Now, in an open letter, several thinktanks including Runnymede Trust, civil rights campaign group Liberty, besides others are urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reject and withdraw this report. They claim it “whitewashes” daily challenges faced by minority communities and that its conclusions have prompted “public incredulity and national indignation”.
Rabina Khan, Liberal Democrats Councillor for Tower Hamlets was only 3 years old when she came to the UK in 1972. Growing up in Rochester, hers was the only family of colour living in their street before she moved to Tower Hamlets in 1991 and began her career in London.
Commenting on the report, she said, “The Government’s race report has failed to include the very real lived experiences of people of colour and what we perceive as racism, whether in school, the workplace, or within our health services. An accurate, unbiased report cannot be compiled without interviewing and including the experiences of those affected.
Failure to record lived experiences of people of colour
“I recall my father had tried to purchase his first property in the late ’70s and the bank continued giving excuses to grant him his mortgage. It was only when he took his white foreman with him that the white bank manager caved in. Because he saw another white man endorsing my dad’s mortgage application. Years later my husband and I started living in London with our extended family and found that when we tried to rent, estate agents would increase the prices when they heard our names, but the prices remained the same when white potential renters called to rent. One day I said my name was Ruby on the phone and when I met the estate agent at their office 10 minutes later the property was gone.”
The review behind the report was set up by Downing Street to investigate racial disparities in the UK in response to the Black Lives Matter protests last year. The commission’s report notes that while racism and racial injustice do still exist other factors including geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all have a greater impact on life chances. The 258-page report calls on the government to fully fund the Equality and Human Rights Commission, improve training for police officers and include a local residency requirement for recruitment. Within 24 recommendations it advocates establishing an office for health disparities, opening up access to apprenticeships, teaching an “inclusive curriculum”, and putting a stop to use of the term BAME.
It focuses significantly on education, which it describes as the single most emphatic success story of the British ethnic minority experience, where children from many ethnic communities do as well or better than white pupils, with black Caribbean students the only group to perform less well.
High graduate unemployment in Tower Hamlets
Speaking about inequalities at workplaces and universities, Councillor Khan, shared her personal experience, “I still recall a senior role I had held in the regeneration sector. I had worked on the conceptual idea and written the project, but the white senior leadership decided that whilst it was a great idea it would be better for it to be delivered and presented by another staff with the same role. The other staff member was a white member.
“Throughout my years I worked to enable and empower Muslim girls to on to University and get a degree. Now many can’t get a job and find changing their names to fit in is easier and removing their veil. Whilst Bangladeshi and Indian students are doing better at school this is not translated into the workplace as unemployment is still low. In boroughs like Tower Hamlets, graduate unemployment is high.
“The angry furore and backlash over the Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparity report which found no evidence of institutional racism just proves that whilst the UK is good at calling out individuals on racism. The UK still finds it hard to call out the systematic inequalities that amplify institutional racism. The Government’s race report conveniently provided the narrative for some people to downplay the underlying cause of racial inequality stems from institutional racism.”
250 health professionals warn about “dangerous” denial of structural racism
In the meantime, about 250 public health professionals have written a letter condemning the government’s recent report on race and ethnic disparities, saying its “dangerous” denial of structural racism distorts the key causes of health inequalities in the UK. The letter notes that Black babies in the UK have over twice the risk of being stillborn and black mothers have four times the risk of death in childbirth. At the end of life, the Black Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people live up to nine years fewer in full health, it notes. It further highlights that Black men are still more likely to die from coronavirus than white men, once socioeconomic factors are accounted for. And Bangladeshi and Pakistani people continue to experience a considerably higher risk of death compared to white people, research has shown.
In an interview with Asian Voice earlier this year, Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, Chair Council of the British Medical Association had explained, “We have learnt through this pandemic that this inequality is unfair on those affected by it primarily, the BAME doctors, and therefore, has a detrimental effect on the NHS. We need to change the culture of the NHS at its core. The current culture in the NHS is such that a doctor from the BAME background is twice as likely to be bullied and harassed. They are more likely to be referred to disciplinary processes than their white colleagues even though there is no concrete evidence to indicate that they are worse doctors. They were and are warier of speaking out and challenging the authorities.
“We need to look beyond superficial commitments around tick-boxes and namesake appointments. To address the root causes of bullying, workplace harassment and discrimination, we need a cultural transformation in the NHS. We need to transform the way that medical leaders, managers and directors address the subject of institutional inequality. This transformation needs to unleash and maximise the potential of our NHS workforce.”
Scrapping unconscious bias
Additionally, the review recommends that unconscious bias training should be scrapped for employees and replaced with more effective practices, urging organisations and firms to pull the plug on such sessions because they do not tackle disparities in the workplace. It said “intense soul-searching” of some employers in the wake of last year's Black Lives Matter protests has amounted to 'tick-box exercises' that don't get results. Instead, it recommends funding be diverted to developing core skills that could benefit disadvantaged employees. But many taxpayer-funded bodies such as the Met Police, the NHS and the BBC are still believed to implement unconscious bias training for staff.
Commenting on the report Lord Karan Bilimoria and President of the CBI said, “When it comes to supporting the career progression of ethnically diverse employees, transparency is the watchword. And while progress has been made, there is a long way to go.
