Racial disparity review labelled ‘insulting’ by politicians and campaigners

Emma Bowden and Luke Powell, PA
·4-min read

The shadow justice secretary has said black Britons are being “gaslighted” by a landmark report into racial disparity, which has been criticised for claiming there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK.

Labour’s David Lammy called the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, set up in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, an “insult” to anyone in Britain who has experienced institutional racism.

The report claims that Britain is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities” and that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all impact life chances more than racism.

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But anti-racism campaigners have branded the commission a “whitewash”, while unions said the report was “deeply cynical” and denied the experiences of black and minority ethnic workers.

Following the publication of the report, Mr Lammy, who is black, tweeted: “Tired of the endless debate about whether structural racism exists with little desire to actually address it.

“We are being gaslighted.”

Speaking on LBC earlier on Wednesday, the MP for Tottenham said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had “let an entire generation of young white and black British people down” with the report’s publication.

“This report could have been a turning point and a moment to come together.

“Instead, it has chosen to divide us once more and keep us debating the existence of racism rather than doing anything about it,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he believed that progress had been made in tackling racism, telling ITV’s Peston: “That’s not to say there aren’t instances of racism that of course exist in this country.

“But if I think about the things that happened to me when I was a kid, I can’t imagine those things happening to me now.

“And I think that’s a sign of the progress we’ve made as a country.”

Mr Sunak added that “not all ethnic minority groups are the same, people will have different experiences” and it was “important that we’re not complacent about that”.

Shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said the report was a “divisive polemic which cherry-picks statistics” and had insulted people from ethnic minorities by downplaying institutional racism.

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Sabby Dhalu, of Stand Up To Racism, said that both the coronavirus crisis and Black Lives Matter movement had “shone a bright light on institutional racism” and that “action” was needed 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,” she added.

Responding to a summary of the report prior to its publication, black studies professor Kehinde Andrews, from Birmingham City University, claimed the study was “not a genuine effort to understand racism in Britain”.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s complete nonsense.

“It goes in the face of all the actual existing evidence.

“This is not a genuine effort to understand racism in Britain.

“This is a PR move to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

“The evidence is clear, it’s been there for a long time around ethnic penalties in employment, around the problems in education, around the problems with policing.”

Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, said it was “deeply, deeply worrying” that the commission had denied the existence of institutional racism.

She said: “Frankly, by denying the evidence of institutional racism and tinkering with issues like unconscious bias training and use of the term ‘BAME’, I think they’ve insulted every ethnic minority in this country, the people who continue to experience racism on a daily basis.”