‘Increasingly polarised’ race debate must turn to concrete action – report

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The debate on race is increasingly polarised and “stuck” in angry arguments about language, and must turn to concrete actions to tackle racial inequality, according to a report.

An Agenda for Action set out a series of policy ideas to address racial disparities in British institutions including the NHS, schools, justice and employment.

The proposals from scholars, activists and experts from across the political spectrum include looking at the pay awards of NHS bosses who fail to tackle discrimination.

The chapter from NHS Confederation chairman Lord Adebowale also suggests that ministers should give an annual statement on the efforts being made to combat inequality within the health service.

Other ideas focus on tackling perceived unfairness from recruitment agencies towards black job candidates, reducing the use of stop and search in policing, and expanding so-called apprenticeship academies to reduce school exclusions that disproportionately affect black pupils.

A proposal to increase the diversity of senior civil service staff recommends a dedicated percentage of fast-stream joiners should be from an ethnic minority background.

Ryan Shorthouse, director of Bright Blue, one of two think tanks that edited the collection, said: “Political debate and attention on racism and racial inequality in the UK is stuck and increasingly polarised. We have a frustratingly circular debate about whether modern Britain is institutionally racist or not.

“Instead of our politics fixating on an academic debate about the terminologies for racism in modern Britain, it is desperately important to instead focus on specific and actionable ideas that will actually mitigate the racism and racial inequalities that manifestly still exist in this country.”

Sunder Katwala, director of the other think tank, British Future, said there is much public agreement on how to tackle discrimination “once the debate moves from theory to proposals for action”.

In a foreword, Labour MP Rupa Huq said: “We need to move beyond angry exchanges about language to a cool-headed discussion of the changes to policy that could make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Conservative MP Steve Baker wrote in another foreword: “If we can navigate these tricky conversations in a spirit of goodwill, somehow containing malign political actors exploiting division for electoral ends, the prize of a better society in which the colour of one’s skin matters no more than the colour of one’s eyes will be within our grasp.”