From the Guardian Newspaper - Racial disparities in the UK: key findings of the report – and what its critics
say | Race | The Guardian
The government has released the full 264-page report by a commission set up by Downing Street to investigate racial disparities in the UK. These are its main findings:
The commission says that while racism and racial injustice still exist, “we
no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”. More than 200 pages later, the conclusion says “a degree of optimism is justified” and that “too many people in the progressive and anti-racism
movements seem reluctant to acknowledge their own past achievements”.
The approach has brought criticism from some campaigners about a complacent attitude. The conclusion offers one clue to this, noting that in contrast to most
Black Lives Matters protesters, the bulk of the commission are from “an older generation whose views were formed by growing up in the 1970s and 1980s”. That could be a key divide: just because there is less racism than 40 years ago, should it be
viewed as no longer a pressing problem?
Pre-publicity for the report suggested it would dismiss the idea of institutional racism altogether. The reality is more nuanced:
it argues that overuse of the term, sometimes when there is no evidence of an inbuilt institutional bias in that context, has “diluted its credibility”. Where such claims are made, the report suggests, they should be proved – which campaigners
will argue is not necessarily an easy thing to do.
The report calls for a broader use of terminology, including phrases such as systematic or structural racism.
Teaching of colonialism/slavery
One section of the report – on teaching about Britain’s colonial past – says this should include material about the Caribbean experience “which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering,
but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a remodelled African/Britain”. Labour said the government “must urgently explain how they came to publish content that glorifies the slave trade”.
Begum, at the equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust, said: “I’m absolutely flabbergasted to see the slave trade apparently redefined as ‘the Caribbean Experience’, as though it’s something Thomas Cook should be selling –
a one-way shackled cruise to purgatory.
“The cultural deafness of this report is only going to become clearer in the coming days and weeks.”
On a similar theme of moving away from structural issues, the report calls for more focus on “the extent individuals and their communities could help themselves through their own agency, rather than wait for invisible external forces
to assemble to do the job”. The report notes differing levels of single-parent families between varying communities, suggesting this as a factor to be examined. While it stresses that this is “not about allocating blame” or stigmatising single
parents, such a focus risks accusations of a return to earlier attitudes when this did happen.
In one of the more openly culture war-based elements of the report, it accuses
“well-organised single-issue identity lobby groups” of reinforcing “pessimistic narratives about race” through over-emotive, non-data-based approaches to their work.
It is particularly scathing – critics
would say patronising – about Black Lives Matter campaigners, noting the “idealism of those well-intentioned young people” but saying that “a narrative that claims nothing has changed for the better” will mainly end up just alienating
“the decent centre ground” of all ethnicities.
As widely reported in advance, the report suggest this acronym – referring to black, Asian and minority ethnic people
– be ditched, calling it a “reductionist idea [that] forces us to think the principle cause of all disparities must be majority versus minority discrimination”.
what critics called a deliberate failure to acknowledge institutional and structural racism in the labour market, the study says the pay gap between ethnic minority and white workers has been falling and is at its lowest level in almost a decade, at 2.3%,
and that over the past 50 years several ethnic groups have made exceptional progress in the UK.
It also says diversity has increased in professions such as law and medicine and that unemployment rates between ethnic groups have been
declining, and it recommends scrapping unconscious bias training.
in 2019 was 4% among white people and 7% among minority groups combined. For people aged 16 to 24 the gap was more pronounced, with rates of 10% and 19% respectively. Black African and Bangladeshi ethnic groups had the highest rates of youth unemployment,
at 26% and 24%.
Other findings include that employees from the white Irish, Indian and Chinese ethnic groups on average had higher hourly earnings than the white British ethnic group, and although ethnic minorities have been making
progress up the professional ladder, there remains under-representation at the very top.
Unions described it as a “deeply cynical” study that ignored black and ethnic minority workers’ concerns. Rehana Azam, of the
GMB union, said: “Institutional racism exists – it’s the lived experience of millions of black and ethnic minority workers.”
In one of the most controversial
sections of the report, it argues that education has been the single most emphatic success story of the British ethnic minority experience, where children from many ethnic communities largely do as well as or better than white pupils, with black Caribbean
students the only group to perform less well.
The tone is in marked contrast to a Guardian investigation this week into race and UK
education, which found more than 60,000 racist incidents recorded in the past five years,
and notably higher exclusion rates for children from some minority communities.
The report recommends research into the varying academic performance of different ethnic groups, particularly focused on why black Caribbean pupils still
tend to do worse.
Crime and policing
A significant section of the report, about 60 pages, is devoted to this, but it is notable that it is almost all about policing, with virtually no mention
of courts or racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Much of the section on policing focuses on stop and search. While broadly supportive of the tactic, it does stress the way it can often be used to target minority ethnic
youths for minor drug offences, pushing them towards the courts. Among recommendations are for police forces to improve the use of stop and search, including via body-worn cameras, and to divert low-level drug arrests away from the justice system. It also
calls for all police forces in England and Wales to better represent their communities.
Another long section, this brings one of the major suggestions of the report, for the establishment of an
Office for Health Disparities to look into the issue and to work along the NHS to reduce differences in areas such as healthy life expectancy, and the propensity to develop some conditions.
On Covid, the report is similarly tentative,
noting that while death rates were notably higher among some minority groups, this is mainly due to external factors such as a greater likelihood to live in deprivation or to do a public-facing job. Campaign groups would argue that these are just the sorts
of structural factors that feed into health inequalities.