Race and racism ‘less important in explaining social disparities’ – reporton March 31, 2021 at 2:27 am

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Inequalities in the UK have as much to do with social class and family structure, a report says.

Black Lives Matter protests

image copyrightAFP/ Getty Images

Race and racism have become less important factors in explaining social disparities in the UK, a government-commissioned review has concluded.

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, set up after Black Lives Matter protests, found social class and family structure had a bigger impact on how people’s lives turned out.

Concerns the UK is institutionally racist are not borne out by the evidence, the commission says.

But overt racism remains, it adds.

The commission was set up in response to anti-racism protests across the country last summer – triggered by the killing of George Floyd in the US.

The main findings were:

  • Children from ethnic communities did as well or better than white pupils in compulsory education, with black Caribbean pupils the only group to perform less well
  • This success in education has “transformed British society over the last 50 years into one offering far greater opportunities for all”
  • The pay gap between all ethnic minorities and the white majority population had shrunk to 2.3% overall and was barely significant for employees under 30
  • Diversity has increased in professions such as law and medicine
  • But some communities continue to be “haunted” by historic racism, which is creating “deep mistrust” and could be a barrier to success

The commission’s report, which is due to be published later, 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”.

Chairman Tony Sewell, an education consultant and ex-charity boss who led the review, said: “The effect of education is transformative on individuals but also their families and their communities – sometimes within a generation.

“Another revelation from our dive into the data was just how stuck some groups from the white majority are.

“As a result, we came to the view that recommendations should, wherever possible, be designed to remove obstacles for everyone, rather than specific groups.”

Tony Sewell

The 264-page report makes 24 recommendations which include:

  • Extended school days to be phased in, starting with disadvantaged areas, to help pupils catch up on missed learning during the pandemic
  • Children from disadvantaged backgrounds should have access to better quality careers advice in schools, funded by university outreach programmes
  • More research is needed to examine why pupils perform well in certain communities, so this can be replicated to help all children succeed
  • The acronym BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) should no longer be used because differences between groups are as important as what they have in common
  • Organisations should stop funding unconscious bias training, with government and experts developing resources to help advance workplace equality

Dr Sewell added: “Creating a successful multi-ethnic society is hard, and racial disparities exist wherever such a society is being forged.

“The commission believes that if these recommendations are implemented, it will give a further burst of momentum to the story of our country’s progress to a successful multi-ethnic and multicultural community – a beacon to the rest of Europe and the world.”

The report had been due to be published last year but was pushed back until 2021, with the commission blaming Covid restrictions and the large number of responses from the public for the delay.

At the time of its launch, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that although there was much more to be done to tackle racism, he wanted to “change the narrative” to highlight stories of success among those from ethnic minority backgrounds and “stop a sense of victimisation and discrimination”.

The race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust said last year that it was concerned by signs the commission intended to “downplay” the impact of racism on the lives of black and other minority ethnic people.

The full report will be published on Wednesday at 11:30 BST.

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  • The Race Disparity Audit, published by then Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017, showed inequalities between ethnicities in educational attainment, health, employment and treatment by police and the courts
  • The 2017 Lammy Review found evidence of bias and discrimination against people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the justice system in England and Wales
  • Also in 2017, the McGregor-Smith Review of race in the workplace found people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were still disadvantaged at work and faced lower employment rates than their white counterparts
  • An independent review of the Windrush scandal, published in March, found the Home Office showed “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race”
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