Campaigners criticise government race report – BBC Newsnight

the publication of today's report on the killing of stephen lawrence must lead to new attitudes a new era in race relations and a new more tolerant and more inclusive britain one young black girl had to change her name to elizabeth before she got any interviews at all this in 21st century britain is disgraceful that means fighting against the burning injustice if you're black you're treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you're white seminal moments passionate debates and at times profound disagreements a country grappling with a troubled history on race amid the differences and overarching consensus minority communities whose parents and grandparents crossed oceans to make their home here do face discrimination on the grounds of race but now a different approach we don't deny the existence of racism a government commissioned report describes racism as a real force in the uk but it says we no longer see a britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities the impediments and disparities do exist they are varied and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism too often racism is the catch-all explanation and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined the report also challenges thinking by suggesting that slavery needs to be talked within a wider context it says there is a new story about the caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally african people transform themselves into a remodeled african britain the chairs own words but dr tony sewell's wider argument on race chimes with ministers who believe that the debate has been harmed by thinking from the u.s known as critical race theory this theory which is not mentioned in the report challenges traditional liberal thinking and suggests that white people benefit from structural advantages thank you donald trump is no fan of the theory students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory this is a marxist doctrine holding that america is a wicked and racist nation and in britain ministers say the theory has become overly politicized i want to speak about a dangerous trend in race relations that has come far too close to home to my life and this is the promotion of critical race theory an ideology that sees my blackness as victimhood and their whiteness as oppression i want to be absolutely clear this government stands unequivocally against critical race theory boris johnson is not afraid and in fact revels in confronting established political thinking he did after all warner said as prime minister the plaster would occasionally come off the ceiling well this report commissioned by his government certainly does that as it marks a rupture with recent thinking on race an iconic figure in black british political history is dismayed i think this report actually takes us backwards in the debate on race because you can't get racial justice if you're not willing to acknowledge there's an issue and this report is actually taking us backwards and saying it's about class it's about other things of course race and class and geography interact but we know the stats point us to the fact that race is an issue and to turn your back on it is very sad news for britain's black and brown communities a conservative backbencher welcomes fresh thinking i think it is a departure because frankly i think the previous consensus was lazy we could say that the only reason why certain groups appeared to do less well in in different aspects was simply just down to racism now there's no doubt racism exists but actually it's much more complex class plays a big factor income plays a big factor geography the type of jobs people do they all play a big factor and these are a complex interplay of things that we need to look at in detail and not just lazily say institutional racism and assume that there's nothing else we need to do we need to look at all of these things in a lot of detail and this report which is almost 300 pages does that working together a vision of harmony but the debate over race in britain still has a long way to run the government didn't want to be interviewed tonight and the report's lead author wasn't available to us after the publishing of the report's recommendations but earlier i spoke to samir shah who sat on the commission first of all ask the viewers to read the report if they can it's rather big but there's a good and efficient summary so you can get at it so you don't have to listen to what uh i'm sorry to say about the predictable distractors have said i think the key thing i'd say to our to your viewers is that is that yes we did find there were race disparities which you are asked to look at but when we examined the evidence we found that though those races disparities weren't were caused by many factors and in the past you tended to think oh well it's always to do with racism well it's not and there are many other factors involved and when you break down the categories into different minority groups you find those disparities working in opposite directions it's not all a one-way story so it's a more complicated picture than you've had before in the report you dismiss campaigners as idealists you say things have changed they're haunted by the past but it isn't just campaigners who've criticized the report is it you know people like nhs providers who represent nhs trusts in england they disagree with the conclusion they called it damaging to deny the link between structural racism and wider health inequalities for example now they aren't a campaign group they're an organization that provides nhs services what do you know that they don't well but i i know i completely understand uh uh the reasons why they've said it because it's not the first time that's been said and i think we do have to listen to all those arguments uh what we tried to do is having listened to them and we did take a lot of evidence that we