The claim the UK is “a model to the world” on diversity echoes the “world-beating test and trace system” and “taking back control” contentions. They are all lies, and all Tory soundbites to delight a section of its supporter base that is very often in denial about these issues.
The mention of white working-class children underperforming in school versus black children set off one of the major alarm bells for me in this report. One of the classic rebuttals whenever we talk about institutional racism and especially white privilege is “what about the white working-class” how are they privileged?
It’s the idea that the problem must always be class and not a race and that it’s poor white people who in fact have it worse. Yet the report conveniently brushes past the fact that no matter how well black children do at GCSE when marked anonymously, social mobility is still lower than their white counterparts, and the gap in career prospects and progression the higher we go up the food chain gets even wider regardless of merit and education.
While some people stunned by the report may wonder how the government has such confidence to completely rubbish a subject as sensitive as racism publicly, it didn’t surprise me that the report came to this conclusion. The loophole is an age-old tory tactic which is if you find a few black or brown faces to say something isn’t racist, it cancels out the cries of hundreds of thousands of others’ lived experiences.
The daily poster child for this strategy in Parliament is Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch who is often used as the token to push the Government’s agenda, and it appears some of the criteria for the commission’s team was “minorities who don’t believe in racism”.
Critics of the government would be justified to think that from the onset, members appointed to this team seem to have been hand-picked for this reason. This is especially true when considering the history of institutional racism denial by Policy lead Munira Mirza and the stereotypically damaging articles written about black boys by the Commission chief Tony Sewell in the past.
When I attended the Black Lives Matter march last summer, I held a sign which read “The UK is not innocent”. I made that statement because as soon as discussions started about the horrific killing of George Floyd, the narrative by right-wing commentators began about how terrible it is in America and how we have no such things happening in the UK.
To them, my response would be simple – Stephen Lawrence, Joy Gardner, Smiley Culture, Sarah Reed, Mark Duggan and the list sadly goes on. The sensibility of the British stiff upper lip has overspilled into an attitude of sweeping race issues under the carpet and breeding a culture of national denial.
I protested because I knew that one day, I could have a baby boy and while giving birth to him, I would be five times more likely to die than my white friends.
I protested because that boy could then grow up to be a young man who is more likely to be expelled from school, eight times more likely to be racially profiled and stopped and searched by the police, and again the list goes on.
Yet, the government have told me today that my reasons for protesting were “well-meaning idealism” and essentially all in my head.
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Perhaps naively, I felt a sense of hope for a new day for race relations last summer when I saw the masses doing the work, having the difficult conversations and pledging to do better.
However, it feels that when it comes to the topic of race, we the people can take two steps forward, only for the people with real power and influence to bring us five steps back, and this comes from both directions of the political sphere.
On one hand, the government has sidestepped the Lammy report’s recommendations four years ago, only to do their own report which cites Lammy’s findings on discrimination in criminal justice with a tone of debunking myths and spin alluding that some of these publicly recorded racial disparities are “not as bad as they seem”.
On the other side of the political divide, we have Keir Starmer who was performatively kneeling for Black Lives Matter to show solidarity but then diminished the movement to what he called a “moment” to the BBC, while also doing little to tackle the anti-black racism exposed in the leaked internal report by Labour HQ.
It’s almost comical at this point that public political figures have the guts to wonder and ask questions about why there are such high levels of vaccine hesitancy and lack of trust in institutions and experts by minorities.
Time and time again minorities are not listened to or protected by the very institutions which are supposed to be there to serve and help us. The Race commission’s report denying what hundreds of thousands of people have lived and begged to changed ironically perpetuates the same level of silent institutional racism which the report denies is an issue.
Just as I was starting to lose hope after the news broke of the Race Commission’s findings, I heard about the students at Pimlico Academy just a few miles from Westminster who were protesting the school’s racist uniform rules against afro hair and colourful hijabs on the same day the government are telling us institutional racism doesn’t exist.
I’m starting to wonder; do I seriously have to rely on Gen Z’s no-nonsense attitude to racial injustice to see a meaningful change? It’s extraordinary that in the era of Black lives matter, the most reliable group that I saw to lead us down the road to racial equality today were schoolchildren in Pimlico, rather than our government.