KATE OSBORNE: The need to set out a strategy for tackling systemic racism

Just two weeks ago, the Tory government’s new Race and Ethnic Disparities Report claimed that Britain is a model to the world of a successful multi-ethnic society.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 12:00 am
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2021, 2:55 pm
Whilst I fully understand the need to discuss what we as a country could do to work together to promote anti-racism and equality, the report is wholly inadequate in addressing much of the “systemic” racism that has been identified by those who gave evidence to the commission.

Yet the reality paints a rather different picture.

It was only 18 months ago when the United Nations special rapporteur for racial equality Tendayi Achiume said that Britain’s levels of inequality are so bad that it amounted to a “threat to democracy“.

This mirrors with the Government’s own report on race in the workplace, led by Conservative peer Ruby McGregor-Smith, who came to similar findings. Baroness McGregor-Smith said that racism in employment was costing Britain £24bn a year.

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Research from the TUC has also found that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) unemployment rose twice as fast during the Covid-19 pandemic than it did for white workers.

Recently, the TUC released further analysis to show that BAME youth unemployment had rocketed by 50% over the same period.

The Government’s harmful and dangerous Race and Ethnic Disparities Report clearly undermines the experiences of racism, harassment, and discrimination within our BAME communities.

It is important to remember that the report was released during a time the Government were trying to rush through a Bill that intended to criminalise protest and protect memorials more so than its own citizens.

The Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill would, if passed, give police greater powers to shut down and arrest demonstrators like the Black Lives Matter protesters.

Whilst I fully understand the need to discuss what we as a country could do to work together to promote anti-racism and equality, the report is wholly inadequate in addressing much of the “systemic” racism identified by those who gave evidence to the commission.

The report identifies the inconsistent way data is collected, but concludes there was no evidence of systemic or institutional racism.

The findings are at odds with almost every single report on race. It is at odds with the Human Rights Committee’s study, which found that 75% of Black people did not believe their human rights were protected equally to white people.

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Marsha de Cordova called the report an “insult” and argued that Labour would listen to the voices of communities. Sir Keir Starmer reiterated Labour’s commitment to introduce a Race Equality Act. These are essential steps, and we will wait to hear more details. In the immediate future, some will say this report has halted all the momentum following the Black Lives Matter protests last year, but it need not do. We need to continue to build bridges that address structural racism and address class inequalities – because this Tory government is failing on both measures.

The Government must now go back to the drawing board and set out its strategy for tackling the very real institutional and systemic racism that is undeniably present in our country.

Although the report states that the UK has made progress when it comes to getting rid of racism, this progress does not negate the fact that it continues to plague our society.

This is not the time to pat ourselves on the back to celebrate a job well done.

This is the time to continue to knuckle down, to rid our society from racism, prejudice and discrimination and create a fair Britain for all.

We do not need more reviews or commissions; we need to take accountability and action.