heard from lots of people and both in terms of just simple lived experiences to uh community groups to providers and other such and we thought well there's a lot of information and and uh thought here how can we get at what we think is going uh which is actually going on and that's why we went to the evidence so let's take the nhs it's a good example it's the biggest employer isn't it um and it's 40 of the staff are for minority communities that means they're overrepresented so if you think well hang on if that's the case and you know you must have interviewed many many specialists during this whole terrible pandemic and how many have been from minority communities you know surgeons doctors it's been a huge success story now that doesn't mean to say there aren't real issues and maybe we can come later on to some of the health disparities we found can you see why people feel that you went in with preconceptions that you wanted to prove and you did i mean take the nhs again for example you look at you know the report looks at deaths in childbirth and you acknowledge there's a disparity you know those figures 2016 to 2018 34 black women died per 100 000 15 asian women eight why women eight white women you dismiss it you say the numbers are small but you know only in november parliament's joint committee on human rights looked at this issue these mps and peers they call for a target for the government to end the disparity you're an independent commissioner and you haven't gone as far as that why not you haven't been as bold well well i i think that's really uh you know i think first of all it's a tragic thing i watched a program on it i think only this week which is terrible for those people who experience it but it's true that that is a disparity and it needs to be examined and what we said and as you know one of our key recommendations in this is to create our office for health disparities and we said that that really needs to be number one on their agenda but the peers were saying let's get a target to end this and you're just saying let's get the office to look at this well well let me say let me tell you something about about targets and uh ending things and really attacking the course i wonder if you'd give me the opportunity to tell you uh an example from the report uh one of the disparities and it's parallel to this uh to the maternal mortality is sentencing now if you were to look at sentencing for young black men and young white men for the same crime young black men have much longer sentences than young white men big disparity there so you would say wow well that's a slam dunk evidence of racism and institutional racism within the judiciary and the right thing to do is to set targets to improve the white whiteness of the judiciary and make it a bit more diverse and that would help matters well possibly it depends whether you think the disparity there is racial and when you dig further into it the reality is that the disparity is caused by something quite different namely guilty young white men plead guilty straight away guilty young black men plead not guilty first then as anybody who's watching any police for children no you end up getting a longer sentence so the question here is the reason for that disparity are the people who are advising young black people if you had a bench full of minority judges they would still do the same thing you found no evidence of institutional racism and what i wonder is are you saying you don't think that the institutions of the british state are in any way racist it's not granular enough we would we were asked to come up with public policy statements based on an understanding of the causes of disparities which is what we did um so i i don't really understand where the critique comes from i think if you ask me on my own view about this institution racism has become a bit of a dog whistle if you say it exists you belong to one side of the argument if you say it doesn't exist you belong to the other side of the argument and i i we have tried to step away from it and just look at the evidence see what the evidence tells us see what kind of race disparities exist and they do exist and try and examine what the factors are behind it and to come up with policy recommendations to try and address that thank you so much to michelle okay no problem and i'm joined now by the political advisor commentator and educationalist calvin robinson the dean bachelor hunt who's an activist and political correspondent for joe dot co dot uk and the labour mp and former shadow equalities minister bel rivera addie and bella if we start with you just picking up on that last point that samir shah made he's essentially saying racism is a problem it exists but it's complex we need to go deeper diagnose the problem in as much detail as possible and then come up with a remedy for it he says that's what they're doing that's what you would want isn't it that's absolutely not what they're doing the problem has been diagnosed it's been given a name it's called institutional racism the denial of its existence is a complete whitewash and actually a complete insult to people that have been victims of institutional racism and going going back years the idea that um you know the government would put forward a chair he already says he doesn't believe institutional racism exists and you know they would come up with a report that says institutional racism doesn't exist should be no surprise to anyone but we should be really distressed of what this says and how it effectively rolls back a lot of the work that has been done on challenging racial inequality um over the past few decades and actually brushes away all of the recommendations from reports gone past today do you recommend do you welcome any of the recommendations that are made i mean i mean some of the recommendations i think are quite are quite wishy-washy um they they seem to be well-meaning but if you ins in some ways do not accept the premise