A major review into racial equality has been accused of being “insulting” and “divisive” by claiming that the UK is no longer institutionally racist.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said the UK is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged” against ethnic minorities.
But No10 was criticised for a “basic own goal” after the report was released late to selected journalists with strict orders not to seek reaction.
The Boris Johnson-ordered review suggested the UK should be a “model” for other countries because of its success in improving equality.
But the report, commissioned after the Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests last summer, was accused of “glorifying” the slave trade.
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The 258-page review suggested children should be taught the “slave period” was “not only about profit and suffering” but “how culturally African people transformed themselves”.
Race relations think-tank the Runnymede Trust said it felt “deeply let down” by the findings. Director Halima Begum said: “All this is a whitewash and a script that has been written to 10 Downing Street.”
Commission chairman Dr Tony Sewell claimed some communities are “haunted” by historic racism which led to a “deep mistrust” and could be holding them back.
Yesterday’s report criticised “bleak” thinking among some anti-racist campaigners who seek to blame all disparities on white discrimination.
It claimed that white prejudice is “dwindling” and those campaigners “divert attention” from other reasons for minority success and failure. Dr Sewell claimed while racism is a “real force” in Britain, particularly online, there is no proof that institutional racism exists. He said: “Disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few are directly to do with racism. Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation.”
The study concluded factors other than race – including family, geography and deprivation – had a bigger impact on life chances. “No one denies and no one is saying racism doesn’t exist,” he said. “We found anecdotal evidence of this. However, evidence of actual institutional racism? No, that wasn’t there, we didn’t find that.”
Critics questioned the suitability of Dr Sewell and No10 policy chief Munira Mirza, who set up the commission, who have previously questioned the existence of institutional racism.
He said it is an “insult to anybody and everybody across this country who experiences institutional racism”. Runnymede’s Dr Begum said: “Institutionally, we are still racist, and for a Government-appointed commission to look into [institutional] racism, to deny its existence is deeply, deeply worrying.”
She added: “I’m absolutely flabbergasted to see the slave trade apparently redefined as ‘the Caribbean Experience’, as though it’s something Thomas Cook should be selling – a one-way shackled cruise to purgatory.”
Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Marsha de Cordova said: “To downplay institutional racism in a pandemic where black, Asian and ethnic minority people have died disproportionately and are twice as likely to be unemployed is an insult.”
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “Only this Government could produce a report on race in the 21st century that gaslights BAME people and communities. It’s immoral.”
Prof Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, said the report is not a “genuine effort” to understand racism.
He said: “It’s complete nonsense. It goes in the face of all existing evidence. This is a PR move to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”
The TUC’s Frances O’Grady said it had “chosen to deny” experiences of minority ethnic and black workers who are far more likely to be in low-paid, insecure work.
NHS Providers said there is “clear and unmistakable” evidence that NHS ethnic minority staff have worse experiences than white colleagues.
The report found pupils from ethnic communities did as well or better than white children. Black Caribbean pupils were the only group to do less well.
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It said the UK is not yet “post-racial” but its success in removing race-based disparity in education “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries”.
But it failed to mention the difficulty of getting jobs, and the fact that black Britons are paid less and have higher unemployment rates.
Boris Johnson said ministers would consider the recommendations.
The Prime Minister added: “The entirety of Government remains fully committed to building a fairer Britain.”
Some of the key conclusions
- Challenge racial discrimination by tackling racist abuse online and also by increasing EHRC funding so they can use enforcement and litigation powers.
- Review how the CQC, which inspects hospitals and care homes, takes account of the diversity of staff.
- Improve transparency of all public sector organisations making policy and funding decisions based on algorithms.
- Police chiefs and BAME communities to set up “safeguarding trust” groups to hold local forces to account on stop and search, use of force and misconduct.
- Police chiefs to draw up plan for improved use of stop and search, and give officers de-escalation training.
- Department for Education to see how to emulate success of children from communities such as Chinese and Indian to all backgrounds.
- More funding to reduce educational gap faced by the most disadvantaged children.
- Bosses to ditch unconscious bias training in favour of sponsorship and skills training, with research on what works in creating a level playing field.
- All companies that publish their ethnicity pay gap figures to break this up by ethnic group and publish an action plan to narrow any disparities.
- NHS England to review its ethnicity pay gap and set out a plan to tackle discrimination where it is found.
- Set up Office for Health Disparities, to improve life expectancy in all groups.
- Tackle disproportionate number of ethnic minority young people going into criminal justice system due to low-level Class B drug possession by referring them to drugs course instead.
- Extend school day urgently, initially prioritising most disadvantaged areas.
- Police officers who fail to switch on bodycams during stop and search must provide written explanation to their boss, which stopped individual has right to see.
- Poorer children to have access to better quality careers advice, funded by university outreach.
- Highly targeted apprenticeships campaign to persuade people to do apprenticeships in growth sectors.
- HSBC to work with universities to pilot enterprise programme for under-represented and low-income backgrounds. Other banks to follow.
- Youth offending teams to set up mobile apps, text line or chatbots for young people at risk of being drawn into criminality and offer local support.
- Review to look at how parents can be supported to navigate education, work and the justice system.
- Independent experts to produce teaching resources so the contributions made by different communities to this country are embedded in curriculum.
- Create police forces that better represent the communities they serve.