A coalition consisting of over 100 civil societies and non-government organisations (NGO’s) have submitted a damning report to the United Nations alleging that England is “systemically racist”.
The report, England Civil Societies Submission to the United Nations on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, was co-ordinated by the race equality think tank, The Runnymede Trust, and paid for by the publicly funded Equality and Human Rights Commission.
In parallel with the civil society organisations the Government also submits their own regular reports to the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (ICERD) examining the state of race and racism in England. These reports are usually every four years with the last one due in April last year, however this has yet to be submitted due to the pandemic.
The conclusion to the report found racial inequality has ‘escalated’ over the last few years, and claimed racism is ‘systemic’ in England and that legislation, institutional practices and society’s customs continue to combine to harm ethnic minority groups.
The findings also showed that inequalities exist across the areas of health, the criminal justice system, education, employment, immigration, and politics and pointed towards upcoming pieces of legislation saying they are cause for “particular alarm,” adding they would “threaten the rights” of black and ethnic minority people.
CEO of the Runnymede Trust, Dr Halima Begum said: “From stop and search to inequalities in maternal health; lower levels of home ownership to constraints on pay and professional opportunities, this report provides further evidence that taking a colour-blind approach to equality will not be the most effective way to achieve social mobility.”
The report, published in the wake of the online racial abuse faced by England’s black footballers following their defeat to Italy is in stark contrast to the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparity’s (Cred) UK race report, published by Tony Sewell.
When the UK race report was published the Runnymede Trust dismissed it as “a script that has been written for 10 Downing Street.” Ms Begum criticised the Prime Minister as an “entitled Bullingdon Club brat.” More than a dozen Tory MPs later wrote to the Charity Commission demanding an investigation into the Trust, claiming its criticisms of the Sewell report were made in “bad faith”.
Condemnation of April’s report also came from the director of Operation Black Vote, Lord Simon Woolley who said: “This new report is in direct contradiction of the ‘divisive and dishonest’ Sewell report that recently suggested there is no systemic racism in the UK.”
The Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 highlighted the urgent need to address glaring racial disparities in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the enjoyment of economic, civil, and political rights. In England, these protests were set against the backdrop of the Windrush scandal of 2018 and came in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis that disproportionately impacted Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups. It is estimated that had the white population experienced the same risk of death from Covid-19 as Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, there would have been 58,000 additional deaths between March-May 2020.
It wasn’t just poorer health outcomes that COVID-19 brought to Black, Asian and minority ethnic societies.
During the pandemic east and southeast Asian (ESEA) communities faced soaring racially aggravated violence and discrimination, mainly due to the virus being inextricably linked with China.
Labour MP Sarah Owen, who is Malaysian Chinese told the Commons in October last year: “An undercurrent of anti-Asian racism has plagued this country well before this pandemic started, but now the lid has been lifted and the far right have wrongly been given legitimacy to air their derision, violence and hatred.”
The Runnymede Trust say the report finds the government in breach of numerous articles of ICERD and that the government has failed to uphold and protect Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities’ enjoyment of economic, civil, social and political rights.
In defending the government, a spokesperson said that since its last ICERD report in 2015 the government had “made significant progress”. The spokesperson added: “The Runnymede Trust’s report contains many errors and is too simplistic in saying that structural or systematic racism is driving all the disparities outlined in their report”.
Despite reassurances from Whitehall the report authors suggest that the government need to urgently develop and implement a strategy to eliminate racial discrimination and advance race equality across all policy areas.
Additionally, in light of the low ‘success’ rate of stop and search, weighed against the negative impact on community trust in the police, the report implores the government to repeal the act that allows stop and search to take place.
With the upcoming government legislation, including the Electoral Integrity Bill, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the New Immigration Plan time, will tell if the report authors are correct when they say these could pose a “significant threat to ethnic minorities’ rights” are correct.