12 Apr V4CE Statement on the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report
Voice4Change England (V4CE) has the following response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report:
· It is necessary and vital to acknowledge where progress has been made, as the Report does
· Some of the recommendations are useful and pertinent in tackling race discrimination; particularly those that the Black and Minority Ethnic Sector has sought action on, for many years
· However, this is now overshadowed by the Report view that institutional discrimination is alleged, when other factors such as parenting, social background and class are bigger factors. This is not an either / or situation. There is no rigorous and clear evidence to substantiate the view that institutional discrimination is alleged when other factors are more significant.
· Without clarity on institutional or structural discrimination the recommendations become unclear – for example, what is the EHRC meant to enforce or the CQC to investigate if there is little corporate discrimination?
· The report does not show what it considers to be institutional or structural discrimination. Is there any understanding that this may not be through deliberate action of a few individuals, but rather to do with the unrecognised ethos of the organisation? And that this is why organisations commission reviews of unconscious bias?
· Evidence in sections, that assertive conclusions are based on, is selective.
· The report gives no clear direction on what expectations of the role of public institutions and political leadership should be in tackling race and ethnic disparities. What is the role of the State in this?
Given the problematic areas of the Report, we feel it is vital that the Black and Minority Ethnic Sector responds, as it has done, in a coordinated way to highlight where structural discrimination exists and what should be done to tackle this.
At V4CE we will take up our role as advocates for the Black and Minority Ethnic Sector. We will consult our members and communities to provide further analysis in response to the Report, which can give voice to those who feel they have been ignored or marginalised. We will start with the sections on education and the criminal justice system.
The Black Lives Matter movement raised issues concerning race and discrimination leading to the Government commissioning a report on this. The final report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities brings news of progress for many Black and minority ethnic communities in Britain. As V4CE Director, Kunle Olulode acknowledged in his opinion piece “There are aspects of the report that I think lend itself to demonstrating that we have made huge strides and progress over the last 50 years.” We feel it is important in such a sensitive and volatile field to acknowledge where progress has happened and we welcome this evidence.
We find some of the recommendations useful and pertinent, particularly those that the Black and Minority Ethnic Sector have been raising for a number of years.
However, this welcome evidence on progress and the useful recommendations are overshadowed by more troubling aspects of the report, as highlighted by the overwhelming and unanimous response from many communities, race equality and other voluntary organisations, and agencies. As Kunle put it “there are also disturbing points within the report that I think need further exploration and certainly need to be addressed.”
It is our view that the report lacks the rigour and detail to substantiate its apparent claims that there is little structural or institutional racism in Britain today: “We found that most of the disparities we examined, which some attribute to racial discrimination, often do not have their origins in racism …. there is also an increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of White discrimination. This diverts attention from the other reasons for minority success and failure, including those embedded in the cultures and attitudes of those minority communities themselves.”
The report fails to provide the detailed evidence to substantiate these broad remarks about culture and attitudes. If there is a quote, for example, on “immigrant optimism” that influences good educational outcomes there is no immigrant community or education sectoral evidence to show the basis of this. Neither is there evidence on poor parenting or cultural issues in particular communities nor any evidence on the link between this and educational or other failure. With this lack of factual evidence the inference is that all communities in the UK face these problems, and Black and minority ethnic communities that lag behind are too blame if they do not grasp opportunities or improve their lives.
If there are disparities, which the report does acknowledge, that have existed for a long time and continue to exist, such as higher rates of unemployment and poverty, there should be more comprehensive and robust evidence to clearly show the role structural discrimination does or does not play in this.
Reliance on one or two reports, as in the employment section, is not adequate. The substantial research on unemployment disparities which even this report concludes are double that of White communities, before COVID 19 impact, is notable in its absence. The report often concludes that poverty is a contributing factor but provides little to give any reason why ethnic minority communities suffer persistent and intergenerational poverty, decades after coming to the UK. Nor is there enough attention paid to why despite qualification levels some Black and minority ethnic communities suffer chronic underemployment, often only employed in certain sectors such as transport or catering.
References to other disparities, e.g. higher rates of COVID 19 among Black and minority ethnic groups, has cherry picked the evidence on why this is so, ignoring any other evidence e.g. that provided by the Runnymede Trust to show racism in the way PPE was distributed, or concerns and fears from minority ethnic staff not being listened to. [Runnymede Trust, Over-exposed and Under Protected: The Devastating Impact of COVID 19 on Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Great Britain, August 2020]. You cannot prove a lack of structural discrimination by ignoring the considerable body of evidence that exists to show where this is the case.
Equally troubling is the report’s lack of analysis of where or why political responsibilities and leadership may have failed – a key concern of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is exemplified by a throwaway comment on Grenfell and Windrush: “The more recent instances where ethnic minority communities have rightly felt let down – such as the Grenfell tragedy or the Windrush scandal – sparked genuine national grief over the traumatic loss of lives, and widespread anger and remorse over the mistreatment of fellow citizens.” The lack of leadership and the impact of action / non-action of local and/or national Government is not even given a mention. It appears to be alright if there was “genuine national grief” even though many of the survivors of both Grenfell and Windrush are still waiting for justice and compensation.
Britain, after the Second World War, felt that the public sector and elected Governments had an active role to play in tackling the barriers of poverty and disadvantages from birth. Where is this role now? Is there an impact in replacing publicly run services with those run by profit-making companies? Will public sector institutions and political leaders use this report to feel enough progress has been made to allow them to abdicate from this role in tackling inequality and ensuring inclusive services for all? How can any justification be made for this or the report’s conclusion that Britain is a beacon for other countries, when substantial evidence shows a huge growth in inequalities in the last two decades, as compared to other developed countries.
At Voice4Change England our role is to adequately represent our Black and minority ethnic communities and members. We cannot ignore the evidence we have collected through consultation with them to feed into external consultation and for our research, or the many testimonies we receive about racism – both individual and structural.
We see it as our role to publicise this evidence, to work in partnership with the many organisations and agencies that have similar evidence, and to continue to fight for change where we do find clear evidence of structural discrimination.
We will in the following months be using our own analysis of evidence from communities and from research to review the report’s findings. We aim to focus first on education and the criminal justice system as key areas where the report finds evidence of progress, reasons for lack of progress in certain areas and communities, and unexplained disparities that persist. We wish to look at the report’s assumptions of poverty and family life as larger contributory factors for Black and minority ethnic lack of progress and that these are distinct from structural discrimination. We will also outline where we feel the public sector and political leaders have a role to play in helping Britain become a fairer society and our assessment of how Government acts in fulfilling that role.
While our focus will be on the disparities caused by race and ethnicity, we have always found that far from being a competition between different areas of equalities, addressing inequality in one area, such as race, helps build structures that tackle inequalities in other areas and builds a strong foundation for a strong and inclusive society for all.