Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

UK race relations report strongly criticised

Published on: 1 April, 2021


A protester shows his fist during a Black Lives matter protest in Parliament Square London, 2020 [AP]

A protester shows his fist during a Black Lives matter protest in Parliament Square London, 2020 [AP]

A report commissioned by the UK government released on Wednesday concluded that the UK does not have a system that is ‘deliberately rigged’ against racial minorities.

The 258-page report was compiled by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, a  commission appointed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The report was strongly criticised by academics and opinion formers in the UK for downplaying structural racism in the UK. The UK government’s special adviser for civil societies and communities, Samuel Kasamu, resigned after the release of the report.

Kasamu has discussed the tension in Downing Street over race and previously said he considered resigning over fears the Conservative Party was pursuing a ‘politics steeped in division.’

The commission acknowledges that it was established as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the resulting upsurge of concern about race issues.

The commissioners state that the rise in identity politics is fuelling “pessimistic narratives” about race.

The report also states that the term structural racism was too ‘liberally used’ and that factors such as socio-economic background had a more significant impact on life chances.’

The commissioners further cited opinion polls showing there is wide acceptance among the population of the UK as a multi-ethnic society, they suggest social media ‘enormously amplifies racist views’.

The Labour Party MP David Lammy said the government missed an chance to address an  ‘overwhelming desire for change after Floyd’s killing.’


Health and Education

The report attributes poor outcomes in education in racial minorities to family, geography and poverty experienced from childhood onward.

The report also states that the evidence suggests that ‘ethnicity is not the major driver of health inequalities in the UK,’ the commissioners say, pointing to deprivation, geography and different levels of exposure to key risk factors as the main issues.

The report suggests that the lack of evidence of an impact on health outcomes casts doubt on whether black and South Asian communities are ‘suffering from systemic racism throughout their lives’ that negatively affects their health, education, income, housing and employment.

According to Robert Knox, senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool ‘the report fits fairly squarely into the Conservative Party’s ‘culture war’ agenda in relation to education and Britain’s imperial history, seeking a ‘nuanced’ account of the British Empire which plays down its violent and destructive nature.’

Diversity as commodity

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Knox says: ‘it is dismaying, if somewhat predictable, to see the report downplay structural racism, particular in light of the clear inequalities in relation to criminal justice and higher risk of dying from Covid.’

‘The report ignores the social and material dimensions of race in Britain today, instead choosing to set ‘race’ and ‘class’ against each other in a mechanical fashion. For instance it attributes higher Covid death rates to the fact that black and Asian people ‘are more likely to live in urban areas’ with higher population density and levels of deprivation; work in higher risk occupations’. As such, it obscures the fact that the overexposure of black and Asian people to these material risk drivers is precisely structural racism at work.’ says Knox.

Commenting on the report Christine Schwoebel-Patel, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick said: ‘Against the background of recent revelations of racism in the UK – from the urgency of the BLM movement to the global interest in endemic racism in the royal family – the government commissioned report reads like a nation branding exercise.’

Schwoebel-Patel says: ‘References in the report to an ‘Open Britain’ and revisionist histories of colonialism construct diversity as a marketable commodity.’