I expressed shock and dismay as to the outcomes of the summary report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities today. The Commission had a unique opportunity to act as trailblazers for the future of race relations in this country. Unfortunately, this was completely missed. The summary report feels like a real slap in the face for not only our ancestors who have fought tirelessly for racial justice in the UK but also to our younger leaders who continue to demonstrate that they will not tolerate racial and social injustice in British society.
Minority aspiration does not automatically lead to high academic achievement. Systemic racism impacts negatively on those aspirations! My parents had to fight for my right to receive a decent education in England some 50 years ago – I was home schooled, we mobilised and campaigned and we eventually won! However, nothing has changed!
How can we be a model for other white majority countries when we still have fight against being labelled, thrown into ‘sin bins’ or Pupil Referral Units (PRU’s) in alarming numbers? We also know that GCSE and A levels do not necessarily lead to higher academic achievement and jobs! Just look at the experiences of Black and Minoritised students and graduates. The Commission might have found a reduced pay gap, but evidence suggests that we are not and have not been getting the jobs What planet do these people live on?
The divisive tactics and messages of African pupils are doing better educationally than Caribbean pupils mask the realities for all of us being able to access employment commensurate with levels of academic achievement.
This could have been another watershed moment in the history of race relations in this country; it could still be this, but for all the wrong reasons.
The snippet shared by the governments press office today clearly indicates a direction in which the government and Tony Sewell’s commission are travelling.
The press statement entitled Education and aspiration is creating a more open society for all, landmark study finds opens with:
“Britain has become a more open society where children from many ethnic communities do at least as well or substantially better than white pupils in compulsory education, a landmark study concludes.”
It then goes on to talk about the successes of British race equality, reaching a crescendo as it prophetesses that the UK:
“should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries”.
In terms of barriers to success the success of Caribbean children, who it identifies as under achieving as compared to other communities, the report sights historic cases of racism which create deep mistrust in the community. It goes on in this vein to question the role of race in the disparities, stating:
“race and racism are becoming less important and, in some cases, are not a significant factor in explaining disparities.
Different outcomes are complex and involve social class and family structure along with race.”
It is not just in terms of education that the new commission led by Tony Sewell has seen success in UK race policy. In employment the report suggests that the pay gap between ethnic minorities and the white majority community is no longer significant.
It is clear from this that the government has pulled together its own group of ‘compliant blacks’ who are delivering and setting the groundwork for a new debate on race. A debate where the disparities of race and achievement are played down. A debate where the cultural norms of different groups are sighted as the main reason for those disparities.
It is important that we come together as a community to challenge this new narrative on race and racism.
It is important that we together force the focus back onto the power that created the conditions and maintain conditions that oppress and maintain the disparities between racial groups in the UK.