UK: Ten previous inquiries expose the real problem with the Race Commission’s findings

As all too often happens with inquiries:

Amid Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, Boris Johnson promised a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Announced in a Telegraph column(where else?) about Winston Churchill (who else?), it was clear even then that this was a weak response to a widespread problem.

The Commission’s remit was vague (with its sights on “inequality across the UK, not just that affecting the BAME community”), and those eventually charged with it had previously expressed reservations about the existence of institutional racism.

Yet the main problem was that previous inquiries, many set up by past governments using official data, had already exposed the racial disparities in the areas under the Commission’s remit: education, work, policing and health.

The information is already out there, but the recommendations from those reports have not been taken up. Last June, when the Commission was announced, I counted 375 recommendations to the government in ten different inquiries – from the 1999 Macpherson Report following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, to 2020’s Lessons Learned review into the Windrush scandal – which are yet to be implemented.

As my colleague Ailbhe Rea points out, the latest Commission’s findings were carefully briefed ahead of publication to achieve headlines suggesting institutional racism is “no longer” a problem in Britain.

The pre-publication stories focused on celebrations of Britain as a “beacon” of successful multiculturalism to Europe and the rest of the world, scepticism of the use of “institutional racism”, and success stories among certain ethnic minority pupils in educational attainment.

While there are clearly nuggets for the “war on woke” brigade to get their teeth into – the description of slavery as “not only being about profit and suffering” springs to mind – there are also recommendations that echo findings of aforementioned reviews.

For example, the 2017 Lammy Review into discrimination in the criminal justice systemanalysed disproportionate use of stop and search on black people, citing Northamptonshire Police Force’s enhanced scrutiny of the practice as a favourable case study. The Race Commission recommends greater scrutiny of the practice through body-worn video footage, with officers who have their cameras off providing a written reason to the individual who was stopped as well as their supervising officer (and “misconduct procedures” for serious instances of misuse).

Many of the Race Commission’s recommendations contradict its own headlines and implicitly accept the existence of systemic racism: the application of the Equality Act to potentially discriminatory “algorithmic decision-making” is just one example.

There are also proposals that run against the “war on woke” narrative. For example, the development of a pilot to divert offences of low-level Class B drug possession – which disproportionately affect ethnic minority young people – into public health solutions.

Yet the evidence-heavy, action-light history of reviews into British racism suggests these may be patchily enacted or left to exist only on paper – forever buried beneath headline-hungry right-wing virtue signalling.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

Source: Ten previous inquiries expose the real problem with the Race Commission’s findings

British Government’s ‘Gaslighting’ Report on Racism Says Slavery Had Some Upsides

Not a great headline if a government wants to demonstrate awareness and sensitivity to racism. More denial of systemic barriers and bias, including how the report was released:

Last summer, after George Floyd’s killing sparked mass anti-racism demonstrations around the globe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnsonasked a dedicated team to investigate and report back on racism in the U.K.. On Wednesday, they came back with their findings—that institutional racism no longer exists, and that the slave trade had some upsides.

The report, published by the British government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, has been branded as “gaslighting” and “an insult” by anti-racism activists. While the study went as far as admitting that Britain is not yet a “post-racial country,” it lauds the country’s race relations as “a model for other white-majority countries.”

“Put simply, we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities,” it says. “The impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism. Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined.”

The report went on to say that other factors—such as geography, socio-economic background, culture, family influence, and religion—had “more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism.”

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today show on Wednesday, the chairman of the commission, Dr Tony Sewell, explained his questionable findings further, saying: “No-one denies and no-one is saying racism doesn’t exist… We found anecdotal evidence of this. However, evidence of actual institutional racism? No, that wasn’t there, we didn’t find that.”

Perhaps the low point of the report is when it appears to find some benefits of the African slave trade—an atrocity in which Britain very much led the way. The government report chirpily states: “There is a new story 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 re-modelled African/Britain.”

The report also criticized anti-racism campaigners, dismissing Black Lives Matter and related demonstrations as the “idealism” of “well-intentioned young people” that risks “alienating the decent centre ground” of British politics. The commission condemned what it described as an “increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of white discrimination.”

The report has, predictably, received an extremely bad reaction from anti-racism advocates. Rehana Azam, the national secretary of the GMB trade union, said: “Only this government could produce a report on race in the 21st century that actually gaslights Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnic people and communities. This feels like a deeply cynical report that not only ignores Black and ethnic minority workers’ worries, but is part of an election strategy to divide working class people and voters.”

David Lammy, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party and shadow Justice Secretary, described the report as “an insult to anybody and everybody across this country who experiences institutional racism.” He added: “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.”

Prof Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, said: “It’s complete nonsense. It goes in the face of all the actual existing evidence. This is not a genuine effort to understand racism in Britain. This is a PR move to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”

To make matters worse, HuffPost reported that selected journalists were not briefed about the report in advance—including Britain’s only race correspondent, The Independent’s Nadine White. White was sent an emailshowing that the commission asked for briefings on their report on racial disparities be sent to a “tight list of journos” only.

Institutional racism in Britain has been under the spotlight in recent weeks after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s allegation that the royal family expressed concerns about how dark their baby’s skin would be. Harry said racism in the British media was a “large part” of why he left the country, adding: “Unfortunately, if the source of information is inherently corrupt or racist or biased, then that filters out to the rest of society.”

Source: British Government’s ‘Gaslighting’ Report on Racism Says Slavery Had Some Upsides