Isadora shares her views on the key findings in the UK's Race Report.
My View of Key Findings in the UK’s Race Report
Recently, a report has been published by the UK government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities with some interesting and perhaps controversial findings. I wanted to discuss some of the key findings and tie them to my experiences and views. There are findings of the report that do line up with my personal experiences and some that do not and also seem to go against empirical evidence.
One controversial finding is the claim that there is not institutional racism in the UK - one of the commissioners, Dr Sewell, went on BBC Radio 4 elaborating that:
"We found anecdotal evidence of this. However, evidence of actual institutional racism? No, that wasn't there, we didn't find that."
I was rather shocked by this finding given that there is clear empirical evidence of race based negative outcomes, especially in the NHS where black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth compared to white women – this was determined by a robust report by the MBRRACE-UK. Of course, there are socio-economic and biological factors that would contribute to this, but it is completely ignorant to pretend that race would play no role at all. There is a trend of women, especially women of colour (WoC), not being taken seriously by medical professionals often due to stereotypes of WoC being loud and dramatic. This unfair portrayal of WoC leads to critical symptoms being caught too late which often results in worse patient outcomes. Even in my own experience, I have felt neglected by white British doctors and have found I have been given better care and taken more seriously by ethnic minority doctors. The fact that people of colour (PoC) have to worry about if their doctor will take them seriously based on their race, and that it has been shown to impact quality of care and outcome, is what I’d certainly class as institutional racism. Even the way the mother of recently deceased Richard Okorogheye was not taken seriously when she was reporting her son missing reveals how racial bias can be devastating. The commission claims that data is not there for institutional racism – I believe this means that there is critical data either not being collected/investigated or there are wrong parameters in place for current data collection. For example, there was nothing I could do when neglected by a white doctor; if I complained it would be hard to prove as I could not ask their other white patients to get involved and compare their treatment to mine. So, I simply moved surgeries when I could. This was a case of health altering racial bias and there is no data trail of it at all. How many of these incidents occur in the daily lives of PoC and how much of it gets overlooked as the “data is not there”?
UK should be 'model for other white majority countries'
The report states that the UK should be a “model for other white majority countries”. Given that institutional racism is being denied and not addressed, this assertion may seem bold. However, I am inclined to agree. The US, Australia and other white majority countries do not have as strong equality laws and support systems for PoC and immigrants compared to the UK. I personally find racial tensions and racism in other white majority countries like the US to be much higher than the UK and am certain that though I have faced racism here, it would be worse in other white majority countries. Obviously, any racism should not be tolerated and so the UK has much to do to improve but in my perspective, they are doing the most compared to many other countries. The report does acknowledge the UK is not a "a post racial society” which means that race as a factor still causes issues for individuals. Honestly, the sooner we all accept that race (not ethnicity) is literally a made-up social construct with no biological basis that was created by racist white pseudo-scientists, the better off we will all be as society moves away from racism and racial divides.
Ditching the terms ‘BAME’ and ‘BME’
One of the reports key suggestions was ditching the acronyms BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) and BME (Black and Minority Ethnic). This does not come as a surprise as many people categorised as BAME felt it was othering and problematic for numerous reasons. The label BAME lumps together everyone who are ethnic minorities, reminiscent of how the one-drop rule (which persists today) from white supremacists categorised people as white or coloured and anyone who was biracial was automatically put into the coloured category as they were not “pure” white; in addition, this also robs ethnic minorities of their individuality and ethnic identity as it all becomes one group which does not accurately reflect the truth. What’s even worse is, surprisingly, our very own NUS lumps any students from African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean heritage into one category as “Black” which is even more reductionist than using the term “BAME”. This to me is problematic in itself as:
- It erases the identities of minorities and lumps us all in one category labelled “black” which in effect turns ethnic minorities into one homogenous blob that ignores distinct groups and yet completely misses out aboriginal Australians, Polynesians, Latino, Native American students and others.
- It comes off like a lazy shorthand to denote all ethnic minorities, in trying to be inclusive this has actually come off as rather racist.
- It forces a label on to minorities who do not identify with it and is still white centric with white being “white” and everyone else being “black”.
- It is insulting to those who are Black and have their own distinct identities with enough people having already tried to erode Blackness and Black culture.
- When Asians and Arabs (and often others) experience racism, many are called "blackie", etc just due to pure ignorance so using that language to refer to students who do not identify as Black can be triggering and reinforce past racial trauma.
- It also forces the label on to those who are mixed race who have white heritage making them completely labelled as Black, ignoring a part of their identity and heritage.
I sincerely hope that the NUS progress past using these terms. Within CUSU, I myself find the name of my role as BME Officer to be exclusionary and am hoping to change the name of my role to “Race Equality Officer”; I have had positive feedback from students on this, but I need more feedback to ensure that this is the direction our student community wants to go so please do contact me and let me know your views!
As always, I’m here to talk so please feel free to contact me.
Facebook: Isadora Sinha SU