The Killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020, ignited a fire that thrust race, bias, privilege and prejudice into public consciousness and discourse like never before. For many this opened up uncomfortable, but vital, topics and conversations that challenged their beliefs, understanding and world view. For others, it created defensiveness and denial.
In the UK there is a sense of detachment to the subject of Racism, for many it is viewed as an American problem; “that” doesn’t happen here or “it’s all in the past”. It is all too easy to dismiss and condemn the actions in America without turning the lens back on ourselves.
So, is there a problem here in the UK – is the UK Racist to some degree? One way to approach the question is with data, so let’s look at a couple of areas. The below taken from the Government Ethnicity Facts & Figures website.
According to the 2011 Census, the total population of England and Wales was 56.1 million, and 86% of the population was White.
Within the remaining 14%, people from Asian ethnic groups made up the second largest percentage of the population (at 7.5%), followed by Black ethnic groups (at 3.4%), Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups (at 2.2%) and Other ethnic groups (at 1.0%). Remember this as we delve into the figures below.
If we look at who has been impacted by crime, it’s very similar figures across the board. 2018/19 figures show that the following percentage of people over the age of 16 reported being a victim of crime:
White – 15%
Black – 16%
Asian – 15%
Mixed Ethnicity – 19%
CRIME: STOP + SEARCH
Between April 2018 and March 2019, there were 4 stop & searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 38 for every 1,000 Black people.
In London, Black people were 12 times more likely to be stopped, compared with four times the previous year. Combined figures for England and Wales show black people were 40 times more likely to be stopped, up from 14 times in 2017.
When the ethnic make up of the city is calculated, it means a Black person was 11.8 times more likely to be targeted.
Even more alarming is that young Black men were stopped and searched by police more than 20,000 times in London during lockdown, the equivalent of more than a quarter of all black 15-24 year olds in the capital.
The figures show that only 21% of stops led to arrests, fines, drugs warnings or cautions.
Black people are over 3 times as likely to be arrested as White people, while Black women were more than twice as likely to be arrested as White women.
Although more likely to be arrested, a recent report suggests BAME groups are less likely to commit crime.
CRIME: SENTENCES + CUSTODY
Nearly 50% of inmates in prisons for young people in England and Wales are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Background.
In adult prison, this figure stands at 12% for England + Wales. Remember people racialised as Black only make up only 3.4% of population though.
The ‘custody rate’ is the percentage of offenders given an immediate custodial sentence, out of all offenders being sentenced in court for indictable offences. This data shows that:
Among juveniles, Black offenders had the highest custody rate, at 13.7%, compared with 9.9% for White and 10.3% for Asian juvenile offenders.
Black young males were just less than 60% more likely than White young males to be committed to the Crown Court for trial.
For adult males, this disproportionality was consistent across ethnic groups. For example, Black (40% more likely), Asian (62%), Mixed Ethnic (29%) and Other Ethnic (39%) men were more likely to be committed to the Crown Court for trial compared to white men.
Black (63% more likely), Mixed ethnic (36%) and Other Ethnic (54%) women were more likely to be committed to the Crown Court compared to white women. Strikingly, Asian women were greater than two times more likely to be committed to the Crown Court for trial relative to white women.
Black people are also more than twice as likely to die in police custody. According to the charity INQUEST, since 1990, more than 1,700 people have died in state custody; a disproportionate number of those people – 10% – were Black. In none of those cases has there been a single, successful prosecution for either murder or manslaughter against a police officer (or other State agent).
In Scotland, the family of Sheku Bayoh, a Fife resident who died in police custody in 2015, are still awaiting justice.
What does the above show? The above statistics are taken from the Government Ethnicity Facts and Figures website and government reports, not some shady corner of the internet, but a website dedicated to reporting disparity. They show a clear racialised pattern; disproportionate rates of stop and search, a greater likelihood of arrest and prosecution, as a pre-cursor to longer, more punitive prison sentences.
POSITIONS OF POWER
First published in 2017, Green Park and Operation Black Vote, developed the Colour of Power to graphically illustrate the lack of female and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in the upper echelons of the UK’s most powerful institutions.
The Colour of Power 2020, reveals that just 52 out of the 1099 most powerful roles in the country are filled by non-white individuals; just 4.7% of the total number compared to the 13% proportion of the UK population.
The research covers the top roles across 39 categories including central and local government, public bodies, the private sector, education, sport and charities. Fifteen of these categories had no ethnic minority representation at all at their top levels in 2020; five categories have seen a decrease in BAME individuals over the past three years and more than half the categories (21) have seen no change.
Some examples include:
Of the 12 political parties, none have BAME leaders.
When looking at the 98 CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, only 2 are BAME.
Within the 22 CEOs and Managing Partners of top law firms, only 1 is BAME.
Of the 20 CEOs of top advertising agencies, only 1 is BAME.
Amongst the 10 Managing Directors of TV broadcasters, not one is BAME.
Death rates from Covid-19 in England have been higher among people of Black and Asian origin than any other ethnic group. People of Bangladeshi ethnicity have about double the risk of dying from Covid-19 compared with White British people. The report by Public Health England, pointed to racism and discrimination as a root cause affecting health and the risk of both exposure to the virus and becoming seriously ill.
OTHER HIGH PROFILE EXAMPLES
The Windrush Scandal of 2018, where British Caribbean citizens were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in at least 83 cases, wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office. Even after their landing cards had also been destroyed in 2010, the government showed institutional ignorance and discrimination.
Figures released in May 2020 showed less than five per cent of claims under the Government’s Windrush Compensation Scheme have been paid out, with just 60 people receiving £362,996 in total from a compensation pot of £500m.
Or the treatment of a boy named Gerard during the recent Black Lives Matter Protest. As Michael Etienne writes in his piece; ‘We may be two decades on from Macpherson but as Gerard described it to Channel 4 News’ Symeon Brown, this incident captures much of what remains the same: a young Black man subjected to a racist assault, treated first as a suspect and left to fend for himself in the immediate aftermath; worthy of a search but not a police escort to safety: emblematic of a community that still feels and knows it is over-policed and under protected.’
Now back to the question at hand – Is the UK Racist to some degree?
Ask yourself that question again after reading the above. Your answer may make you now feel uncomfortable.
If you answered no, ask yourself why you still think and feel that? What have you read, learned or experienced that has shaped your view so strongly that we exist in a post racial society?
If you answered yes, you are accepting there is a problem in the UK.
Now you accept there is a problem – are you happy to let it persist? What action will you take to address systemic racism? There is no blueprint of what to do, just action required to combat racism whenever it is encountered.
Some are posting on social media. ⠀
Some are protesting in the streets. ⠀
Some are donating silently. ⠀
Some are educating themselves. ⠀
Some are having tough conversations with friends and family.
A revolution has many lanes – be kind to yourself and others who are travelling in the same direction.
Just keep your foot on the gas.