Today the Government released the report of their independent review of race and ethnic disparities, commissioned in the wake of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. It asserts that the UK should be seen as an international exemplar of racial equality, that issues of race and racism are becoming ‘less important’ in explaining social disparities, and that the UK has become a “more open society” where children from many ethnic communities perform as well or substantially better than white pupils in compulsory education.
These findings, which downplay the impact of structural factors in ethnic disparities so loudly raised by the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, are an insult to all whose lives are shaped by racism, though they come as little surprise.
The report’s first set of recommendations speak to ‘building trust’ with Black and ethnic minority communities, but it is hard to see how they can do that while denying the depth of the problem.
Our research from earlier this year found little faith among Black and ethnic minority Britons that the Government will take any meaningful action to address racial disparities. A majority (63%) of BAME Britons said that they do not trust Boris Johnson to deliver on his promise to tackle racism and racial inequality. Only 27% of BAME Britons felt that the Government was taking racism more seriously as a result of the BLM protests. 43% felt that it had made no difference and 19% felt the Government was in fact taking racism less seriously.
While different groups and generations have had very different experiences, and as a result see the issues and solutions differently, racism shapes British society today. The same poll of 1,014 BAME Britons, commissioned by hope not hate in January 2021, found they experienced high levels of racism and prejudice:
- 40% of BAME Britons had experienced or witnessed racial violence in the past 12 months alone. 45% had experienced or witnessed racial abuse
- Young people are the most likely to see violence driven by racism, with fewer than a third of 18-24 year olds (32%) able to say that they had not experienced or witnessed racist violence in the past year
- A majority of BAME Britons agreed that black and Asian people in the UK face discrimination in their everyday lives (64%), with only 16% disagreeing and little difference between age groups
In the same poll, over half of respondents (54%) believed Britain is institutionally racist, with just 12% disagreeing. And looking at the impact of coronavirus on BAME Britons, it is clear how deep racial inequities run. Almost a third of Black respondents say they have been furloughed (30%) or applied for universal credit (30%) and one in five Black (21%) and Asian (22%) respondents say that they have lost their job as a result of the virus outbreak.
By contrast, our nationally representative poll found that half as many white people had applied for universal credit (15%), lost their jobs (12%) and far fewer white respondents had been furloughed (18%). A third of Black (32%) and Asian (34%) respondents say their hours have been reduced, while 20% of white respondents said the same.
Much of the report focuses on advances in education through generations, with children from minority ethnic communities outperforming their white peers, which has “transformed British society over the last 50 years into one offering far greater opportunities for all”. It is only right to be concerned that white working class boys ‘fall behind’ in the education system. But looking at this problem as ‘status deficit’, that white and male groups feel that they are overlooked in favour of an equalities agenda, is a harmful myth. Any relative success of BAME groups and women is not a disadvantage to others who feel held back by a fading sense of entitlement.
Research from HOPE not hate Charitable Trust has shown that these myths can be harmful to others, and reactionary views have gained traction among young, white men. Our polling of 2,076 adults aged 16-24 from across Great Britain, carried out in May 2019, found that more than half of young men felt that feminism was holding them back, and more likely to believe that white people were as likely to be discriminated against as non-white people
And in the same poll, we found greater concern about failing to succeed in the education system among Pakistani (19%), African (15%), and Chinese (25%) respondents than among white British (11%). Young BAME respondents were also more likely to list discrimination as one of the greatest challenges they currently face; Indian (14%), Pakistani (8%), Chinese (17%) and African (10%) respondents all list discrimination as one of the biggest issues they personally face.
Of course, there have been huge advances in race relations in Britain over recent decades, but there is still a very long way to go. Rather than celebrating, the Government needs to address the very real concerns of minority communities in Britain today. That starts with acknowledging the depth of structural racism.