The response to the devastating murder of George Floyd in 2020 rippled across the globe, inspiring protests and inquiries into various countries own levels of structuralized racism. In the UK, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson set up Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities to examine inequality in the UK. The resulting document, which covers areas such as health, education, criminal justice and employment was recently published. The report paints a picture of a UK that is less marred by racial injustice than believed.
The Guardian summarized that it ‘says that while racism and racial injustice do still exist, geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all have a greater impact on life chances. The subsequent response to the report has been one of condemnation, experts have pointed out the gaping holes in its coverage and accused it of downplaying issues, misrepresenting expert views and cherry-picking evidence in order to paint a more positive picture of the UK’s race issues.
The full 258-page report made claims that there were very few ethnic disparities, that Britain was no long a system “deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities,” that hardship was instead due to issues such as family breakdown and geographical inequalities. It made claims that social media “amplifies racist views” and more, criticizing “bleak new theories about race that insist on accentuating our differences” and an “increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of white discrimination”.
The BBC wrote: ‘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”.’
Expert commentary and further reports in response to the ‘Race Report’ have demonstrated just how misleading these conclusions are. In one instance the report claims that stop and search is only four times as likely to target black people, however it only produces data for London, not the entirety of the UK – skewing the conclusions. Experts that were cited in the document have also claimed that they were not properly consulted and not tasked to produce research specifically for the commission. Many have highlighted how important it is not to play the presence of structural racism in the UK.
According to the Guardian there has been an ‘an outcry over the 258-page report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED), which claimed the term “structural racism” was “too liberally used” and that factors such as socioeconomic background, culture and religion had a “more significant impact on life chances”. Shortly after the report’s publication the government admitted that a “considerable number” of people giving evidence – particularly from ethnic minorities – had in fact told the commission that structural racism was a real problem.’
One section of the report discussed health, making such conclusions that ethnicity is ‘not a major driver of health inequalities.’ However, The Guardian reported: ‘Public health experts have condemned an official report on racial disparities in the UK as flawed and misleading for stating there was little evidence of systemic health differences due to ethnicity, saying the authors had “cherry-picked” data and lacked expertise.’
Adding quotes from Prof Azeem Majeed, head of the department of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, who said “It’s very poorly done, very weak, the panel doesn’t contain any health experts, and they overlook 30 or 40 years of evidence about health inequalities,” adding that health one of the areas that most affects minorities in the UK. Majeed added that it was “a political manifesto rather than an authoritative expert report”.
At a virtual event organized by De Montfort University, Doreen Lawrence, who has campaigned for justice for 18 years after her son Stephen was murdered in a racist attack, who said: “My son was murdered because of racism and you cannot forget that. Once you start covering it up it is giving the green light to racists. You imagine what’s going to happen come tomorrow. What’s going to happen on our streets with our young people? You are giving racists the green light.”
Lawrence said that when she first heard about the report “…my first thought was it has pushed [the fight against] racism back 20 years or more.” She pointed out how the report ignores the fact that it took eighteen years to get justice for the murder for her son, those people that experience structural racism, when an employer ‘speaks to them in a certain way’ or is denied a promotion. How the pandemic has shown structural racism exists – “we talk about the pandemic when you look at how many of our people have died, all the nurses, the doctors, the frontline staff, of Covid, and to have this report denying that those people have suffered?”