Racism is not the reason for most disparities between ethnic minorities and their white counterparts in the UK, a controversial government-commissioned report will say.
The commission on race and ethnic disparities dismisses the “idealism” of young people who claim the UK is institutionally racist, insisting this is “not borne out by the evidence”.
While acknowledging that “overt and outright racism persists in the UK, particularly online” and that Britain is “not a post racial society”, the report claims that societal disparities between ethnic groups “do not have their origins in racism”.
Instead, it argues that all ethnic groups apart from Black Caribbeans outperform their white counterparts at school and this is helping to create more diverse workplaces, although disparities remain at the top of public and private sectors.
The report, commissioned after the Black Lives Matter protests and published in full on Wednesday, is likely to prove highly controversial.
Boris Johnson has already been accused by Labour of “trying to wage a culture war” by giving control of the review to his top policy adviser Munira Mirza, who has previously accused an “anti-racism lobby” of fostering a “culture of grievance”.
The government was also criticised after it emerged that charity boss Tony Sewell would chair the review after previously claiming evidence of institutional racism was “flimsy”.
The 264-page report claims that disparities faced by ethnic groups compared to their white counterparts are not explained by racism, in most cases.
It states: “We found that most of the disparities we examined, which some attribute to racial discrimination, often do not have their origins in racism.”
The review does however acknowledge that some communities continue to be “haunted” by “historic cases” of racism, creating “deep mistrust” in the system which could prove a barrier to success.
“Both the reality and the perception of unfairness matter,” the report warns.
New analysis commissioned for the review found that in 2019 exams, the Black Caribbean group was the only ethnic group who performed lower than white British pupils.
It starts: “Education is the single most emphatic success story of the British ethnic minority experience.
“The commission notes that the average GCSE Attainment 8 score for Indian, Bangladeshi and Black African pupils were above the white British average.”
The report makes 24 recommendations, including:
- Scrapping the use of the BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) acronym as differences between different groups are important.
- Business and other organisations moving “away from funding unconscious bias training”.
- Urging the government to convene a panel of experts to develop “evidence-based approaches” of what works to advance fairness at work.
- Further research into “high performing pupils’ communities” to see what can be replicated across the education system.
- Phasing in extended school days, starting with disadvantaged areas, to make up for ground lost during Covid pandemic home schooling.
Sewell said: “The report highlights the significance of education as the single most powerful tool in reducing ethnic disparities.
“The effect of education is transformative on individuals but also their families and their communities, sometimes within a generation.
“Another revelation from our dive into the data was just how stuck some groups from the white majority are.
“As a result, we came to the view that recommendations should, wherever possible, be designed to remove obstacles for everyone, rather than specific groups.”
He added: “Creating a successful multi-ethnic society is hard, and racial disparities exist wherever such a society is being forged.
“The commission believes that if these recommendations are implemented, it will give a further burst of momentum to the story of our country’s progress to a successful multi-ethnic and multicultural community – a beacon to the rest of Europe and the world.”