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Race and ethnic disparities report: five main takeaways

A new government report says social factors explain disparities better than racism

Britain is a model on race for other countries and is not “institutionally racist”, a report on race inequalities commissioned by the government has found.

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, created last July in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, said that while the UK was not yet a “post-racial' society”, social class and family structures better explain disparities. 

UK ‘a model for other white-majority countries’

The report says Britain should be considered “a model for other white-majority countries”, and points to “the most emphatic success story” of educational attainment among black and ethnic minority children, which it says has “transformed British society”. 

The commission notes pupils from Indian, Bangladeshi and black African backgrounds in England score better on average across eight GCSEs than white British children. However, as the report also highlights, there is a growing gap in attainment between Black African and Black Caribbean children.  While this is borne out by the evidence, a 2019 report from the University of Aberdeen found white working-class boys, with lower educational qualifications and a lower likelihood of going to university, still had higher employment rates and higher social mobility than those from minority ethnic backgrounds, reports The Guardian.

Race has become less important factor in social disparities

Britain is no longer a country “where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”, claims the report. Where disparities do exist, the reasons behind them are “varied”, the report argues, and “very few of them are directly to do with racism”.  “The evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism,” it reads.

Claims of institutional racism not borne out

The report says “the idealism of those well-intentioned young people” who claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence. It calls for workplaces to end unconscious bias training for their staff, and instead use “evidence-based” alternatives.

Speaking to the BBC, Tony Sewell, who led the report, said the term “institutional racism” was “sometimes wrongly applied as a “sort of catch-all phrase for micro-aggressions or acts of racial abuse”. 

The suggestion is an “open rebuff to the arguments of the BLM movement”, says The Guardian, and “appears to be a pushback against the idea of structural racism”.

Halima Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, called the rejection of institutional racism “nothing short of a gross offence”, while Labour MP David Lammy told his LBC show listeners: “Boris Johnson has just slammed the door in their faces by telling them that they’re idealists, they are wasting their time. He has let an entire generation of young white and black British people down.”

‘Outright’ racism still exists

Although the report suggests institutional racism no longer exists, it argues that “outright racism still exists in the UK”. 

The UK is not yet a “post-racial society” which has “completed the long journey to equality of opportunity”, reads the report. “Outright racism still exists in the UK, whether it surfaces as graffiti on someone’s business, violence in the street, or prejudice in the labour market.” The report also points to the role of social media platforms in promoting racist abuse, where “racist incidents can go viral in hours”.

“Making anonymous abuse harder online is a complex issue but should be a public policy priority,” it says.

Historic racism creating ‘deep mistrust’

The report recognises that “historical wrongs by the state and police have left a deep legacy of mistrust” among black people and ethnic minorities, “especially in Black inner-city communities”. 

It noted, “the reasons for this mistrust are often steeped in a terrible legacy of historical incidents of racism and racist behaviour, carried out under the auspices of a few different police services”. 

But it stated “unequivocally” that the majority of UK police officers were “decent and good people”, and that “there are a minority of individuals who bring shame and dishonour to themselves and to those they represent”. 


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