that institutional racism doesn't exist you're not going to tackle the root of the problem you're not going to go to these institutions of the state and make a difference but that's because the government don't want to want that to happen effectively the government is just another thing the government have outsourced they're saying institutional racism doesn't exist if institutional racism doesn't exist the state doesn't have to do anything to amend the behavior of institutions and effectively that's it they just don't want to do anything about it calvin robinson you back this report i mean virtually everyone we've heard from today is echoing um what bell says that you know it doesn't reflect represent their experiences it doesn't reflect their lived experiences can you explain the gap yeah it's bizarre because we seem to be stuck on this word institutional racism and that's not the issue here what we found in this report what this report shows is that there is racism in this country there are many many disparities um and we need to look into why they exist and it might not be a case of just out and out racism and if we use that catch-all phrase we're kind of undermining the issues that are there such as geography class wealth health religion culture family structures upbringing backgrounds there are lots of issues at play in our society that may make people disadvantaged so if we really want to fix the problems we have to look deep down at the causes of the issues and not just assuming it's oh it's racism that's it it's institutional racism if we can get over that phrasing and actually think actually yeah this report shows many issues that we could address if we follow the advice in it then we'd become a better society we've already made a massive amount of progress over the last 50 years in comparison to the rest of europe and the rest of the world to be honest in this area we should celebrate that success and move forward with it but your i mean the report's press release emphasized so much about the fact that britain isn't institutionally racist and less about what you're talking about what do you think about that no not at all the report clearly highlights many many disparities and how to address them it just didn't find any proof of systemic racism it doesn't go into saying that the systemic racism doesn't exist it shows the disparities in how to address them so i i'm an educationist myself there are many great pieces of advice in this report on how we can address disparities in education for example we spend a lot of time and there's a lot of research out there showing um how children are disadvantaged and how low performing children are doing but not much research into the success we're seeing in the country so why don't we look at the success of the chinese communities and the indian communities and why they're performing so well and try and mirror that across the board so that we can replicate the success factors so that all children do well advice like that is fantastic that's what we need to be doing rather than saying oh but you're saying institutional racism doesn't exist well you know i hear all the time that education is institutionally racist but that surely can't be the case if black african kids are excelling throughout primary school excelling throughout secondary school twice as likely as white kids to go to university and at the same time black caribbean kids are at the bottom of the legal table with white british kids so if it is institutionally racist why is there massive disparity between black african and black caribbean let me interrupt you to say i saw nadine bachelor um shaking your head there tell me what why you were shaking your head and and also you know beyond wanting this report to find britain institutionally races what did you actually want from it okay so one of the issues i had with the report was this bizarre attempt to try and pit uh caribbean and african communities against each other anybody that has a good grasp of the history of black people in the uk over the last few decades knows the experience of the windrish generation so people that arrived to the uk from the caribbean versus the majority of the african community who didn't arrive in the windrush are different when people from the caribbean arrived they had signs um that were pub saying no blacks no irish no dogs that had an intergenerational impact on poverty within caribbean communities which has had an effect on socioeconomic outcomes on uh geography on all of the things the report um outlines so the idea that you can't compare the idea that you know it doesn't make sense that african black kids are doing better than caribbean black kids if you actually look at the data it does and on top of that i did a at university i studied education and one of the things you find in education is that caribbean cultures such as patois and slang um can be seen as challenging authority um and kids can be disproportionately um punished because of that now if you look at exclusion rates of caribbean kids it starts to make a bit more sense so one of the things that didn't really make sense in this report seems to be a really tragic lack of understanding of the differences between african caribbean communities um african communities caribbean communities and how they how they're treated in schools and the intergenerational impact of um how how a black person arriving in the in the 1950s would be treated versus a black person arriving in the 1990s so they're two key things that need to be considered that weren't as far as you could see um and sorry what was your second question about just uh just pick up for a second on cal because i saw you nodding there what were you nodding about were you agreeing well i think the report actually supports what nadine is saying in that it's not pitting black caribbean people against black african people it's saying that it's unhelpful to judge all black people as one homogenous