“Closing the UK’s ethnicity pay gap is about making our society fairer and more inclusive. But there’s a strong business case too. Diverse companies perform better on every metric. Disclosing ethnicity pay gaps is one of the most transformative steps a company can take to address race inequality at work. Publishing a clear action plan to tackle any disparities - and reporting on the progress made – is key to turn momentum into lasting change.
“As president of the CBI, alongside Aviva, BiTC, Brunswick, City Mental Health Alliance, Cranfield University, Deloitte, Linklaters, Microsoft and Russell Reynolds in October we launched Change the Race Ratio – a campaign to increase racial and ethnic participation in British businesses.”
Former Met Officer distances himself from the report
The review arrives a week after the City of London Police Authority Board (PAB) agreed on proposals to work with the City of London Police to ensure that the force is representative of the community that it serves. Under the plans, the PAB will challenge the force to recruit at least 40% BAME officers for the remainder of the Home Office uplift programme and to use other recruitment processes to address gender imbalances and ensure representation of all protected characteristics.
According to police workforce data made available by the government, between 2007 and 2020, the percentage of police officers from every ethnic minority group went up – the biggest increase was for Asian police officers (from 1.5 to 3.1%). But the figures are striking if the percentage of police officers in the proportion of the ethnic communities they represent are to be factored. 3.1% of police officers from ethnic minority backgrounds represented the 6.8% Asians according to Census 2011. Whereas 92.7% of officers represented the 86% white community. But proportional representation in the police forces is not the only area of concern. Nearly two years ago, Parm Sandhu had commenced legal action against Met Police while claiming she was denied promotion and work opportunities based on her race and gender.
Dal Babu a Metropolitan police chief superintendent and one of the UK’s most senior British Asian officers had also quit the force citing racial discrimination and was similarly rejected for promotion. In his statement to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said he regretted taking part in an evidence-gathering Zoom session for the commission’s report.
“It was a Fawlty Towers-like experience. We were told it was going to be ex-BAME police officers. I turned up and it was youth workers … a whole hotchpotch of individuals. We raised concerns that we ex-police officers talked about and then they stopped the meeting [and] got rid of some people who were not supposed to be on there.”
Asian Voice approached Dal Babu on multiple occasions but he could not be reached. Others have also spoken about how institutional racism has impacted their career.
Calling for brand justice and proportional representation in the media industry
Javed Husain, Founder/Media Director Mediareach said, "I welcome and acknowledge the initiative and the work done in the review. What I challenge is the intention. Is it a cover-up? Or a genuine attempt to address the needs of our hurting society?
“To create a truly multicultural Britain we need to see that culture, religion and racial richness aretaken into consideration by the decision makers.
“How can the advertising and communication industry take action when monitoring methods such as BARB and RAJAR are flawed? The data supports 70% mainstream audience and has been unjust to the multicultural media community for years.
“Brands need to work with communication agencies or practitioners
who understand the multicultural communities and media landscape. I am asking for 'Brand Justice' and calling on educating the communication industry and planners.
“We need good and honest representation of ethnic people who serve the community at different levels of the establishment in Government and private sector. It is great that boardrooms are changing but unfortunately, they reflect a shift in gender pay gap and not ethnicity pay gap.”
Jewish community upset about failure to address anti-Semitism
Some members of the Jewish community have also spoken about how their concerns around anti-Semitism have remained unaddressed.
Zaki Cooper, Co-Chair of BIJA (British Indian Jewish Association) said, “Jews are both a religion and an ethnic community. We have been in the UK since resettling in the mid-seventeenth century and integrated over time. The community tends to show high levels of education, employment levels and other measures of achievement in public life. However, there are two important qualifiers. There are still elements of the Jewish community which are not particularly well integrated. Also, there is still anti-Semitic prejudice against Jewish people operating at different levels.”
Jonathan Metliss, Chairman of Axiom Stone Solicitors, Action Against Discrimination and The Jewish Weekly noted, “Although the report has been condemned by many as divisive, the issue of racism has been formally raised in public, there is a healthy debate and society has been made aware that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by real and effective action. However, the report does smack of complacency. Clearly, more needs to be done to address racism in society, whether it be by education or criminal sanctions.
“There are three areas I would like to address specifically. First, the racism against black footballers, both on the internet and generally which occurs on a regular basis, is unforgivable and needs to be addressed, not just by words, but by effective action.
“Second, I chair a multicultural and racially diverse law firm and still believe that there is a lack of racial integration in the legal profession on the whole, especially in the City of London.
“Third, the report appears to make no reference to the existence of anti-Semitism, which remains alive in society, as was seen with the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. The Jewish Chronicle has recently reported that anti-Semitism remains strong in the Starmer Labour party. Anti-Semitism in UK football still exists and raises its ugly head both on the internet (against Israeli footballers and more recently on the Aston Villa website) and the chanting of the word “Yid” by Tottenham Hotspur supporters attracts abusive and anti-Semitic responses. In Britain, there is also much anti-Semitism under the surface. Notwithstanding the general condemnation, the report should not be wasted, the debate must continue and there is much more to be done and achieved.”
The commission’s report concluded that the UK is not yet a "post-racial country" - but its success in removing race-based disparity in education and, to a lesser extent, the economy, "should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries". It must be noted that several recommendations of the report were made decades ago in the Scarman report, which was commissioned by the Thatcher government after the 1981 Brixton riots.