A commission of inquiry constituted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the wake of global Black Lives Matter protests last year has concluded that Britain may no be a “post-racial society” but it is “no longer” rigged against the interests of ethnic minorities.
The 12-member Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities chaired by internationally-acclaimed educationist Tony Sewell, a Black man, submitted its report on March 30. As one would expect, it was greeted with mixed feelings with many British voices online who have argued for the rights of minorities, expressing skepticism.
Writer and broadcaster Musa Okwonga tweeted earlier on Wednesday a link to a report on Black maternal mortality in UK hospitals: “A reminder: this is a UK government report that was quietly released late last year: “Black women five times more likely to die in childbirth – but NHS has ‘no target’ to end it”. This was one of several he posted with thoughts on the report.
The report argued that minorities are more likely to be affected by their social class and their family structure, for instance, the number of parents available. Race or the race factor is “becoming less important” and may not even matter at all in many people’s social mobility. The Sewell commission further explained that disparities may not be explained in terms of race.
Particular examples were cited in education where the report said ethnic minorities were likely to do just as well if not better than white children. This supposedly uninhibited access to education has “transformed British society over the last 50 years into one offering far greater opportunities for all”. The model was even recommended for white-majority countries coming to terms with multicultural identities.
Britain is also said to have reduced the racial income gap – not the wealth gap – to 2.3% between white Britons and other ethnicities. An even brighter photo was painted for the future where the report pointed out the pay disparity between whites and others 30 and below was not significant.
The report did recognize that there were certain communities that keep being “haunted” by historic racism, the result of which could impede the road to success for people.
But Sewell was quick to deny that such an example was institutional racism. He told the BBC that “[w]e found anecdotal evidence of this. However, evidence of actual institutional racism? No, that wasn’t there, we didn’t find that.”
Show Racism The Red Card (SRTRC), a leading anti-racist campaign in British schools, rejected the report, citing different statistics in public-police relations. For instance, SRTRC said a Black Briton is “nearly twice as likely to die” after coming into contact with a police officer. There were multiple also comments online expressing the belief that British police are more likely to attend to reports made by white people. Only 1.3% are Black (about 4% of Brits identify as Black).
But there are also fears among some ethnic minorities that the report is a gift to the British establishment and ruling Conservative Party to double down on certain policies.
Remi Joseph-Salisbury, a Black sociology professor in reaction to the report, wrote for The Guardian: “Given what we know about the views of Tony Sewell, and influential Conservatives such as Munira Mirza (British-Pakistani Director of Policy in the ruling government), who had a role in setting up the commission, it’s hard to escape the impression that it was written to fit a predetermined worldview.”