Imagine for a moment that you were born into a society where everyone held a particular belief, that every rule and every custom was influenced by this belief. In this society, this belief became so deeply entrenched over the centuries that most people no longer even recognised that it was a belief and experienced it as the truth. They behaved in accordance with their truth. Racism is such a belief.
If you take a brief look at any facet of UK life, you will find society leaves People of Colour worse off than their White counterparts. Look at the pandemic, Health, Education, Crime, Employment and Mental Health. The very fabric and threads of this society are stitched together in a way that leaves people of colour without the necessary tools to live freely and reach for our potential.
When we speak of institutional racism, we do not speak of the behaviour of individuals. We speak about the depths to which these beliefs have penetrated every aspect and every action of our society. That’s what institutional racism means to me, a proud member of the Black community in London.
Baroness Casey in her report, ‘An independent review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service’ identifies many impacts of institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police. She notes that:
1. Black and ethnic minority officers and staff experience racism at work and it is routinely ignored, dismissed, or not spoken about. Many do not think it is worth reporting
2. Black Londoners in particular remain over-policed. They are more likely to be stopped and searched, handcuffed, batoned and tasered
3. The Met is more comfortable focusing on individual wrongdoers or procedural failings than on systemic issues or bias. It leans into the ‘bad apples’ and ‘wrong’uns’ rhetoric, rather than acknowledging institutional failings
Baroness Casey goes on to say that “Many of the issues raised by the Review are far from new. I make a finding of institutional racism, sexism and homophobia in the Met.’
You argue that institutional racism is an ambiguous term, that it has different definitions and means different things to different people. The first step to resolving any problem is to name it and say it out loud. How can you say you accept the findings of the report without acknowledging the fundamental existence of institutional racism?
Institutional racism is defined as policies and practices that exist throughout society, mirrored in organisations that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race.
The term was first coined in 1967, by Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton in Black Power: The Politics of Liberation: 'Institutional racism originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than individual racism'
The Macpherson Report, 1999, described institutional racism as:
'The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people'
Most recently The Casey Review made a finding of institutional racism and referenced The Macpherson report.
Which of these definitions do you deny? Where do you see ambiguity? Are all of these definitions not true of The Metropolitan Police Force?
You say you want to repair the trust that is badly broken between the Met and London’s Black communities. And yet you repeatedly refuse to say the words that we need to hear. How do you hope to build trust when you continue to deny our lived experiences?
The Casey Review has only laid bare what we in the Black community have known definitively all of our lives – The Metropolitan Police Force is institutionally racist.
I call upon you to meet with myself and members of the Black community in a live emergency webinar to discuss these matters.
Michael Hamilton FRSA
Director – The Ubele Initiative