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OPINION: In the UK, the evidence of racism is clear. Now it's time to act

by Alba Kapoor | @kapoor_alba | Runnymede Trust
Wednesday, 14 July 2021 11:05 GMT

Withington, Manchester, Britain - July 13, 2021 Demonstrators hold up "Stand Up To Racism" banners in front of the Marcus Rashford mural after it was defaced following the Euro 2020 Final between Italy and England REUTERS/Peter Powell

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Legislation, institutional practices and day to day discrimination continue to harm ethnic minority people, from school to work.

Alba Kapoor is the Senior Policy Officer at the Runnymede Trust

“I can’t breathe.” These were the words of George Floyd that inspired a wave of protests against injustice that swept across the world in the form of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer.

Less known is that they were also the words of Kevin Clarke, a Black man who died in South London following restraint by police in a school playing field in 2018.

 Clarke’s death is cited in a new United Nations report which calls on the UK government and other states to “stop denying, and start dismantling, racism”. The report urged governments to act following evidence of continued impunity for police violence against Black people across the globe. 

It follows the UN’s Special Rapporteur on racism condemning the socio-economic exclusion of Black and Ethnic Minority communities in the UK and calls on the government to implement concrete steps to achieve racial equality “without delay”. 

An upcoming report from the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will once again analyse the state of race and racism in the UK.

Ahead of this, the Runnymede Trust has completed a civil society report on racial inequality in England to be presented to the United Nations’ Committee, based on submissions of evidence from more than 100 NGOs and race equality organisations.

From Manchester to Bristol, on issues ranging from education to the immigration system, the evidence shows widespread racial inequality in England.

These disparities are sustained across the criminal justice system, education, employment, immigration and political participation. Ethnic minority communities remain concentrated in precarious work, poor housing conditions, are more likely to live in poverty and to die of COVID-19.

The inequalities are particularly acute for Black and ethnic minority children – who make up over half of the child population in prison (28% are Black), and are more likely to experience excessive use of force and restraint in the criminal justice system than their white counterparts. Legislation, institutional practices and day to day discrimination continue to harm ethnic minority people, from school to work. 

What is most concerning is that as inequalities deepen, we found that upcoming legislation risks making them worse. This includes the proposed Electoral Integrity Bill which could shut out millions of voters from casting their ballots by mandating them to show their photo ID at the ballot box, and the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill - a Bill now notorious for threatening the right to protest as well as the rights Gypsy Roma Traveller groups.

Last year, the Joint Committee on Human Rights found that three quarters of Black people in the UK do not believe that their human rights are equally protected to white people’s.

The government must not waste any more time and act on its human rights obligations, as Black and ethnic minorities brace themselves for economic downturn in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis that could exacerbate these inequalities further. This means listening to the demands of organisations representing Black and ethnic minority people in England on the active steps needed to dismantle racism.