According to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, concerns that the UK is institutionally racist are not borne out by the evidence. Outcomes, apparently, have as much to do with social class and family structure as race.
This report reminds me of those done in the 1960s and 1970s that argued immigrant children can survive the colour bar of their parents if they work hard and are grateful to be British. Instead of being forward-thinking and engaging in a new debate on race, this new report is stuck in a time warp – it does not face the true realities of 2021.
We are in the middle of global pandemics of both Covid-19 and anti-Blackness. The inequalities and structural racism in our society have been long-established by previous independently commissioned reports highlighting lack of equality in the boardroom, deaths in custody, the impact of hostile environment on the Windrush Generation and racism in the criminal justice system.
Data on high educational achievement among certain minority ethnic young people have been well-known for some time, but it is disappointing that this report fails to look at other elements of education: school exclusion, racism in schools, and increasing demand for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and behavioural support. This is all part of a toxic environment involving new forms of transmission of racism, which are different from my experience of going to school, when a lot of us were classed as educationally subnormal and were told that going to university was not an option.
Without proper policies, accountability and change in public, private and voluntary sector institutions, young people who are of school age will be “lambs to the slaughter” like their parents and grandparents in dealing in higher education or the world of work. There, the pervasive nature of the legacy of enslavement and colonisation, mixed with a cocktail of everyday racism and microaggressions, will significantly impact or control their aspirations, and thus will have detrimental impact on their mental wellbeing. The report is denial of the past and future in a post-pandemic Brexit Britain.
We need to campaign for anti-racism; for progressive equalities legislation and a cultural shift to dismantle structural racism. And we must call out those people and institutions which have failed, and which are deliberately using culture wars as a pretext to block change and maintain the status quo.