus settings than white staff. 

It also said that BAME staff were less likely to feel their organisation provides equal opportunities compared with white employees. More than two-thirds (69%) of BAME staff said their organisation provides equal opportunities, down from 71% the previous year and 73% in 2016.

Criminal justice 

In 2017, a review led by Labour MP David Lammy into the treatment of, and outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the criminal justice system concluded they “still face bias, including overt discrimination, in parts of the justice system”.

It made 35 recommendations that the government vowed to “look carefully” at.

Last month, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) warned in a report that police risk losing the trust of the communities they serve. The inspectorate said data from 2019/20 shows ethnic minority people were over four times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, and that Black people specifically were nearly nine times more likely.

In 1999 the Metropolitan Police was called institutionally racist following the Macpherson Inquiry which scrutinised the botched original investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence – a case hampered by racial prejudice and suspected corruption. 

While current Met commissioner Cressida Dick has publicly stated more than 20 years on that she does not believe the force is institutionally racist and is now “utterly different”, Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor of London Siobhan Benita last year called for it to be investigated to see whether it still is. 

She told LBC News: “In the past four years, we have seen the biggest breakdown in trust between police and communities in London in a generation.

“Even during the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen a disproportionate targeting of BAME communities for lockdown fines.

“If we’re to take systemic racism in Britain seriously, we must be prepared to ask the question: is the Met Police still institutionally racist?”

In June, barrister Leslie Thomas, a leading human rights and civil liberties specialist and expert in claims against the police, told HuffPost UK that the UK has a policing problem affecting Black men, particularly the deaths of those in custody.

Thomas said: “There’s something about the Black male – ‘he has superhuman strength, it took a dozen of us to hold him down’. I just hear all of these myths being perpetuated and being repeated over time. So, if I speak passionately about this it’s because I do feel very passionately about it because I’ve been seeing these types of deaths for the last 30 years.”

Wealth

Significant wealth gaps between different ethnic groups in the UK are likely to continue without changes to wealth taxes and more targeted support for first-time house buyers from poorer backgrounds, according to a report published in December.

The Resolution Foundation found that people of Black African ethnicity typically hold the lowest wealth at £24,000 family wealth per adult – less than one eighth of the typical wealth held by a white British household. That includes their share of any property owned (including property with a mortgage), as well as pensions and savings. 

By contrast, someone of white British ethnicity has £197,000 family wealth per adult on average, the report “A Gap Which Won’t Close” found, meaning the gap between the ethnic groups with highest and lowest median household wealth has grown to £173,000.

Those of Bangladeshi ethnicity hold £31,000 family wealth per adult on average, whilst those with mixed white and Black Caribbean ethnicity typically hold £41,800, the report added.

Last year, statistics showed Black people were the most disproportionately represented ethnic group among households owed homelessness support. 

Some 288,470 households were assessed as being owed help from their local council in England during 2019-20, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said.

Of the applicants from these households, 10.7% were Black, even though Black people are only estimated to make up 3.6% of England’s population.

Applicants of Black, mixed and other ethnicities made up 17.3% of applications despite accounting for 7.3% of the population.

Education

The report claims that children from many ethnic minority backgrounds do as well as, or better than, white pupils in compulsory education, with Black Caribbean pupils the only group to perform less well.

Sure enough, research published in 2018 suggested that teachers in London were biased against white working class and Black Caribbean boys, resulting in education think tank LKMco calling for urgent steps to be taken to tackle the impact of social inequality on the two groups’ academic achievements. 

The “Boys on Track” study found that unconscious prejudices affect the way they are disciplined at school, how their work is assessed, and the academic ability set that they are put in.

In a 2015 poll of 450 BAME teachers, however, 62% stated they did not believe that schools treated BAME pupils fairly.

In October, a campaign to diversify the curriculum in schools called for pupils to be given more access to books by non-white authors in English literature lessons. Lit in Colour found that 56 of 65 novels and plays on the GCSE English literature specifications across three major exam boards were written by white authors.

Meanwhile, characters in children’s books do not reflect diversity in the population at large, research published in 2020 suggests.

Reading charity BookTrust and the Centre for Literacy In Primary Education said their study found that characters from BAME backgrounds were “significantly underrepresented” when compared to the primary school population.

The number of books that feature characters from BAME communities was 10% in 2019, rising from 7% in 2018 and and 4% in 2017, according to their research.

Black people studying science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) in higher education in the UK have poorer degree outcomes and lower rates of academic career progression than other ethnic groups, research elsewhere has suggested.

Two reports from the Royal Society set out “unacceptable” inequalities in higher education over the past 10 years, and in the pool of UK-based researchers available for the organisation’s own early career fellowship grants.

According to the research, published using Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) data, the proportion of Black students entering undergraduate and postgraduate education has increased over the past decade, while the figure has also risen for other minority ethnic groups – but Black students are leaving Stem in greater numbers at all stages of the career pipeline.

In June 2020, data from the HESA found the number of Black academics working in the most senior positions in UK universities had fallen to just a handful.

Covid mortality 

A Public Health England (PHE) report published in June, Covid-19: Review Of Disparities In Risks And Outcomes, found the increased risk of death involving Covid-19 for people from a Black ethnic background was two times greater for males and 1.4 times greater for females compared with white people.

What’s more, a review led by Baroness Doreen Lawrence in October last year found decades of structural discrimination had led to the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on BAME communities. BAME people have been overexposed to the virus by being overrepresented in public-facing industries where they cannot work from home, and living in overcrowded housing.

Workers have been put at risk by the government’s failure to facilitate Covid-secure workplaces, and the “no recourse to public funds” rule has disproportionately affected BAME communities, she said.

Some have also experienced “disgraceful racism”, fuelled in part by global leaders calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus”.

Maternal care 

Black women continue to face up to four times the risk of death in pregnancy compared to white women. Asian women also fare worse when it comes to poor experiences of maternity care and illness. This week, Dr Habib Naqvi told a Dispatches documentary on the Black Maternity Scandal the data is “simply unacceptable”. 

Heart attack care 

Research published this year found people with Black or Asian heritage were more likely to be admitted to hospital than their white peers; less likely to receive evidence-based care; and more likely to die early than before the pandemic.

The study, led by academics from Keele University, examined data on heart attacks – also known as acute myocardial infarctions (AMI) – during the first wave of the pandemic. They examined healthcare records from nationwide registries for all patients admitted to hospitals with a heart attack in England between February 1 and May 27, 2020, to see if there were any differences in presentation and treatment between white patients and people from other backgrounds.

The authors said people from BAME backgrounds were likely to wait longer for different types of treatment to begin when compared to people from a white background, including reperfusion therapies – a medical treatment to restore blood flow – and coronary angiographies, which are used to help diagnose heart conditions or carry out certain procedures.

The finding was true even before the pandemic, but “more pronounced” during it.

The authors also found higher death rates among people with Black or Asian heritage during the pandemic compared to previous years.

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