Institutional racism exists and we need to tackle its root causes – the rest is a distraction
In response to the report by the government-appointed Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has expressed its deep concern that the independent Commission set-up to give voice to ethnic minority communities on their experiences of racism, detailing the drivers of institutional racism and structural disparities across society, has instead undermined the very fact that institutional racism exists.
Its conclusions in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, and when the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minority communities has laid bare racial disparities in stark terms, indicates an exceedingly worrying disconnect from well established and evidenced discourse on equalities and race-relations.
From healthcare to education and the criminal justice system, institutional racism is, in fact, far more deeply embedded than is acknowledged, including, for example:
- 60% of the first NHS doctors and nurses to die were from minority communities
- 2% of White British households experienced overcrowding compared with 30% of Bangladeshi households
- Muslim men were up to 76% less likely to have a job of any kind compared to white, male British Christians of the same age and with the same qualifications
- Black Caribbean students in England are almost five times more likely to be excluded than their white peers in some local authorities
- Less than 1% of University professors identify as black
- The likelihood of receiving a prison sentence in 2018 for drug offences was 240% higher for defendants from minority communities than their white counterparts
- 48% of all children in custody in 2019 were from minority backgrounds
- 4 stop and searches for every 1,000 white people, compared with 38 for every 1,000 black people between April 2018-March 2019
Even if one were to ignore the structural issues and focus merely on racism and individual social attitudes, the report’s lack of acknowledgement of Islamophobia as a type of racism, means that the stubbornly high negative attitudes towards Muslims, were not recognised as a concern. Islamophobia, in fact, remains a pervasive racism, as per detailed in the MCB’s Islamophobia report.
Despite many other concerns with the report, including, for example, its wording around the slave trade and insufficient focus on Grenfell Tower and its consequences, there are recommendations which are welcome such as the establishing of a health disparity office, an investigation into ethnic pay disparities and devising of an inclusive curriculum. Integral to these recommendations, however, is the acknowledging of the structural and institutional roots of the inequalities that have been identified.
Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General of the MCB has said:
“The MCB will continue to champion anti-racist movements highlighting the importance of tackling racism at a structural level across society, be it in politics, media, healthcare, education, or criminal justice, whilst advocating for targeted interventions that address the unique experiences of the diverse range of ethnic minority groups that we represent. We must move forward, not backwards, on matters of equality, race and race relations.”