The UK’s failure to find evidence of systemic racism in a government-issued report is a laughable example of hypocrisy

boris johnson uk
  • A government-issued report in the UK found no evidence of systemic racism in the country.
  • A government clearing itself of any wrong-doing is a mockery to the real, institutional problems at hand.
  • Mohammad Zaheer is a journalist and political commentator.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Controversy has arisen in the UK after a much anticipated report investigating race and ethnic disparities apparently found no evidence of institutional racism in the country; instead heralding Britain as a model for other white majority nations.

The United Kingdom, much like the rest of the world, is having a moment of reckoning about racial injustice, further complicated by its colonialist past. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 that followed the killing of George Floyd in America, the UK government established the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities to help address concerns about the racial inequalities that permeate British society even today. But the report’s failure to find evidence of systemic injustice should leave us all questioning its authors’ intention.

Impartiality

Due to the importance of such reports – which gain considerable media coverage and are often relied on by government officials, academics, and policy makers to inform their decision making – it is imperative that the members of the commission are impartial experts that have tremendous credibility. However, eyebrows were raised when this particular panel, which is meant to be independent, seemed to mostly consist of individuals whose ideology was in line with the Conservative government’s views and lacked expertise in many of the matters being investigated. Former Shadow Home Secretary and current Labour MP Diane Abbott – the first Black woman to be elected to Parliament – went as far as accusing the government of consciously packing it with people who did not believe in institutional racism. And others who took part in the report are now trying to distance themselves from its results.

Therefore, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, then, that this report went against the findings of several other major inquiries in the past 20 years that had found evidence of systemic racism – including the landmark 2017 Lammy Review that found significant racial bias in the UK justice system. It has become apparent now that instead of taking the opportunity to truly explore the issues of racial inequality and discrimination, the report appeared to be tailored to fit a pre-determined narrative that suited the government and reaffirmed its skepticism of institutional racism.

There is plenty of evidence regarding systemic racism – in 2021, one would have to be willfully ignorant to deny it. But in keeping the discussion stuck at debating the existence of a deeply entrenched discriminatory phenomenon that clearly affects a significant percentage of the population negatively, the government has ensured that no progress whatsoever is made in addressing the resulting racial disparities – which was what we were led to believe the commission was set up to do in the first place.

Evidence of injustice is easy to come by

The reality is that we live in a country where COVID-19 has disproportionately taken the lives and livelihoods of its Black, Asian, and ethnic minority population. Black women in Britain are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women. Black people are not only nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, but are also twice as likely to be criminalised for drug possession than their white counterparts. Ethnic minority students, especially those from Caribbean or Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds, are significantly more likely to be excluded from school. Studies have shown that ethnic minority students are also less likely to be accepted in the country’s elite universities, even when they have the same grades as their white peers. Only recently, Black citizens were detained, denied their rights, and even wrongly deported from the country by the British government.

While the report does acknowledge that racial disparities still exist, its authors argue that “geography, family influence, socio-economic background, and culture and religion” play a significant role. Ethnic minorities opposed to the findings of the report seemingly get painted as perpetual moaners who’ve absorbed “a fatalistic narrative that says the deck is permanently stacked against them” and can’t bring themselves to appreciate the incredible progress Britain has made transforming itself into “a beacon to the rest of Europe and the world”.

Thus, the discussion has devolved into a farcical debate on patriotism, where those criticising this ‘positive’ news about Britain face accusations of just having an irrational hatred for the country instead of legitimate grievances. It feeds directly to the biases of much of the Conservative vote base, many who are vocal about how they believe people of colour, anti-racism campaigners and experts want to make everything about race, and how those complaining of racism have a victimhood complex.

The backlash and condemnation of the report has been swift and comprehensive. Several academics have criticised it as a sloppy piece of work and accused it of distorting and misrepresenting research. Many of the experts thanked for their help with the report have publicly come out and denied their involvement with its contents. And as I mentioned before, some of the commissioners have now come out and distanced themselves from the final report; with allegations that it was the government – and not the 12 commissioners – that produced many of the controversial sections of the finished product. The government has been urged to withdraw the report, with many rights campaigners fearing that its continued circulation will “take us back to the ‘colour bar’ of the 1960s.”

But whether a Prime Minister who has conducted an obvious attempt at whitewashing racism listens to such concerns remains to be seen. The hypocrisy of a government investigating itself by appointing ‘yes people’ to exonerate it and further its agenda – even allegedly rewriting their report to ensure the desired outcome – is galling.

