March 31, 2021
From Stand Up To Racism (UK)

PRESS RELEASE… for immediate release

Wednesday 31 March

Demonstrators take a knee for George Floyd during a Refugees Welcome and Black Lives Matter protest rally in Glasgow organised by Stand Up To Racism Scotland. PA Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 6, 2020. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

“A commission led by people that deny the reality and existence of institutional racism was always going to be a whitewash” say anti-racist campaigners

Anti racist campaigners slammed the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) as a “whitewash and a cover-up for the government.” They argue that the individuals leading up the commission undermined from the outset the credibility of the commission of having any serious and meaningful impact on racism in Britain. 

Munira Mirza, the head of the No 10 policy unit, led much of the work in forming the commission on race and ethnic disparities. Mirza notoriously rejected the David Lammy review into racism in the criminal justice system saying ‘institutional racism’ is ‘a perception more than a reality’, and even condemned an audit of racial inequalities in public services commissioned by Theresa May. 

In 2017 in the Spectator Mirza wrote that “anti-racism is becoming weaponised across the political spectrum”. Similarly the Commission’s chair Tony Sewell  in Prospect magazine in 2010 wrote: “Much of the supposed evidence of institutional racism is flimsy.”

The Commission has controversially found that  education attainment of some communities is somehow evidence that Britain is a ‘model for other white-majority countries.’ Meanwhile students at Pimlico Academy are staging protests and calling for the Head Teacher to resign due to institutional racism.

Sabby Dhalu, Stand up to Racism co convenor said

“A commission led by people that deny the reality and existence of institutional racism was always going to be a whitewash and a cover-up for the government. Covid and the Black Lives Matter movement shone a bright light on institutional racism. We need action to eradicate it. Suggesting Britain should be regarded as a ‘model for other white-majority countries’ is an insult to all those who lost their lives due to racism.”

Weyman Bennett, Stand up to Racism co convenor said

“The most dangerous part of reading this report is the implication that where all ethnic minorities face a commonality is an anachronism. Racism it argues is about ‘narrative not about reality’, that it’s about perception not about fact. It celebrates victories which none of the authors fought for and barely understands the impact of policing on black communities, at a time when the powers of the police are being extended not limited.”

Stand up to Racism has called for a public inquiry like the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, into the disproportionate impact of a covid on BAME communities. The group says that since the Black Lives Matter movement and the evidence showing the disproportionate impact of Covid on African, Asian, Caribbean and other minority ethnic communities, the government has wrongly sought to downplay racism instead of taking serious action to address it. For example on Covid19 it claims geography and socioeconomic factors are more significant in explaining the disproportionate impact on BAME communities, when research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed race was a factor in of itself. 

Dhalu said

“Britain has had one of the worst covid death tolls and infection rates in the world, which have disproportionately impacted on BAME communities. We demand an independent public inquiry like the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry into this.” 

Bennett added

“Anti racist campaigners have long argued that poverty and bad housing sharpen racial divisions. The report whilst noting the Windrush scandal and Grenfell fire does not hold anyone near the government nor big businesses responsible. The report states responsibility for differential outcomes is simply the family or for absent black fathers –  a racist trope. Most disgustingly it dismisses the disproportionate death is simply a matter of urban living not one of neglect cuts in the services precisely because large black communities live there. This is a cover-up and a disgrace.” 

The report’s own conclusion states that: “We have tried in this report to present a new race agenda for the country, relevant to people from all backgrounds. Rather than just highlighting minority disparities and demanding the government takes action, we have tried to understand why they exist in the first place.” However campaigners argue it’s the government’s job to take action. 

Dhalu added

“The government agenda on downplaying racism is clear. At the same time as the announcement of this commission last year, the government attempted to censor the section on institutional racism of the Public Health England (PHE) which was eventually published due to public pressure and included very good recommendations working towards eradicating institutional racism in health.

“We didn’t need another commission on racism. We need action on implementing the PHE review, Lammy review on the criminal Justice system and the many other recommendations of previous reviews into institutional racism.”

There is a wealth of evidence illustrating institutional racism. On Covid19 the death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals has been more than 2.5 times that of the white population, according to stark analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The highly respected thinktank also found that deaths of people from a black Caribbean background were 1.7 times higher than for white Britons.

Other statistics showed that minority groups were over-represented by as much as 27% in the overall Covid-19 death toll. Additionally, 63% of the first 106 health and social care staff known to have died from the virus were black or Asian, according to the Health Service Journal.

Another effect of institutional racism in health is the negative experience of black women, with black women in Britain four times as likely to die in childbirth. 

Regarding the economy BAME communities have suffered the brunt of job cuts during the pandemic. The number of BAME communities in employment dropped more than 26 times the drop in white workers over the same period. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that 27 per cent of black people were finding it difficult to make ends meet, compared with 10 per cent of white people. 

ONS research also shows that unemployment for black, minority ethnic (BME) communities increased from 5.8 per cent to 9.5 per cent, an increase of nearly two thirds, between the final quarters of 2019 and 2020. The unemployment disparity rises to a staggering 13.8 per cent – more than three times the rate of white unemployment – for African and Caribbean workers. Unemployment is also higher for BME women at 10 per cent and is likely to worsen. 

In policing, during the period Boris Johnson became Prime Minister police stops and searches have increased. From 2017-18 to 2018-19 stops and searches increased from 1,836 to 9,599 in the Metropolitan Police Force as a result of the Home Secretary lifting section 60 emergency stop and search restrictions that were imposed by the May government. Black people are 4.3 times more likely to be stopped and searched. 

Mohammed Hassan died after police contact  in Cardiff earlier this year. His death follows many Black people that have died in police custody. The outcome of the trial of police officer Derek Chauvin charged with third degree and second degree murder of George Floyd in the US remains to be seen. However in Britain no police officer has ever been charged with the killing of any black person in police custody. In the criminal justice system black people are 9 times more likely to go to prison. Furthermore despite the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry many of the killers in racist murders are still at large. 

Dhalu further added that

“BAME communities more likely to die, be infected by Covid & more likely to be unemployed during the pandemic than white communities. BAME doctors & nurses died disproportionately, complained more of lack of PPE & felt targeted to work on Covid wards more than white colleagues. BAME communities especially African Caribbean communities disproportionately die in police custody or after police contact and still no justice for any of these. BAME communities more likely to be stopped and searched by police, more likely to be sent to prison. Scores of perpetrators of racist murders still walk free. This is evidence of institutional racism.”

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