Anti-racism report just ‘stoking grievances’

Ongoing investigation: The Cabinet Office’s racial disparity unit will continue the research.

Will yesterday’s massive new government race audit actually do more harm than good? The research has revealed stark contrasts in the experiences of different ethnic groups in England.

Last night Theresa May vowed to “hold up a mirror” to British society as she published a mass of new research showing huge racial divides.

The government “race audit” shows that ethnic minorities are more likely to be low paid, on benefits and victims of crime.

But poor white children perform worse at school, while white adults are more likely to be overweight and to drink alcohol at harmful levels.

The grim picture emerged in a mass of information released by the Cabinet Office covering all aspects of modern life.

Unemployment among black, Asian and minority ethnic (“BAME”) people is nearly double that of white Britons.

Rates of smoking are highest in the mixed and white ethnic groups.

Just over half of white adults ate five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with a third of black adults.

"People who have lived with discrimination don't need a government audit to make them aware of the scale of the challenge," Mrs May said. "This audit means that for society as a whole - for government, for our public services - there is nowhere to hide."

But critics of the government approach from ethnic minority backgrounds include former deputy London mayor Munira Mirza.

Writing in The Spectator, Mirza claims that “anti-racism lobby groups” are excited at the prospect of “fresh laws and more public funding”. But she sees hope in the “growing number of younger people from ethnic minority backgrounds who can see through the divisive politics of anti–racism”. Their experience gives the lie to the idea of Britain as a fundamentally racist society.

Mirza says the "crude and tendentious" approach to the website data risks "promoting a grievance culture and policies that harm the communities they aspire to help".

Black and white?

“Rubbish,” say some. The best weapon against prejudice is transparency. This new website is a brilliant example of how governments should behave. Just put the data out in the open and let people see for themselves. If we were more transparent about everything there would be no more unfairness or corruption.

“That is romantic nonsense,” say others. Several studies have already shown that some ethnic groups experience different outcomes in policing, health, employment and education. There are many causes behind these disparities but the evidence used by government to publicise the audit has been carefully selected and presented to suit a predetermined agenda. What passes for policy discussion in this area is now so heavily divorced from the facts and driven by ideology that there is barely any intelligent debate. Astonishingly, it seems that a lot of people in politics think it’s a good idea to exaggerate the problem of racism.

You Decide

  1. Will the new report change things for the better?
  2. Is Britain “institutionally racist”?


  1. Write a letter to the prime minster, telling her what you think of the findings. Do you side more with May or Mirza?
  2. Create a proposal of some measures that the government could take to fix racial inequalities in Britain. Aim to write between 500 and 750 words.

Some People Say...

“Everyone's a little bit racist.”

From the musical “Avenue Q” by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
There were some areas in the report where white people were actually more disadvantaged than other ethnic groups — but not many. One example of this is in school, where Asian pupils tended to do better than black or white students. Interestingly, white teenagers are four times more likely to be smokers than black teenagers.
What do we not know?
We do not yet know what Theresa May plans to do to address these inequalities. For example, when asked on LBC yesterday afternoon about legislating on name-blind job applications, she said that she was “not sure at this stage” about making laws on the issue. Nor do we know when the issues will be tackled, with Brexit dominating the political agenda.

Word Watch

An acronym used for black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, though not in the government disparity report. Some critics dislike the term because it is “unwieldy and lacks nuance”. Around 13% of people in Britain are from BAME groups and 35% of Londoners.
Nowhere to hide
The comprehensive report, announced in August last year, covered six key areas: health, education, crime and punishment, culture and community, housing and work. The Foreword notes: “There is still a way to go before we have a country that works for everyone regardless of their ethnicity.”
Mirza thinks that anti-racism is being “weaponised” as a political bargaining chip.
Grievance culture
An example of a misleading conclusion from the statistics is unemployment. As Richard Norrie, a researcher at Policy Exchange, has pointed out, almost half of the UK non-white population are immigrants, many recently arrived with poor English and low qualifications. It is unreasonable to expect the same outcomes as non-BAME groups within only a few years of their arrival.


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