Racism row reignites Brexit divisions

Claims of a whitewash over race and ethnic disparities report

Claims of a whitewash over race and ethnic disparities report

“Institutional racism in Britain does not exist.” You can almost hear the multiple thousands of shocked, disappointed, horrified and disheartened members of the public responding to these words with the phrase made famous by tennis legend, John McEnroe: “You can not be serious!” But that, in effect, was the conclusion reached last month by The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.

In fact, the commission went further in its 258-page report by saying the UK “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries.” Unsurprisingly the report has prompted outrage, with demands from many critics for Johnson to repudiate and withdraw it. An open letter from, amongst others, the race equality think-tank Runnymede Trust, civil rights campaign group Liberty, and Black Lives Matter UK, says the report “whitewashes” daily challenges faced by minority communities and that its claims have prompted “public incredulity and national indignation.” There are claims that the commission downplayed evidence of discrimination in areas including health, education, business, employment and criminal justice.

Co-incidentally, data from the Office for National Statistics, has revealed that more than 40 per cent of young black people aged between sixteen and 24 are currently unemployed, three times as many as their white peers. The data also shows that black youth unemployment has risen four times faster than for white youths since the introduction of lockdown. Some of those cited in the commission’s report have claimed they were not properly consulted and have subsequently distanced themselves from it. And there are accusations that the Prime Minister selected commissioners who would deliver politically convenient findings, with chair, Dr Tony Sewell, having previously written in a magazine article back in 2010 that “much of the supposed evidence for institutional racism
is flimsy.”

But as the row exploded, Johnson attempted to distance himself slightly when he commented, “I’m not going to say that we agree with every word.” The repercussions from the report began even before publication with Sam Kasumu resigning as the Prime Minister’s advisor for civil society and communities, a post with a remit to reach out to ethnic minority communities. Mr Kasumu, known to be unhappy with the Government’s position and direction on race, is believed to have quit in anticipation of the report hitting the media.

What our surveys show

A clear majority of 57% of those surveyed disagreed with the commission’s conclusion that there is no institutional racism in Britain. However, when that number is broken down between EU Leavers and Remainers, there is a significant difference, illustrating again that the way we voted back in the 2016 referendum reflects or shapes our views on many issues.

Leavers disagreeing with the commission numbered 44%, but a much higher figure, 70%, of Remainers said the same. When it comes to those who agree with the report’s findings of no institutional racism, the overall figure of 32% is split in the opposite way, with the Leavers being the higher percentage, at 42%, and Remainers at just 22%. The overall figure for those answering, “Don’t know,” was 11%.

When asked about the prevalence of racism in British society today, the disparity between Leavers and Remainers is also significant, as clearly demonstrated in our graphics. Overall though, 37% believe there is “A high level” of racism in our society and 44% believe there is “A fair amount”, while 14% said there is “A small amount” and, disturbingly, 3% answered “None.” The “Don’t knows” numbered 2%.


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