group and which is why we need to get rid of the term b-a-m-e as if all non-white people are the same somehow and if we really want to address these disparities we need to look deeper and that's exactly what was in this report it's all about looking at the evidence and diving deep and trying to solve these disparities it's not about pitting anyone against everyone belle can i just bring you in here you were saying earlier you felt that what this report did is mean that there's no longer a role for government to combat racism if the report is correct is that is that what you're saying that it gives the government yeah it gives the government an opt-out it gives the government the opportunities to actually when these incidents occur and you see it right across a lot of their policy it's you the individual that's causing this problem even that that you know just just what we were talking about in terms of pitting black africa africans against black um afro-caribbeans you're you're literally saying actually you know if you're a black person and you're not doing that well in school this is happening to black and caribbean boys there must be a problem with them that's that is that is the issue that's that that's what's happening here the government are absolving their responsibility as the state to take action on institutions we didn't need this report what we needed was action on on all of the recommendations that have gone past for a numerous um reports since the mcpherson inquiry following the death of stephen lawrence implementing those measures um would have made a massive difference coming up with a report that effectively um you know discounts years of experience and lived experience is it's just plain wrong and i'm not sure what the government thought whether or not they that they assumed that they would get buy-in um from from black asian and minority ethnic communities across the country it's very clear that they're not going to so it makes you question was this report even really for us was it really about us or was it just another attempt at dog whistle politics and then you know making everybody i believe by the way these people have been complaining with their black lives matter protests there's not an issue with racism in this country nothing to see here carry on as usual they have you know there are particular parts of the report that are viewed as contentious and one just comes very quickly in the forward i wonder calvin how you felt when you read in the forward from the author of the report um who effectively is rebranding slavery and talking about the new the new story a new story about the caribbean experience being not just about profit and suffering but how culturally african people transformed themselves i wonder how you felt when you read that i thought that was a fantastic idea because we do need to teach more history but we need to teach history holistically if we're going to address slavery we can't just be completely negative we have to teach that actually african people preserve their humanity in their culture that's something to be celebrated and the caribbean people created their own identity despite slavery these are all good things that need to be included in the history curriculum you're wincing you were wincing at that a new story about slavery me yes sorry yeah no um okay again if you want to talk about the history of slavery let's start by actually teaching it properly in schools which it isn't this is a very actual report to things that are being said outside the classroom the idea that the government are talking about teaching about the good side of slavery about the resilience of slaves i'm descended from jamaican slaves this is absolutely not what we should be teaching in schools right now what we should be teaching is an honest account of history yes let's celebrate the black british beauty via black history month let's do things like that but a weird bizarre approach to colonialism when this country can't even have an honest conversation about it half the time going in it from an angler and let's talk about you know the caribbean experience what you mean slavery the caribbean experience makes it sound like it's some sort of holiday this is all just really inappropriate and offensive language and i honestly can't believe that it got to a point where someone wrote that on a piece of paper after the protest last year last year after these black lives matter process and thought that was an appropriate sentence to put in there i mean it genuinely is shocking and you know you just need to look at the day 75 of black people in this country don't believe that human rights are as protected as their white counterparts that is just is not reflected in this report so again like i personally just i it's not representative of the black community the majority of black people will not agree with this um and yeah and that line particularly it just it made my boy to be honest belle do you think we do we do talk too much about race or not enough about race no i don't think we talk too much about race um at all uh people people like to make that assumption um because they don't want to hear about it quite frankly we don't talk too much about race but when we do talk about race we end up in conversations like this where people's lived experience is is just completely whitewashed and and denied now into thinking about what institutional racism is within itself it's it's denial it's denial of those lived experiences so a report that is meant to be about looking at whether institutional racism exists is going to have to consider whether it itself is institutionally racist in its denial of of the experience of many black people um across this country agreement and disagreement there but i'm afraid we are going to have to leave it i'm afraid um thank you so much bel rivera addie calvin robinson and nadine bachelor hunt thank you

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