Liberal Democrat statements on the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report
The Conservative government this week released the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities on race and ethnicity in the UK. While I concede that there are some sensible recommendations embedded in there, the headline finding was that institutional racism is not an issue in modern Britain.
One of the key areas of focus of the Commission’s report is on education, looking at educational attainment (i.e. grades) of students from differing backgrounds. In particular, it argues that white working-class (predominantly male) children perform worse at school than black children – this, they suggest, is evidence that the UK is not institutionally racist.
However, this also demonstrates how the report picks and chooses its findings. For example, the report does not highlight that the difference in attainment between white working-class children and black Caribbean (British) heritage children is negligible. Similarly, after leaving school, white working-class children are then significantly more likely to be in work and earn more while in work. White university students perform significantly better in Higher Education (irrespective of socioeconomic status) and go on to earn more following graduation. It also overlooks exclusion rates in school. Black Caribbean and mixed-race students are three times more likely to be expelled from school, with all of the life-long implications this then has. This Commission has decided to pick and choose its evidence.
In healthcare, black people in the UK are six times more likely to be sectioned; black women have a mortality rate that is five times higher than the UK average and have an infant mortality rate which is twice that of the UK average.
In the justice system, black men are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched and young black people (under 16s) more likely to be given a criminal record for the same crimes as white children.
Also overlooked are the disproportionate impacts of Covid on black communities; the hostile environment which deported the Windrush generation who came to our country to help us rebuild after the war; and the Grenfell tragedy, which highlights the disproportionate impacts of poor housing on global majorities in this country.
We should probably not be surprised at this from a government whose Home Secretary described Black Lives Matter as ‘dreadful’, but a report which picks and chooses evidence in order to make a pre-ordained conclusion is abhorrent.
Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece (our Equalities spokesperson in the House of Lords) commented: "The Report is suggesting the Government wants to 'change the narrative' and deny that institutional racism is a reality in the U.K, rather than take action to change society to make it fairer, and more equal."
Statement on the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities
Isabelle Parasram - Liberal Democrats Vice President
The Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has missed the opportunity to make a clear, bold statement on the state of race equality in this country, to expose the real issues and to make recommendations that would address them in a decisive and comprehensive manner.
The evidence and impact of racism in the UK is overwhelming - ethnic minority communities are at a disadvantage in almost all sectors of society, most notably in education, healthcare, criminal justice, housing and employment.
The global pandemic has only served to highlight this inequality.
It is therefore astonishing that the Commission should take the approach that it has done in painting the state of race equality in the UK in such a positive light.
In suggesting that the UK has become open and fairer than it was in the past, in pointing to instances of success amongst minority communities and in suggesting that individuals and communities seeking to close the disparity gaps should not ‘...wait for invisible external forces to assemble to do the job,’ the Commission seems to be ignoring both the data and the lived experiences of ethnic minority people that tell a different narrative.
Whilst some of the recommendations made in the report are helpful, they fall far short of what could have been achieved.
On a day when I was both reading this report and watching the trial of Derek Chauvin, I could not fail to note the irony.