The repercussions of this cynical act will continue to be felt, with the credibility of such ‘independent’ government commissions severely damaged. What is crystal clear, however, is that we cannot look to this administration for any meaningful action to address racial disparities. Our struggle for racial equality continues, it is just a shame that the government continues to actively make things worse for the marginalised communities it is also meant to serve.

Mohammad Zaheer is a journalist and political commentator.

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A major Texas highway expansion project has been paused to examine possible violation of 1964 Civil Rights Act

Houston
People drive on Interstate 45 toward downtown Houston.

  • The Department of Transportation has paused a Houston-area highway widening project.
  • In the past, highways were constructed with no regard for minority communities.
  • The Biden administration is seeking to address past racial inequities in planning decisions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Department of Transportation is using a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to pause construction on a highway widening project near Houston, an uncommon move that could be an early test of President Joe Biden’s commitment to addressing past racial inequities, according to Politico.

As the populous region continues to grow, the Interstate 45 highway project has been heralded as a way to reduce congestion and improve commute times, but the additional lanes would also impact several heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents, businesses, and houses of worship in the path to relocate.

The construction plan, known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, would widen the highway into three segments.

Local resistance to the I-45 project had been brewing for years, with many hearkening back to the 1950s when freeway routes were deliberately drawn to impact Black communities and divide people by race and class.

The I-45 project has at least been temporarily halted, with Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg now at the helm of the sprawling federal department.

Federal transportation authorities in March sent a letter asking Texas to pause contracts on the widening project while they reviewed racial justice complaints covered by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, along with environmental concerns.

The provision states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

In a letter written to the Texas Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration cited community opposition in reviewing the I-45 widening project, mentioning Houston-area Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Air Alliance Houston, and the community organization Texas Housers.

“I think [Buttigieg] was engaged, interested and fair,” Jackson Lee told Politico after speaking with the secretary. “I think he was chagrined at federal dollars being used with such disregard of community views.”

The congresswoman feels that the Texas Department of Transportation “blatantly violated” the Title VI provision.

The project’s pause, which is being driven by civil rights laws, has thrilled grassroots activists and Washington figures.

Fred Wagner, an attorney and former chief counsel at the Federal Highway Administration under the Obama administration, told Politico that taking such a step was a big change.

“It just doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “For DOT to step in, potentially, and say ‘We don’t think it’s an appropriate solution,’ would be a really huge deal.”

Buttigieg, who is seeking to reimagine the country’s transportation system, also hopes to dismantle old processes that disenfranchised Americans of color from past planning conversations, especially when entire neighborhoods were destroyed by urban planners when the modern US highway network was first built in the 20th Century.

“This is not just a matter of halfway accidental neglect,” he said in a Politico interview last month. “We’re talking about some really intentional decisions that happened, and a lot of them happened with federal dollars.”

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Biden relaunches the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Joe Biden signs executive orders
President Joe Biden signs executive orders as part of the Covid-19 response at the White House.

  • President Biden has relaunched the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
  • “This is not a nation that can, or will, simply stand by and watch the suffering around us,” he said.
  • Melissa Rogers, who led the office from 2013 to 2017, will come back as its executive director.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The White House on Sunday announced that President Joe Biden has relaunched the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“As our country grapples with a global pandemic, a severe economic downturn, the scourge of systemic racism, an escalating climate crisis and profound polarization, President Biden knows that civil society partnerships are essential to meeting such challenges,” the statement read.

The office will been modeled as a way for the White House to coordinate federal legislative policy with religious and community-based organizations, especially as Biden seeks to strengthen outreach to historically marginalized communities throughout the United States.

The announcement said that the office’s initial priorities would include outreach regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, and tackling systemic racism.

“There are not Democrats or Republicans dying from this pandemic, or losing their jobs, going hungry and facing eviction in this economic crisis, or facing the sting of systemic racism or the brunt of the climate crisis,” Biden said in the announcement. “They are fellow human beings. They are fellow Americans.”

He added: “This is not a nation that can, or will, simply stand by and watch the suffering around us. That is not who we are. That is not what faith calls us to be.”

Read more: Meet the little-known power player with the ‘hardest job’ on Capitol Hill.

The office was first established in 2001 as the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives by former President George W. Bush as part of his pledge of “compassionate conservatism.”

Former President Barack Obama renamed the office as the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and sought to strengthen its reach during his tenure in office from 2009 to 2017.

In a break from his predecessors, former President Donald Trump chose not to appoint a director and instead started the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives.

Melissa Rogers, who led the office from 2013 to 2017 during the Obama administration, will come back as its executive director, and White House senior advisor for Public Engagement Josh Dickson will serve as deputy director.

Trey Baker, also a White House senior adviser for public engagement, has been tapped as the office’s liaison to Black communities.

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