Commission On Race And Ethnic Disparities Finds "No Evidence" Of Structural Racism

Commission On Race And Ethnic Disparities Finds "No Evidence" Of Structural Racism

March 31, 2021

Earlier today, the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has now published its long-awaited, 264-page report.

The 10-member commission — which was appointed by the prime minister following last summer's Black Lives Matter protests — looked into ethnic and race disparities within education, employment, the criminal justice system and health.

As expected, scrapping the term 'BAME' is one of the report's central recommendations — a decision that caused major concern among campaigners when the news leaked earlier this week — as are shorter school days and a move away from unconscious bias in favour of evidence-based practices to encourage fairness in the workplace.

Most controversially of all, however, is the commission's assertion that there was "no evidence" of structural racism and that the UK "should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries" — all of this in spite of last year's report by the UK Parliament Human Rights Committee that said the opposite.

Among their 24 recommendations are:

  • Scrap the use of 'BAME'
  • Extended school days, starting with disadvantaged areas, as part of a "bold intervention" to help pupils catch up on missed learning during the pandemic
  • Access to better quality careers advice in schools for children from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Further research into reasons why pupils in certain communities perform better than others to see if those conditions can be replicated in other communities and areas
  • For organisations "to move away from funding unconscious bias training" and the government "to work with a panel of academics and practitioners to develop resources and evidence-based approaches of what does work to advance fairness in the workplace"

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, ahead of the report's publication, commission chair Tony Sewell said: "No-one denies and no-one is saying racism doesn't exist. We found anecdotal evidence of this. However... evidence of actual institutional racism? No, that wasn't there, we didn't find that."

Sewell also added that the term "institutional racism" was "sometimes wrongly applied" and instead used as a "sort of catch-all phrase for micro-aggressions or acts of racial abuse".

Prof Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, said: "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."

Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, rejected Sewell's assertion that institutional racism doesn't exist, saying: "Tell that to the Black young mother who is four times more likely to die in childbirth than her young white neighbour, tell that to the 60% of NHS doctors and nurses who died from Covid and were black and ethnic minority workers.

"You can't tell them that, because they are dead.

"Institutionally, we are still racist, and for a government-appointed commission to look into (institutional) racism, to deny its existence is deeply, deeply worrying."

She added: "We feel that if the best this government can do is come up with a style guide on BAME terminology, or what we should do about unconscious bias training, or extend a few school hours, then I'm afraid this government doesn't carry the confidence of black and ethnic minority communities any longer, certainly not on race."

Words: James Keith
Photography: Alisdare Hickson